By Adeoye Michael
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama, Abuja on Tuesday ordered that former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir Lawal and three others be remanded in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) pending its ruling on his bail application today.
The court gave the order after Lawal, his brother, Hamidu David Lawal, Sulaiman Abubakar and Apeh John Monday and two companies – Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Limited – were arraigned on a 10-count charge brought against them by the EFCC, and in which they were accused of involvement in N272 million contract fraud.
The alleged fraud was said to be in relation to contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) for the removal of grasses in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, which the ex-SGF allegedly diverted to the companies in which he has interest.
The defendants pleaded not guilty when the charge was read to them, following which the prosecuting lawyer, M.S. Abubakar, asked for the “shortest date” for the beginning of trial.
At that point, lawyer to Lawal, Akin Olujinmi (SAN), informed the court about his client’s pending bail application.
He said: “In anticipation of arraignment, the defence filed application dated February 7, 2019, seeking the order of the court to grant bail on liberal terms.”
“He never jumped bail since April 13, 2018, when he was released by the EFCC on administrative bail, and has been reporting to the EFCC based on the conditions given to him.
“He never breached his bail conditions, even when he was given his international passport to travel for medical check-up.
“The defendant will not run away and has no way of jeopardising investigation since it has been concluded.
“I, therefore, urge your lordship to grant him bail on self-recognisance or on liberal terms,” Olujinmi said.
Lawyer to the second defendant, Sunday Ameh (SAN), also prayed the court to admit his client to bail on liberal terms, pending the determination of the case.
Napoleon Idenala and Ocholi Okutepa, who represented the third and fourth defendants, equally urged the court to exercise its discretion in their clients’ favour and grant them bail on liberal terms.
In his response, Abubakar urged Justice Jude Okeke to refuse the bail applications and order that the matter proceed without delay in the spirit of Section 19(2)(b) of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004 and Section 397 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
After entertaining arguments from parties, Justice Okeke fixed ruling for today and ordered that the defendants be remanded in EFCC’s custody.