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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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Marwa Warns Against Cannabis Legalisation

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Says “It is money versus life”

 

President Muhammadu Buhari (right) with the Chairman of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mohammed Buba Marwa at the State House, Abuja, during a visit by Marwa to brief him on the activities of the agency (photo by The Guardian)

Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd), has enjoined members of the National Assembly not to support to move to legalise cannabis, cautioning that members who vote for it might not be able to return to their constituencies.Marwa made the submission yesterday while fielding questions from newsmen after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.

The former military administrator of Lagos said the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed the dangers of cannabis to the brain, disclosing that Nigeria was the highest consumer of the substance globally.

Vowing that Nigeria would not submit to the push for its legalisation, Marwa said: “Now, the WHO itself has declared that cannabis affects the brain, alters brain function. It destabilises and affects behaviour. It also affects body organs, and at some point, it can lead to death.

“So, while we appreciate those who want to legalise it for financial gains, we have to be careful to reconcile it with life. So, it’s money versus life. And up to this point, science has not developed up to the point where it can remove the THC in cannabis to zero.

“Therefore, cannabis is harmful to our health; it is a danger to society. We must never allow its legalisation. What’s more, Nigeria has 10.6 million cannabis users; this is the highest in the world. Isn’t it sad?

“We should be the highest in science, technology, mathematics, physics and not highest in cannabis. That is something we need.

“We can never support legalisation and I don’t see how the National Assembly would pass the bill because I know 90 per cent or more of the honourable and distinguished members of the National Assembly know the implications of this legalisation. They dare not go back to their constituencies if anyone signs legalisation because we are seeing the implication on the ground. The youth, the families are being destroyed because of cannabis and drugs. It wouldn’t be legalised by the grace of God.”

Marwa, who revealed that he has received constant death threats from criminals in the course of his assignment, said he was not concerned even though he takes precautions.

Specifically, on the threats, he quipped: “Severally! It’s almost a daily occurrence because my phone number is open. Equally, messages come through family, through colleagues, and sometimes people at random whom we don’t know but I live in the territory. That said, we also take precautions.”

The NDLEA boss said he was at that presidential villa to brief President Buhari on the recent activities of the agency, especially the move to construct barracks for personnel of the agency, saying he received a positive response from the president on the initiative.

“Well, the President told us well done. And that well done does not go to Gen. Marwa but the NDLEA officers and men. And if there’s a secret behind it, we thank the Almighty God for the successes recorded so far, and also to the gallant and professional officers and men of the NDLEA who have remained upstanding.”

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Court freezes Kogi State Govt’s Bank Account over N20billion Salary Loan Fraud

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Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State

 

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday froze a Kogi salary bailout account domiciled in a new generation bank over a N20 billion loan obtained from the bank.

Justice Tijjani Garba Ringim made the order pending the conclusion of an investigation or possible prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The agency approached the court via an ex-parte application brought pursuant to Section 44(2) of the Constitution and Section 34(1) of the EFCC Act.

Its counsel, Mr A. O. Muhammed, informed the court that the order was necessary to preserve the res and abate further dissipation of the funds in the account.

Moving the application, Muhammed alleged that the N20b loan was meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the state government but was kept in an interest yielding account with the bank.

He added that instead of using the money for the purpose it was meant for, the Kogi State Government instructed the bank to transfer the money from the loan account and place same in a fixed deposit account.

According to the agency, the bank is yet to present any credible evidence to show that the facility is well secured.

Granting the application, Justice Ringim ordered the EFCC to publish the order in a national newspaper and make a quarterly report to the court on the progress of its investigation.

The judge adjourned the matter till December 1, for the report of Investigation.

The EFCC’s allegations were made in its 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte motion deposed to by a member of a team of investigators attached to the Chairman Monitoring Unit Lagos of the EFCC.

The document averred that the Commission received credible and direct intelligence which led to the tracing of funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities warehoused in the account with the name Kogi State Salary Bailout Account

He said the Commission acted on the said intelligence and assigned same to the Chairman Monitoring Unit, where it was discovered that on April 1, 2019, the management approved an offer of an N20billion bailout loan facility for the Kogi State Government.

According to the deponent, on June 19, 2019, fiscal year, the Kogi State Government, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Office of the Commissioner, applied for a credit facility of N20billion with an interest rate of nine per cent for a tenure of 240 months from the bank”.

The agency added that the said facility was meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the state government.

It stated further that on June 26, 2019, the credit facility offer was accepted vide a memorandum of acceptance signed by Governor Alhaji Yahaya Bello, Asiwaju Idris Asiru, the Commissioner of Finance Kogi State; and one Alhaji Momoh Jibrin, Accountant General, Kogi State.

It averred that before the said application for a loan, the Kogi State Government on the 19th June 2019 vide a letter to the Manager of the bank in Lokoja applied for an account opening in the Bank with the name Kogi State Salary Bailout Account with Alhaji Momoh Jubril, Accountant General of the State and Elijah Evinemi Ag. Director Treasury as the signatories to the said account.

“That upon the opening of the said account disbursed salary intervention loan to the tune of N20billion to the account.

“That rather than use the intervention funds for the purpose for which it was granted, the State Government proceeded to open a fixed deposit account No. 0073572696.

“That on the 25 day of July 2019, the bank acting on the instruction of the Kogi State Government transferred the money from the loan account and placed same on the aforementioned fixed deposit account.

“That the said account sought to be frozen received the sum of twenty billion naira, (N20, 000,000,000) on the 25th July 2019.

“That as of 1st day of April 2021 the balance standing to the credit of the said fixed deposit account was N19,333,333,333.36 billion

“That we are still tracing what the sum of N666,666,666.64 billion, has been deducted from the said funds and were not used for the payment of the salary.

“That the Commission has the statutory mandate to prevent the Commission of economic and financial Crimes with the shores of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That investigation in this matter is still ongoing and this application is pertinent to secure the funds in the said account to prevent them from being totally dissipated.

“That without freezing the nominated accounts, there is no better way of preserving

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