Babachir Lawal Former SGF

EFCC re-arraigns ex-SGF Babachir Lawal for N544m grass-cutting fraud

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has on Monday re-arraigned former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and six others, for the alleged N544m grass cutting contract fraud.

Like in the previous arraignment, the defendants, again pleaded not guilty when the amended 10 counts of fraud were read to them before Justice Charles Agbaza who presided over the case at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Jabi, Abuja.

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The EFCC had alleged that the defendants fraudulently converted cumulative proceeds of grass cutting contracts worth over N500m which Lawal, as the SGF back then, allegedly awarded to the companies in which he had interests.

The re-arraignment, which is the second one since the case started, came after the demise of the former trial judge in charge, Justice Jude Okeke, on August 4, 2020.

Along with his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday, and two companies – Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd – Lawal was initially arraigned before the late Justice Okeke on February 13, 2019.

The prosecuting counsel, Offem Uket, was to open his case on March 18, 2019, when he announced that he had amended the 10 counts, bordering on fraud, diversion of over N544m, and criminal conspiracy.

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The development prompted the need for a re-arraignment of the defendants, who, once again pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The trial had proceeded before Justice Okeke and the EFCC was still calling its witnesses when the judge passed away.

Following the judge’s demise, the case was re-assigned to Justice Agbaza before whom the case was rescheduled to start afresh on Monday.

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After the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday, the defence counsels pleaded with the judge to allow their clients to continue to use the bail already granted them by the former judge.

The defence counsel comprised Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), who represented the ex-SGF; Mr Sunday Ameh (SAN), Napoleon Idenala, Ocholi Okutepa, and Marcel Oru.

The judge fixed January 20 to 22 for trial.

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