N544m grass-cutting scam: Fmr SGF’s brother, Hamidu Lawal’s firm indicted by EFCC witness

An FCT High Court in Jabi, Abuja, was on Wednesday told that the ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, was not involved in the award of the alleged N544 million grass-cutting scam awarded by the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE).

An Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) witness, Hamza Adamu Buwai, however, admitted that a consultancy job was awarded to Rholavision Engineering Limited where Lawal’s sibling has an interest.

Buwai testified before Justice Charles Agbaza, in the alleged contract fraud charge brought against Lawal and five others by the EFCC.

The ex-SGF is standing trial alongside his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal, a director of Rholavision; an employee of the company, Suleiman Abubakar; Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Limited, Apeh John Monday; Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited.

They were re-arraigned before the court on November 30, 2020, following the demise of the judge handling their case, Justice Jude Okeke, on August 4, 2020.

Under cross-examination by Akin Olujimi (SAN), counsel to the ex-SGF, the EFCC witness told Justice Agbassa that a Ministerial Tenders Board awarded a job to Rholavision after it met all conditions.

The witness said the actual contract for the clearing of an invasive plant species along river channels in North-East was awarded to Josmon Technologies, while the consultancy for supervision went to Rholavision, a firm belonging to Babachir Lawal’s younger brother.

Testifying as the second prosecution witness (PW2), Buwai admitted effecting all payments in respect of the contract after due approval by authorities.

He added that the 5 percent withholding tax was deducted as required by law and paid into the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) account for the federal government.

“My Lord, I am familiar with the Presidential Initiative for North-East and I can recognise its members. The 1st defendant in this matter is not a member of the Initiative. He is also not a member of the Ministerial Tenders Board. All I can say is that a consultancy was awarded to a company of his younger brother.

“As I am talking here, there have been no complaints against the execution of the contract. Payments were made based on the reports of the monitoring and evaluation committee of experts ” the witness said

Buwai recalled that consultancy only was awarded to Rholavision in the first phase of the contract on January 14, 2016, adding that the company was paid 2.5 percent of the total contract sum.

He said that following approval from the Permanent Secretary, Special Services in the office of the SGF, Rholavision was paid twice at 50 percent each.

The witness further informed the court that Josmon Technologies was awarded the invasive plant specie clearance from river channels following the receipt of a certificate of no objections from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).

After the cross-examination, Justice Agbaza adjourned the case until March 31.

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