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Ex-SGF asks court to reject EFCC’s ‘exhibit’ in N544m fraud trial

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Babachir Lawal

Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Dr. Babachir Lawal, has asked a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to reject computer-generated documents sought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to be tendered as exhibit against him in the N544 million contract fraud case.

Lawal told the court that the forensic laboratory report generated from the computer was not admissible in law because it was not in its original form and not certified as required by law.

Counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Ofem Uket, had sought to tender a forensic laboratory report obtained via an iPhone print-out belonging to one Musa Bulani to establish the money laundering charges against the former SGF and five others.

Counsel to Lawal, Akin Olujimi (SAN), however, raised objection against admission of the document on the ground that its source ran foul of sections 84 and 256 of the Evidence Act 2014.

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He argued that the compact disc was not the original source of the printed hard copy.

Olujimi further argued that the extraction was not marked as Certified True Copy (CTC), alleging that EFCC hacked into someone’s phone and came up with what it found and yet sought to tender it without following the due process of law.

For the documents to be admitted, Olujimi said, a certificate signed by the maker must accompany them, since they were electronically-generated evidence. He, therefore, urged Justice Charles Agbaza to reject the extracted information.

Counsel to the second defendant, John Itodo; counsel to the third, Napoleon Idenala; counsel to the fourth and sixth, Ocholi Okutepa; and counsel to the fifth, M. E Oru, all aligned with Olujimi’s submission and adopted it as their arguments.

The prosecution counsel, however, argued otherwise and insisted that there was no need to issue a certificate, stressing that a witness had testified in court and presented original documents.

Justice Charles Agbaza, after hearing the arguments, fixed June 9, 2021, for ruling on the admissibility of the documents and cross-examination of the third witness.

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EFCC’s third witness, Fatima Umar, its Deputy Head of Digital Forensic Laboratory, had earlier narrated before the court how she received a request to carry out an examination on a digital device – an iPhone 7.

The witness said the request was to search for deleted messages, phone logs, documents and any other thing that could have possibly been deleted on the device.

She added that the iPhone was in a good condition before it was given to her for examination, stressing that she had to disconnect the phone’s network by putting it on airplane mode in order not to tamper with valuable data.

The former SGF is facing 10 counts filed against him by the EFCC, in which he pleaded not guilty. The charges border on diversion of funds, criminal conspiracy and official corruption.

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Babachir LawalEFCC
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