Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and three others before the Abuja High Court on corruption-related offences.
Buhari had last year suspended Lawal from office, following public outcry over alleged tolerance of corrupt persons in his administration.
Those arraigned alongside the former SGF are Hamidu Lawal, a director of Rholavision Engineering Limited; an employee of the company, Sulaiman Abubakar and the Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Limited, Apeh Monday.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges when read to them in the open court.
Consequently, the prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, asked for a date for commencement of the trial.
Counsel for the former SGF, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), informed the court that he filed a bail application on behalf of the first defendant, adding that the prosecution refused to be served the application.
The senior lawyer who moved an oral application for bail, said that bail is at the discretion of the court in line with Sections 158 and 165 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, and urged the court to grant Lawal bail in self-recognition.
According to him, the first defendant had served Nigeria meritorious at a high level as SGF, an office he held for over two years before the Senate raised the issue that brought him before the court.
He added that EFCC invited Lawal and detained him on April 11, 2018 and granted him administrative bail on April 13, 2018.
He informed the court that while on administrative bail, the former SGF had cause to travel on health ground and informed EFCC about it, adding that, “EFCC released his international passport for him to travel. He returned the passport to them on his return to the country.
“If he had wanted to escape, he could have done so while he travelled out of the country.”
Olujinmi submitted that Lawal did not have any reason to interfere with EFCC’s investigation as the commission had completed its investigation into the matter.
Similarly, counsel to the other defendants drew the court attention to their bail applications and urged the court to release their clients on bail.
Responding, the prosecution counsel, Abubakar, stated that he was not aware that any EFCC officials refused to accept service of the first defendant’s bail application.
He stated further that there was no affidavit before the court, showing that the application was refused to be accepted, adding that he needed time to respond to the oral application by Olujinmi.
After listening to arguments for and against the bail applications, Justice Jude Okeke stated that the court was inclined to giving considered ruling on the applications and as such adjourned till today to deliver ruling.
The judge, however, ordered that the defendants be remanded in EFCC’s custody pending the ruling on their bail applications.