Grass-Cutting scandal: Court rejects ‘documents’ tendered against Babachir Lawal
An FCT High Court, in Maitama, on Monday, rejected uncertified documents sought to be tendered by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) in the trial of ex- Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal.
The EFCC arraigned Lawal, along side his brother Hamidu, a director of Rholavision Engineering Limited; an employee of the company, Sulaiman Abubakar and the Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Limited, Apeh Monday.
They are charged with 10 count bordering on conspiracy and fraud.
Also joined are two companies, Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited.
Justice Jude Okeke ruling on the admissibilty of the documents held that the essence of certification was to ensure accuracy of documents tendered in evidence.
He said that although the prosecutor attached the uncertified documents into the bundle of original documents ” It is the duty of the court to examine them to know whether there are admissible. ”
” I have examined the bundle of the documents and it consisted of original documents with attachments of uncertified ones, a total of 17 documents.
” The documents are bearing different dates besides this it’s also numbered as different exhibits, the mere act that there are stapled together does not make them one document ” he held.
He said for a public document to be admissible it must accord with the provision of section 104 of Evidence Act, 2011.
He then admitted seven original documents and rejected 10 uncertified ones.
Okeke adjourned until June 18 for contuination of trial.
On May 23, Mr O.Uzor councel for fifth defendant objected when the prosecuting counsel, Mr Ufom Uket, sought to tender the documents.
There are payment vouchers raised by PINE for payments to both Josmon Technologies Limited and Rholavision Engineering Limited respectively, through the first prosecution witness (PW1), Hamza Adamu.
Uzor stated that while the vouchers were in the original copies, the other documents attached to them were photocopies, which were not certified.
According to him, the documents were public documents and that there were procedures for tendering such, as contained in Section 104 of the Evidence Act.
Responding to this, Uket informed the court that the vouchers were in the original form, adding that memos raised on the vouchers, were attached with the vouchers.
He prayed the court to admit them, saying that each of the vouchers and the attachments were to be seen one document.
The EFCC accused the former SGF of benefiting illegally from the approval of N544,119,925.36, for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation.
They alleged that Lawal being the SGF and Hamidu Lawal, director of Rholavision Engineering Limited and Abubakar, staff, about March 7, 2016 at Abuja, conspired to commit the offence.
The EFCC further alleged that the defendants fraudulently acquired a property, contrary to Section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
The anti-graft agency also alleged that the former SGF knowingly held indirectly a private interest in the consultancy contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Limited, for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N7 million and N6.4 million.
EFCC claimed that it was done through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE).
It further alleged that on March 4 and Aug. 22, 2016, contract for removing evasive grass worth N272.5 million and N258.1 million respectively were awarded to Josmon Technologies Limited, but was executed by Rholavision.
The offence, according to the EFCC, were contrary to Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.