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N500m scandal: Ex-SGF to know fate September 18

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The trial of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and five others before Justice Jude Okeke of Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) High Court, Maitama, Abuja, has been adjourned till September 18, 2019.

Lawal, along with his younger brother, Hamidu David Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar and Apeh John Monday are facing prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alongside two companies, Rholavision Engineering (fifth defendant) and Josmon Technologies (sixth defendant) on amended 10-count charge, bordering on fraud, diversion of funds and criminal conspiracy to the tune of over N500 million.

At Thursday’s resumed trial, the first prosecution witness, Hamza Adamu Buwai, a civil servant with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, who was the Head of Finance, Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) concluded his testimony.

Buwai told the court that there was yet another grass cutting project, which started in 2016, covering 250km, which involved irrigation on motorised boat in Yobe State, along the river.

This contract, the witness said, was for N258 million, awarded to Josmon Technologies (the sixth defendant), with Rholavision (the fifth defendant) as the consultant.

“When the documents of procurement came to me for request for payment to the contractors for the sum ofN225 million through the Permanent Secretary, Special Service Office in the office of the SGF, the approval was given and payment was made to Josmon Technologies and on completion of the project, a final evaluation certificate was given by Rholavision the consultant for payment in favour of Josmon Technologies.”

Buwai also revealed that for the payment of the remaining 25 per cent, two vouchers were issued in favour of Josmon Technologies with one capturing the sum of N182.95 million and inclusive of N10.2 million for withholding tax and N10.2 million for value added tax, while the other voucher captured the sum of N49.37 million with N2.7 million for withholding tax and another N2.7 million for value added tax.

He told the court that in the preceding project, the payment of N12.9 million was raised by Rholavision to Josmon Technologies in its second evaluation and that it was paid excluding contingency. He informed the court that before the payment was made, the total contract sum was for N272 million, while the first evaluation cost was N225 million, including withholding tax and value added tax of five per cent each.

The witness further informed the court that he raised the request for approval of payment through the permanent secretary and got the approval for the N12.9 million paid to Josmon Technologies and N3.5 million for Rholavision and that the payments were made through the GIFMIS platform.

Justice Okeke adjourned the matter to September 18 and September 24, 2019 for continuation of trial.

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