An FCT High Court in Maitama on Wednesday adjourned until September 24 for continuation of trial in a case against disgraced former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachair Lawal.
Justice Jude Okeke adjourned the trial after the prosecution counsel, Ufon Uket, prayed for an adjournment to enable him prepare adequately to respond to objections by the defendants to the admissibility of documents he sought to tender.
Mr Okeke said for the sake of fair hearing, he was moved to grant the prayer of adjournment by the prosecution.
The disgraced former SGF and his brother, Hamidu David Lawal, a director of Rholavision Engineering Limited; an employee of the company, Sulaiman Abubakar and the Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Limited, Apeh John Monday, are facing a 10-count amended charge bordering on conspiracy and fraud brought before the court by the anti-corruption commission.
They and two companies, Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
EFCC accused Babachir Lawal of illegally benefiting from the approval of N544,119,925.36 for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation.
The anti-graft agency alleged that Mr Lawal being the SGF and Hamidu Lawal, director of Rholavision Engineering Limited and Abubakar, staff about March 7, 2016 at Abuja conspired to commit the offences.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the defendants fraudulently acquired a property, contrary to Section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
It also alleged that the former SGF knowingly held indirectly a private interest in the consultancy contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Limited for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N7 million and N6.4 million.
EFCC claimed that it was done through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE).
It further alleged that on March 4 and August 22, 2016 contract for removing evasive grass worth N272.5 million and N258.1 million respectively were awarded to Josmon Technologies Limited but was executed by Rholavision.
The offence, according to EFCC, contravened the provisions of Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
The six defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them
The EFCC head of Forensic Unit, Fatima Umar, testified that based on a letter dated March 9 to the Commission, she was called upon to carry out an extraction of forensic report on an iphone belonging to one Mr Gulani.
Ms Umar stated that there are five types of extraction namely, manual, logical, physical, and file system chips off.
She said the types she used are the logical which showed only call logs, SMS and WhatsApp messages and manual was used through the use of a special camera by video tape which was recorded later in a CD.
The witness added that the print out was then produced and report was also done and sent to the investigators.
When Mr Uket sought to tender the documents there were opposed by all the defendants ‘s counsel.
Akin Olujimi, SAN, for Mr Lawal told the court that the documents are not admissible because it was not in compliance with section 84 of the Evidence Act.
He added that the documents are not certified and the prosecutor did not serve them the copy of the CD and never mentioned it in their proof of evidence.
Mr Olujimi urged the court to reject it.
Sunday Ameh, SAN, for the second defendant, David Lawal, said the document produced in such form are e-documents and are not certified true copies.
He also urged the court to reject it all other defendants’ counsel aligned with their submissions.
Mr Uket prayed the court for an adjournment to enable the prosecution prepare their response for the defendants’ objection.
All the defendants’ counsel also opposed to his prayer for adjournment.
Earlier, the first prosecution witness, Hamas Adamu, when cross examined by Mr Olujimi, told the court that the ex-SGF was not a member of PINE.
According to the witness, the award of the contract was done by the Ministerial Tenders Board of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
The witness said, none of the documents for the award of contracts or the consultancy was signed by the first defendant and none carried his name.
The witness, when asked by Mr Ameh if any payments were traced to the second defendant, said no.
He added that no contract nor consultancy services was awarded to the second defendant, David Lawal.
He further said they were other officers involved in processing of payments.
Mr Adamu added that to Abubakar, third defendant and Apeh, fourth defendant.
He told the court that the contract to Rolavision Nigeria Ltd (5th) defendant was consultancy services and followed due process.