Alleged N544m ‘Grass Cutting’ Scam Charge: Court Acquits Ex-SSG Babachir Lawal

By NewsBits

A Federal High Court Abuja Division has discharged and acquitted a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and five others, from the N544 million contract fraud offences brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

But in a swift reaction, after the court pronouncement on Friday, the EFCC said it was dissatisfied with the ruling and would appeal.

Lawal, his younger brother, Hamidu David Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar and Apeh John Monday were arraigned by the anti-graft agency alongside two companies, Rholavision Engineering (fifth defendant) and Josmon Technologies (sixth defendant) on amended 10-count charge, bordering on fraud, diversion of funds and criminal conspiracy to the tune of over N544 million.

One of the charges read, “That you, Engineer Babachir David Lawal, while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and a director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd on or about the 22nd August 2016 at Abuja, in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did knowingly hold indirectly private interest in the contract awarded to Josmon Technological Ltd but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N258,132,735.99  only by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.”

In the course of trial, the EFCC called 11 witnesses to prove its case against the defendants. The court held that the anti-graft agency failed to establish a prima facie case against the Ex-SGF and the co-defendants. Delivering a ruling on no case submission made by Lawal and others, Justice Charles Agbaza held that no ingredient of any offence was made out by the 11 witnesses who testified for the EFCC.

The Judge held that the EFCC did not establish that Lawal was either a member of the Presidential Initiative for the North-East that awarded the contract or a member of the Ministerial Tenders Board that vetted and gave approval to the disputed contract. Besides, Justice Agbaza held that the EFCC also failed to link Lawal with the Bureau of Public Procurement that issued a certificate of no objection to the contract before it was awarded.

The Judge discharged and acquitted all the defendants in the 10 criminal charges against them for want of evidence to link them with the purported offences. The EFCC on November 30, 2020, re-arraigned Lawal before Justice Agbaza. “The EFCC is dissatisfied with the ruling and will review and challenge its validity at the appellate court,” the agency said in a statement yesterday.

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