A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and six others, have been re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for the alleged fraudulent N544m grass cutting contract.
They all pleaded not guilty when the amended 10 counts of fraud were read to them before Justice Charles Agbaza of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Jabi, Abuja.
The EFCC had alleged, among others in the 10 counts, that the defendants fraudulently converted cumulative proceeds of grass cutting contracts worth over N500m which Lawal, as then SGF, allegedly awarded to the companies in which he had interests.
The re-arraignment, followed the demise of the former trial judge, Justice Jude Okeke, on August 4, 2020.
Lawal, along with his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday, and two companies – Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd – was initially arraigned before the late Justice Okeke on February 13, 2019.
The prosecuting counsel, Offem Uket, was to open his case on March 18, 2019, when he announced that he had amended the 10 counts, bordering on fraud, diversion of over N544m, and criminal conspiracy.
The development prompted the need for a re-arraignment of the defendants, who again pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The trial had proceeded before Justice Okeke with the EFCC still calling its witnesses when the judge died.
Following the judge’s demise, the case was re-assigned to Justice Agbaza before whom the case was rescheduled to start afresh on Monday.