Alleged N544m grass-cutting fraud: EFCC calls first witness in former SGF, Babachir Lawal, 5 others’ fresh trial

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) today called its first witness in the fresh trial of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Engineer Babachir Lawal, before Justice Charles Agbaza of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), sitting at Jabi, Abuja.

The defendants were re-arraigned on Monday, November 30, 2020, before Justice Agbaza by the anti-corruption commission alongside five others for an alleged N544million grass-cutting contract fraud following the death of Justice Jude Okeke, who was handling the case before he passed on on August 4, 2020.

The former SGF is standing trial alongside his younger brother, Hamidu David Lawal, who is a director of Rholavision Engineering Limited; an employee of the company, Suleiman Abubakar, and the Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Limited, Apeh John Monday and the two companies.

They were first arraigned on a 10-count charge bordering on fraud to the tune of N544.1million on February 12, 2019, and pleaded not guilty, following which they were granted N50million bail each with one surety in like sum on February 13, 2019.

At the resumed hearing of the case today, EFCC called its first witness, Mohammed Babasule, a relationship manager with the Wise Zone 4, Abuja branch of First City Monumental Bank (FCMB), who informed the court that he was assigned the responsibility of managing Josmon Technologies Limited’s account with the bank.

Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Offem Uket, the PW1 told the court that cash inflows came from the presidency into the account, adding that this was contained in his statement made to EFCC on November 20, 2020.

The witness then tendered some documents in relations with the company’s account with the bank, including the company’s statement of account; account opening package containing a photocopy of Apeh John Monday and an Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) electricity bill.

Babasule also tendered the company’s board resolution; two of its letters; memorandum of association and tax receipt for corporate payment. All the documents were admitted and marked as exhibits by the court.

He told the court that from the documents tendered, the fourth defendant, Monday, was the sole signatory to the account.

While being cross-examined by the counsels for the defendants, Babasule informed that Josmon Technologies’ Limited’s account had been inactive before it was assigned to him in 2018.

According to him, making entries into the company’s statement of account was not his responsibility, adding that he knew nothing about the transactions in the statement.

The witness further told the court that FCMB never had a cause to report the company to EFCC as there were not any unusual transactions on its account with the bank.

He then confirmed to the court that he made his statement to EFCC in November 2020, months after the defendants were first arraigned in court.

After the PW1 evidence, Justice Agbaza adjourned the case till tomorrow for the continuation of hearing.

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