Grass-cutting Scandal: EFCC tenders telephone evidence against Babachir Lawal
Justice Jude Okeke of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), High Court, Maitama, on Wednesday, September 18th heard how evidence linking the company used by the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, to allegedly defraud the federal government to the tune of N500 million was extracted from a telephone.
Lawal and his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh John alongside two companies, Rholavision Engineering (fifth defendant) and Josmon Technologies (sixth defendant), are facing prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an amended 10-count charge, bordering on fraud, diversion of funds and criminal conspiracy to the tune of over N500 million.
One of the charges read: “That you Engineer Babachir David Lawal, while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and a director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd on or about the 22nd of August 2016 at Abuja in the Abuja judicial division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, did knowingly hold indirectly private interest in the contract awarded to Josmon Technological Limited but executed by Rholavision Engineering Limited for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N258,132,735.99 (Two Hundred and Fifty Eight Million, One hundred and Thirty Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty Five Naira, Ninety Nine Kobo) only, by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.”
At the resumed hearing of the case Wednesday, a prosecution witness and certified data examiner with the EFCC, Fatima Umar, told the court how she extracted a forensic report from an iPhone belonging to one Mr Gulani, using a cellebrite camera. But the attempt by the prosecution counsel, Offem Uket, to tender the video evidence in a CD, was opposed by the defence counsel, Akin Olujimi.
According to him, information generated from the phone or any other device by virtue of section 84 of the Evidence Act, must be certified to be admitted in evidence. He explained that the prosecution has not produced any such certification. Justice Okeke, after listening to the argument of both counsel, adjourned the matter to September 24, 2019, for the continuation of trial.