The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission will today (Monday) re-arraign a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and six others, for an alleged fraudulent N544m grass-cutting contract, The PUNCH reports.
This will be the second re-arraignment of the defendants, who were first arraigned before the late Justice Jude Okeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, Abuja on February 13, 2019.
Lawal, along with his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday and two companies – Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd – had pleaded not guilty to the charges when read to them before Justice Okeke.
The prosecution was to open its case on March 18, 2019, when they announced that they had amended the ten counts, bordering on fraud, diversion of over N544m and criminal conspiracy.
The development necessitated a re-arraignment of the defendants, who again pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The trial had proceeded before Justice Okeke with the EFCC still calling its witnesses, when the judge died on August 4, 2020.
Justice Okeke, aged 64, died after a brief illness at the National Hospital, Abuja.
Following the judge’s demise, the case was re-assigned to Justice Charles Agbaza of the Jabi Division of the FCT High Court, where the trial will have to start afresh.
Our correspondent gathered that the judge fixed today for the re-arraignment.
The EFCC alleged, in the ten counts, that the defendants fraudulently converted cumulative proceeds of grass-cutting contracts worth over N500m which Lawal, as then SGF, allegedly awarded to companies in which he had interests.
SaharaReporters, New York