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N544M Grass Cutting Contract: Witnesses Desert EFCC In Ex-SGF, Babachir Lawal’s Trial

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC on Thursday suffered yet another setback in the trial of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF Engineer Babachir Lawal in alleged N544M contract fraud as none of its witnesses showed up in court to testify in the matter.

Prosecution Counsel, Mr Ofem Uket, informed Justice Jude Okeke of the Federal Capital Territory High court that although the matter was slated for continuation of trial but lamented that non of EFCC witnesses was in court.

The lawyer tendered apology over the development adding that it is not in his character to stall trial the way it happened.

Although Babachir Lawal and five other defendants were present in court, the EFCC counsel pleaded with the court to give him another opportunity to enable him reach out to the witnesses.

‘It is regrettable that non of my witnesses is in court for this trial, I wish to apologize for this and I humbly urge this honourable court to give me another adjournment. ”

Counsel to Babachir Lawal, Chief Akin Olujimi SAN, sympathized with EFCC counsel adding that the counsel had informed him of his predicament before the court started sitting.

Olujimi, a former Attorney General of the Federation AGF did not object to the EFCC’s request for an adjournment of the case.

Justice Okeke subsequently adjoined the matter to June 10 and 16 to enable EFCC put its house in order.

At the last trial, EFCC witnes,, Aminu Muhammed had cleared former SGF of any wrong doing in the award of N544M contract that led to his trial.

The witness, a Principal Procurement Officer, in the SGF office had told the court that neither Babachir Lawal nor any of the defendants in the trial participated in the bidding process or award of the contract in dispute

Muhammed who is a member of the Presidential Initiative on North East (PINE ) had testified that the body was solely responsible for the award of the contract without Babachir Lawal who was then in office as SGF.

While being cross examined by Chief Olujimi SAN, counsel for the ex-SGF, the witness had stated that non of defendants put on trial by EFCC played any role in the procurement process conducted by the Presidential Initiative.

Babachir Lawal is facing trial alongside six others in an alleged N544.1M contract fraud.

The former SGF, his brother, Hamidu Lawal, who is 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 being prosecuted by EFCC before Justice Jude Okeke, sitting at Maitama, Abuja.

They are facing a10-count charge bordering on conspiracy and fraud.

The six defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them

The EFCC witness had added that none of the seven defendants was a member of any PINE committees or Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) and did not play any roles whatsoever in the award of contracts to both Josmon and Rholavision.

The witness had also told the court that the letters of award of contracts he signed were signed after the tenders board had given approval for the award of the contracts to both Josmon and Rholavision.

He added that PINE did nothing wrong in awarding contracts to both Josmon and Rholavision.

Testifying further, the witness told Justice Okeke that he was a member of the evaluation committee of the Presidential Initiative on North-East (PINE).

According to him, after evaluating the bids submitted by companies bidding for projects by PINE, including Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited, his committee sent reports to the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and the Ministerial Tenders Board in the OSGF.

He stated that the technical reports sent by his committee was for approval by the MTB, adding that where any irregularities occurred, the reports would be sent back to PINE for correction.

“They are to check the report and approve or send it back to PINE. When the report is approved, the company gets the contracts,” he stated.

The contracts, the witness said, were awarded by PINE.

Members of the MTB, according to the witness, were Permanent Secretaries or their representatives, Directors of Legal, Finance, Procurement, Internal Audit and Press in the OSGF.

Muhammed stated that he was the person who signed the letters of award of contracts to both Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited.

He added that it was not the MTB in the OSGF that allowed him or the PINE secretary to issue letters of award of contract.

Muhammed who is the prosecution witness number four (PW4) had further stated that about 108 companies including the fifth and sixth defendants, bided for different projects from PINE.

However in a drama that followed, counsel representing EFCC in the trial Mr Ofem Uket expressed been frustrated by witnesses coming to testify from the office of the SGF.

He opened up on his alleged frustration after leading Aminu Muhammed who testified as the fourth prosecution witness (PW4) in the case.

According to him, 80 per cent of the witnesses called by the anti corruption commission so far were from the OSGF, adding that he knew what he was facing from them.

“The witnesses I bring to court, about 80 per cent of them are all coming from OSGF,” Uket stated.

He told the court that the case was adjourned at the last sitting in January but had to be rescheduled at the instance of the fourth witness.

“I called him last week, he said he was in his village. I called him in the presence of the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) and he said he was in Bauchi.

