A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) high court yesterday ordered that former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, be remanded in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), till today when his bail application would be considered.
Lawal was arraigned before the court alongside three other defendants, Hamidu David Lawal, Sulaiman Abubakar and Apeh John Monday, as well as two firms that were allegedly involved in the grass-cutting scandal, Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited.
The defendants, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, were docked by the EFCC for alleged complicity in a N272 million contract scam.
Specifically, Lawal was accused of illegally diverting a contract of the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE), awarded for the removal of grasses in the internally displaced persons camps, to his own company. He pleaded not guilty to the 10-count criminal charge the EFCC preferred against him.
His bail application moved by his counsel was opposed by prosecution counsel, Mr. M. S. Abubakar.
The anti-graft agency had argued that Lawal and his alleged accomplices were unable to present sufficient materials that would enable the court to exercise its discretionary powers to release them on bail.
Prosecution counsel further opposed the court allowing Lawal to go home on the basis of a mere oral bail application.
The former SGF had, after his plea, begged the court to grant him bail on self-recognition, while undertaking to make himself available for his trial.
His lawyer, Chief Akin Olujinmi, SAN, informed the court that the anti-graft agency had earlier released his client on administrative bail.
He said the EFCC had even allowed his client to travel abroad for medical treatment while the investigation was ongoing.
“My lord, he could have run away when he was given his passport, but he went and came back. The first defendant is not one that will run away from his trial. Moreover, my lord, the prosecution has concluded its investigations, so the first defendant has no way to interfere with the investigation.
Olujinmi told the court that the EFCC declined to accept service of Lawal’s written bail application.
Similarly, all the other defendants, who also said they were previously on administrative bail, relied on sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as well as sections 158, 162 and 165 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, and prayed the court to grant them bail, pending their trial.
However, in its counter-affidavit, the EFCC maintained that the defendants, including the ex-SGF, did not run away from the country while on administrative bail, considering that no formal charge was pending against them before any court at that time.
After he had listened to all the parties, Justice Okeke adjourned ruling on the defendants’ bail applications.