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Grass-Cutting Scandal: Court fixes June 17 to rule on admissibility of documents

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An FCT High Court, in Maitama, on Thursday, fixed June 17, to rule on the admissibility of some documents sought to be tendered by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) in the trial of ex- Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal.

The EFCC  arraigned Lawal, along side his brother Hamidu, a director of Rholavision Engineering Limited; an employee of the company, Sulaiman Abubakar and the Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Limited, Apeh Monday.

They are charged with 10 counts bordering on conspiracy and fraud.

Also joined are two companies, Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited.

Justice Okeke fixed the date for ruling on the admissibility of the documents following the objection raised by the counsel for Rholavision Engineering Limited, Mr O. Uzor, on their admissibility.

Uzor made the objection when the prosecution counsel, Mr Ufom Uket, sought to tender the documents, payment vouchers raised by PINE for payments to both Josmon Technologies Limited and Rholavision Engineering Limited respectively, through the first prosecution witness (PW1), Hamza Adamu.

In objecting to the documents being admitted as exhibits, Uzor stated that while the vouchers were in the original copies, the other documents attached to them were photocopies, which were not certified.

According to him, the documents were public documents and that there were procedures for tendering such, as contained in Section 104 of the Evidence Act.

Responding to this, Uket informed that the vouchers were in the original form, adding that memos raised on the vouchers, were attached with the vouchers.

He prayed the court to admit them, saying that each of the vouchers and the attachments were to be seen one document.

Justice Okeke then stated that in view of the fact that similar situation may occur in the course of proceedings, the court would give a considered ruling on the admissibility of the documents.

He then adjourned the case until June 17 and June 18, for ruling and continuation of hearing of the prosecution case.

Earlier, while testifying, the PW1 told the court that he knows the former SGF, Abubakar and Monday.

The witness, who said he was a civil servant with the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investments, said that between November, 2015 and September, 2017, he was in charge of account and finance at the PINE.

The witness informed that the first contract was for about N275 million, adding that N225 million was paid through Remita platform.

The EFCC accused the former SGF of benefiting illegally from the approval of N544,119,925.36, for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation.

They alleged that 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 offence.

The EFCC further alleged that the defendants fraudulently acquired a property, contrary to Section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

The anti-graft agency 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 the EFCC, were contrary to Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

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