“The IPO told him that he (IPO) had a tracker which showed that he (witness) was in Abuja. It was then he admitted that he was in Abuja. I only saw him today,” Ufem told the court.

Justice Okeke had however, said that the court had nothing to say to the complaints raised by the prosecutor against his own witnesses.

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Ebonyi Head of Service Position: Umahi Throws Application Open

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Against the usual practice of picking from the top echelon of the Civil Service,  Ebonyi State Governor, Chief David Umahi on Tuesday threw the position of Head of Service (HoS) of the state open, asking civil servants on Grade Level 14 and above to apply within two weeks.

Umahi, in a statement by the Commissioner of Information and State Orientation, Mr Uchenna Orji, said civil servants across the 13 LGAs of the state are qualified to apply within two weeks.

“The Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi requests applications from Civil Servants from Grade Level 14 and above to fill the vacancy of the Head Of Service (HOS), who shall be bowing out of Civil Service on 30th June 2021 after a meritorious and selfless service to the government and people of Ebonyi State,” the statement read in part.

The Governor further directed the civil servants to forward their applications to the Secretary to the State Government (SSG): “All applications are to be addressed to the Secretary to the State Government and Coordinating Commissioner, and submitted with all relevant credentials no later than 30th June, 2021.

Umahi added that “In replacing the outgoing Head of Service, the Government will be looking for the best for the State to continue the good work that the outgoing Head of Service began.

He applauded the loyalty, committed efforts and selfless service rendered by the out-going Head Of Service, Dr. Chamberlain Nwele, in the state and wished him well in his future endeavours.

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Federal High Court Issues New Practice Direction For Filing Of Processes As Workers Resume

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The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court (FHC), Justice John Tsoho, has issued a new practice direction on exemption of payment of default fees for filing of processes.

The development, according to a statement by Catherine Oby-Nwandu, Chief Information Officer of FHC, on Friday night, followed the resumption of work after the two-month strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) was called off on on Wednesday.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that JUSUN had, on April 6, shut down all courts nationwide to demand for financial autonomy for the judiciary at the state level.

Although the industrial action was called off on Wednesday, June 9, the workers union directed all its members to resume work on Monday, June 14.

Justice Tsoho, in the statement, therefore ordered that notwithstanding the provisions of Order 48 Rule 4 of the court rules, 2019, on computation of time for filling of court proceedings as provided by the Rules and payment of default fees for extension of time, the period covering the JUSUN strike action would be exempted.

The statement reads: “Following the resumption of work after the strike action by the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) from 6th day of April, 2021 to 14th day of June 2021 which affected court proceedings and filling of processes, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Honorable Justice John Terhemba Tsoho, announces to Hon. Judges, stakeholders and the general public, the essential need for a new Practice Direction on EXEMPTION OF PAYMENT OF DEFAULT FEES FOR FILING OF PROCESSES computation of time for the payment of default fees for extension of time for filing processes in the Federal High Court of Nigeria for the above period.

“Pursuant to the powers conferred on him, he thereby issues the following Practice Directions:
“COMPUTATION of Time for filing of court processes and payment of default fees for extension of time;
“Notwithstanding the provisions of Order 48 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019 on computation of time for filling of court proceedings or doing an act as provided by the Rules and payment of default fees for extension of time thereof, the period covering the JUSUN strike action, being from 6th day of April, 2021 to 14th day of June, 2021, is hereby exempted.

“APPLICABILITY; These practice Directions shall, save to the extent or as may be otherwise directed by the Chief Judge, apply to both criminal and civil causes and matters in the Federal High Court of Nigeria.

“CITATION; These Practice Directions shall be cited as the Federal High Court (Exemption of Payment of Default Fees for Filing of Processes) Practice Directions (No. 2) 2021.

“The Practice Directions take effect from Tuesday, June 15, 2021.”(NAN)

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BUHARI REMOVES ARMSTRONG IDACHABA, REPLACES HIM WITH SHEHU ILELAH AS NBC DG.

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President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of Mr Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, as the new director-general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the appointment in a statement made available to NAN in Abuja on Friday.

The statement said Ilelah’s appointment is for a tenure of five years in the first instance.

Ilelah

It added that Ilelah is a veteran broadcaster.

Ilelah takes over from the acting director-general of the agency, Armstrong Idachaba, who had been acting since the removal of Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, the esthwhile director-general who was removed over alleged corruption last year.

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