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EFCC re-arraigns ex-SGF Babachir over N500m grass cutting fraud

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A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and six others have been re-arraigned at the Federal High Court in Abuja over an alleged fraudulent grass-cutting contract worth over N500m.

Other defendants are Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday and two companies; Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges when they first appeared before the late Justice Jude Okeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama on February 13, 2019.

The case was to be opened on March 18, 2019, but the prosecutor announced that changes had been made to the 10-count charge, thereby stalling the trial.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had accused them of fraud, criminal conspiracy and diversion of N500 million.

The EFCC was still calling its witnesses when it was announced that the judge died on August 4, 2020, from a brief illness at the National Hospital in Abuja.

The case was then transferred to Justice Charles Agbaza of the Jabi Division of the FCT High Court, who fixed November 30 (Monday) for the re-arraignment.

The defendants again pleaded not guilty to the charges at their re-arraignment on Monday.

Justice Agbaza slated January 20, 2021, to restart the trial.

The EFCC alleged that Babachir Lawal, when he was the SGF, awarded cumulative proceeds of grass cutting contracts worth over N500 million to companies he had interests in.

It stated in the charge marked CR/158/19 “that you Engineer Babachir David Lawal while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and a director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd, on or about the 7th of March, 2016 in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did knowingly hold indirectly a private interest in the consultancy contract awarded to Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N7, 009,515.96 (Seven Million, Nine Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifteen Naira and Ninety Six Kobo only) by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North-East (PINE) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000.

“That you Engineer Babachir David Lawal while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and a director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd on or about the 4th of March, 2016 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did knowingly hold indirectly a private interest in the contract awarded to Josmon Technologies Ltd but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N272,524,356.02 (Two Hundred and Seventy Two Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Four Thousand, Three Hundred and Fifty Six Naira and Two Kobo only) by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North-East (PINE) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

“That you Engineer Babachir David Lawal while being the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and a director of Rholavision Engineering Ltd on or about the 22nd August, 2016 at Abuja in the Abuja Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did knowingly hold indirectly a private interest in the contract awarded to Josmon Technologies Ltd but executed by Rholavision Engineering Ltd for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation to the tune of N258,132,735.00 (Two Hundred and Fifty Eight Million, One Hundred and Thirty Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty Five Naira only) by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) through the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 12 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000.”

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2022 National Honours list in circulation doctored, says FG

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The Federal Government has disowned the list of nominees for the 2022 National Honours that has been trending on some social and traditional media platforms.

Spokesperson for the Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Julie Osagie-Jacobs, on Monday, said the list had been doctored by mischievous persons to cause national disharmony.

She said that the authentic list had been compiled by the ministry for the National Honours but yet to be made public.

Controversy and wide condemnation by opinion leaders and public analysts had greeted the inclusion of certain names and omission of some found to have excelled in their callings over the years.

Osagie-Jacobs said, “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs has been drawn to a purported list of nominees for National Honours being circulated by some online media organisations.

“While it is true that President Muhammadu Buhari will be conferring National Honours on deserving Nigerians and friends of Nigeria on October 11, 2022, the authentic list of nominees is yet to be released to the public. The Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs will publish the list at the appropriate time and medium.

“Members of the public are hereby enjoined to discountenance the list in circulation as it is an attempt by overzealous reporters whose aim is to break news even when such news is fake.”

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ASUU strike: Adamu doesn’t deserve national honour – NANS

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Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu

The National Association of Nigerian Students has kicked against the move by President Muhammadu Buhari to confer National Honours Award on the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.

Adamu’s name is among notable individuals Buhari listed to be honoured on October 11.

Reacting in a statement by its National Public Relations Officer, Giwa Temitope, on Monday, NANS said it was an insult to the collective intelligence of Nigerian students who had been locked out of schools for close to eight months due to the ongoing strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities which Adamu had failed to resolve.

“It constitutes an insult to the collective intelligence of Nigerian students both home and in the diaspora that the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, under whose nose university students have been home for close to eight months is to be awarded the National Honours of Commander of the Order of Niger.

“This act of the Buhari’s administration is a clear pointer to the fact that Nigerian students have been taken for a ride. And, we see this as the final straw that breaks the back of the camel of Buhari’s much touted integrity.

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“Over the years, successive administrations in the country have shown to the Nigerian people that the National Honours is more of recognition of patronage than recognition of excellence. But Buhari has taken a step further to show the mass of Nigerian students that we are not on the priority list of the administration.

“It is so unfortunate that a country which offered so much in hope and possibilities at independence has today become a land of suffering, insecurity and near hopelessness signposted by youth unemployment and underfunded educational sector,” the statement partly read.

NANS said that, in a functioning country, both the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who “shamefully walked out” of a meeting with the national leadership of ASUU at the instance of the House of Representatives, and his Education counterpart would have been fired before now. “But, the reverse is the case as Adamu under whose watch the educational sector of the country has totally collapsed is to be recognised with a National Honour for a job ‘well-done’, it added.

“As an association, we reiterate that we pass a vote of no confidence in both Adamu and Ngige. And, we maintain that we shall be back to the streets in protest against the recklessness of this administration until the Federal Government settles every issue with ASUU for Nigerian students to return to classes,” it concluded.

ASUU has been on strike since February 14, 2022.  ASUU, which is the umbrella for university lecturers in Nigeria, is asking for improved welfare conditions for its members, adequate funding for universities, and the replacement of the government-introduced payment platform- Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, with the University Transparency and Accountability Solution. UTAS was designed by ASUU following complaints against the IPPIS over alleged poor standardisation and incompatibility with the university system.

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I Criticise Buhari For Failing To End Killings In Benue — Ortom

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Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State has said that he only criticises President Muhammadu Buhari for not being able to end killings in the country.

 The governor’s explanation was in reaction to a statement credited to the president by the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Education, Aminu Suleiman Goro, during the inauguration of some projects at the renamed Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi.

He had during the occasion asked Ortom to endeavour to acknowledge his administration’s capital projects in Benue State rather than cast aspersions on the president.

 But, the governor in his speech at the Independence Day Interdenominational Church Service held at Faith Cathedral of All Nations Evangelism Ministry, Old GRA, Makurdi said he held no personal grudges against the president.

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 The event was organised by the state government in conjunction with the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).

Ortom said, “I will not stop until the killings stop. If the federal government had taken to my counsel which was divine, we wouldn’t be where we are today. In 2016, I started voicing out about insecurity. The essence of a dog barking in a house is to inform the owner of the danger coming. 

 “Instead of taking my counsel, I have been intimidated. Now, insecurity has escalated in many states and here people cannot go to farm. I will never be happy with this development,” he said.

 The governor wondered why the government had not disarmed nomads carrying sophisticated weapons and killing innocent people but had continued to deny lawful state security outfits the right to acquire arms to protect lives and property.

Earlier, Archbishop Yiman Orkwar, who preached on the topic, “The Tripod of Justice,’’ said that for Nigeria to move forward there must be justice, equity and fairness.

 In his remarks, the state CAN Chairman, Reverend Akpen Leva, urged Nigerians not to lose hope in the country.

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