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Grass cutting fraud: Court discharges Babachir Lawal in N544m grass-cutting fraud case

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A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, has discharged and acquitted a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal, and five others from the N544 million grass-cutting contract fraud offences brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The Court on Friday held that the anti-graft agency failed woefully to establish prima facie case against the ex-SGF and the co-defendants.

In a ruling on no case submission made by Babachir Lawal and others, Justice Charles Agbaza held that no ingredients of any offence was made out by the 11 witnesses that testified for the EFCC.

The trial Judge held that EFCC did not establish that Babachir Lawal was either a member of the Presidential Initiative for North East, PINE, that awarded the contract or a member of the Ministerial Tenders Board that vetted and gave approval to the disputed contract.

Justice Agbaza further held that EFCC also failed to link Babachir Lawal with Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, that issued a certificate of no objection to the contract before it was awarded.

Justice Charles  Agbaza discharged and aqcuitted all the defendants in the 10-count criminal charges against them for “want of evidence to link them with the purported offences.”

Recall that Babachir Lawal alongside his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal; Suleiman Abubakar; Apeh Monday and two companies, Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited were prosecuted by the EFCC before Justice Charles Agbaza.

The defendants were, among other things, alleged to have connived and illegally diverted a contract the Presidential Initiative for North East, PINE, awarded for the removal of grasses in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps, to his own company.

They were initially docked before the court on February 12, 2019, and subsequently re-arraigned on November 30, 2020, following the death of the previous judge that handled the matter, Justice Jude Okeke.

Late Justice Okeke had on February 13, 2019, granted the defendants bail to the tune of N50 million each, with one surety in like sum.

The court equally seized their international passports, even as it barred the defendants from travelling out of the country without permission.

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