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N544 Million Fraud Trial Against Former SGF, Lawal Begins

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The trial of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and five others began on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, in an FCT High Court in Jabi, Abuja.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, called its first witness.

The prosecution witness, a relationship manager in the Sales Department, First City Monument Bank, FCMB, Mohammed Babansule, tendered the statement of account of one of the companies, Josmon Technologies Ltd., the sixth defendant.

Some other documents tendered by the bank official were the Certificate of Incorporation, Memorandum of Understanding, AEDC receipts, Letter of reference, International passport page of Apeh Monday, the fourth defendant, and board resolution to open an account, all for the sixth defendant.

Babansule while giving evidence in chief had said that the statement of account for the sixth defendant was generated from the computer system of the bank, printed, signed, endorsed, and certified by the bank before sending the same to the EFCC.

The witness also confirmed comparing the printed statement to be the same with the one in the bank’s system.

When asked by Often Uket, the prosecutor, the condition of the system as at the time the documents were printed, Babansule replied, ” the system, both computer, and printer were in good condition and working properly”.

After the documents were tendered to the court and the defendant’s counsel did not object to any of them, the judge proceeded to Mark them as exhibits.

The defendant’s counsel, Akin Olujimi, first defendant counsel, Sunday Itodo, second defendant counsel, Napoleon Idenala, counsel to the third defendant, Ocholi Okutepa, counsel to the fourth and sixth defendants and M.E Oru , then all took turns to cross-examine the witness.

He was also asked to confirm if those institutions were the ones that could issue original copies of any documents that emanated from them.

He was equally asked if it was the bank that noticed an unusual inflow and outflow of the six defendant’s transactions and reported to the EFCC.

He answered in the negative and then in the positive to the above questions.

At the end of the cross-examination by the defendant’s counsel, Uket attempted to re-examine Babansule in regards to whether or not the bank had the photocopies of the documents he tendered, but his line of the question was objected to by Itodo and the objection was sustained by the court.

Justice Charles Agbaza, discharged the witness and adjourned the matter until Jan. 21, for the continuation of trial.

The other defendants in the case are: Hamidu Lawal, Lawal’s younger brother, Suleiman Abubakar, Monday Apeh, and two companies – Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd.

The defendants were first arraigned before Justice Jude Okeke of the FCT High Court, Maitama, Abuja on February 13, 2019, however, the case had to be transferred to Justice Agbaza following Okeke’s death.

This development led to the re-arraignment of the defendants on November 30, 2020, on 10 amended counts charge bordering on fraud, criminal conspiracy diversion of over N544 million, and diversion of over N544 million belonging to the Federal Government.

The offences, the EFCC alleged the defendants committed during the time Lawal was the SGF and that he allegedly awarded contracts to these companies in which he had interests.

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