Court to rule on eligibility of witness July 6 in Babachir’s N500m grass cutting scam

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed July 6 for ruling on the eligibility of a prosecution witness in the on-going trial of Babachir Lawal, a former Secretary to the Government of the federation,  for alleged N500 million scandal.

A statement by Dele Oyewale, Head of Media and Publicity at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)  on Wednesday,  stated that Justice Jude Okeke made this ruling on the amended 10 count charges.

The charges brought against Lawal, his younger brother, Hamidu David Lawal, one Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh John, Rholavision Engineering and Josmon Technologies by the  EFCC border on fraud, diversion of funds and criminal conspiracy to the tune of over N500 million.

Akin Olujimi, the lead defense counsel had opposed the eligibility of  Chidi Eboigbe, a compliance officer with Ecobank,  presented by the prosecuting counsel, Offem Uket as witness on grounds that he was not listed as a witness in the matter.

“I cannot see anywhere that the witness in the box was listed among the witnesses going through the proof of evidence and cannot see any name that looks like his. The only person from Ecobank is Obadino Abiola Ganiyu who has given a statement to EFCC,” Oyewale quoted Olujimi as said.

Olujimi disclosed that the defence was therefore at a loss as to what the witness would say, and as such was unable to prepare for his cross-examination. He therefore, urged the court to strike out the witness from the case.

Other members of the defence team led by Olujimi agreed with his submission, adding that their clients must be given direct notice of the witness’ appearance and evidence sought to be given by him.

Uket, the prosecuting counsel, told the court that the prosecution listed a representative of Ecobank as a witness in the matter and that representative is Enoigbe.

    “The witness is not in court as a person but as a representative of the bank to speak on the documents from his bank and that the statement of account is in the proof of evidence,” the EFCC counsel said.

    Uket further noted that “Ecobank is an entity that acts through its servants and that means any staff can be assigned to speak on the issues of past records of transactions that happened in the past and in the future.

    He informed the court that it did not matter that the transaction was not conducted by the witness and that it predated his employment in the bank and therefore prayed the court to reject the argument of the defence and allow the witness to give his testimony.

    Justice Okeke during his ruling adjourned the matter till July 6, for ruling on the eligibility of the witness and continuation of trial.

    Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via [email protected], on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

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