The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has re-arraigned a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and three others before Justice Jude Okeke of a Federal Capital Territory High Court, Maitama.
Lawal, along with his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday and two companies, Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd, were re-arraigned on an amended 10-count charge bordering on fraud, diversion of funds and criminal conspiracy to the tune of over N500 million.
They were earlier arraigned before Justice Okeke on February 13 and the prosecution was meant to open its case yesterday.
At the resumed hearing, counsel to EFCC, Offem Uket, told the court that the charges against them had been amended and that they had to take a fresh plea.
However, citing Section 218 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA 2015, Akin Olujimi, counsel for Lawal, 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 themselves with the submission of Olujimi.
Justice Okeke, while ordering the prosecution to comply with the section cited by Mr Olujimi, however ruled that in the interim, the amended charges be read to the defendants.
After the amended charge was read they pleaded “not guilty.”
The defence team, thereafter, prayed the court to allow the defendants to continue with the bail earlier granted them.
The request of the defence was granted by Justice Okeke, who adjourned to April 11 for “commencement of trial,” noting that “the court is minded to grant an adjournment due to the amendment of the charges.”