EFCC re-arraigns ex-SGF Lawal, three others in N500m suit
• ICPC moves to seize N4.8b properties from 30 firms
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has re-arraigned former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and three others before Justice Jude Okeke of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Maitama.
The ex-scribe along with his younger brother, Hamidu David Lawal, one Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh John Monday and two companies, Rholavision Engineering Ltd. and Josmon Technologies Ltd. were re-arraigned on an amended 10-count charge relating to alleged fraud, diversion of funds and criminal conspiracy to the tune of N500 million.
They were first arraigned before the judge on February 13, 2019 and the prosecution was to open its case yesterday.
At the resumed hearing, counsel to the EFCC, Offem Uket, told the court that the accused needed to take a fresh plea since the earlier charges had been amended.
However, citing Section 218 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA 2015, Lawal’s lawyer, Akin Olujimi, SAN, argued that “before the charge is taken, the prosecution ought to have filed the amended charge to ensure that it was properly endorsed.”
Other defence counsel aligned with his submission and the prosecution was ordered by the judge to comply though also sanctioned that the charges be read to the defendants in the interim.
After the reading, the accused pleaded not guilty. The defence team thereafter prayed the court to allow them continue with the bail granted them earlier.
The request was granted and Justice Okeke later adjourned to April 11, 2019 for commencement of trial, noting that “the court is minded to grant an adjournment due to the amendment of the charges.”
The court had granted the defendants bail in the sum of N50 million with one surety in like sum, who must be resident and owner of a landed property of Abuja as well as show evidence of three year tax payment. The international passports of the accused were also ordered to be deposited with the registry.
In a related development, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) is moving to seize plots of land and buildings worth N4.8 billion from 30 companies.
The commission’s spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa, in a statement, listed the items 22.9 hectares of undeveloped land, a plaza as well as a block of six two-bedroom flats located in Wuse, Zone 1.
She said the decision followed a petition by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) accusing the firms of owing N288.2 million in taxes.
The spokesperson cited Section 37 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 which empowers the agency to seize assets alleged to be subject of an offence under the law and Section 48 that allows it apply to a high court for an order of forfeiture within 12 months from the date of the seizure.
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