March 29, 2022

N544m contract fraud charges against ex-SGF, Babachir Lawal unnecessary, witness tells court

By Fortune Eromosele

A witness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the on-going trial of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Dr Babachir Lawal, has said  the alleged N544m contract fraud charges against the defendant was absolutely unnecessary.

The witness, Dare Folarin, told a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory FCT in Abuja yesterday that the allegations against Babachir Lawal ought to have been dropped immediately the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP,   confirmed giving approval for a contract award to Rholavision Engineering Company.

He admitted that the Bureau of Public Procurement, which gave approval for award of contract that led to filing of charges against defendant never recommended investigation of the contract to EFCC.

Under cross examination by Chief Akin Olujimi SAN, the witness admitted that the anti-graft agency ought not to have proceeded further immediately the BPP confirmed giving approval for the contract under emergency procurement procedure to salvage the people of the North East.

Folarin, who is an operative of EFCC, like other witnesses in the trial, admitted that Babachir Lawal was not a member of the Ministerial Tenders Board under the Presidential Initiative for North East, PINE, initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari and that his role as SGF was to formulate policy and be notified of the report of the board.

The witness, however, testified that he could not remember being told by Babachir Lawal that he never recommended any company to PINE for contract award.

He also told the court that he could not remember being informed by the defendant that he ceased to have anything doing with Rholavision Engineering Company immediately he was appointed as SGF.

The EFCC witness further testified that he could not remember that Babachir Lawal told him during investigation that he was never aware of any contract award to Rholavision Company and that he (defendant) got to know about the contract award during the Senate ad-hoc investigation.

“I am aware in the course of investigation that approval for the contract award was admitted to have been granted by the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, due to its no objection to the proposal by the PINE Ministerial Tenders Board.

“I am also aware that the BPP did not recommend investigation to EFCC on the alleged abuse of office and procurement violation,”the witness said. Meanwhile, Justice Charles Agbaza has fixed March 31 and April 1, 2022, for further hearing in the matter.