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.”
FRSC promotes Olagunju, Kibo DCM, retires them, 3,628 others elevated
Two frontline officers of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Kayode Olagunju, and Peter Kibo, have been elevated to the rank of Deputy Corps Marshal.
They are among the beneficiaries of the latest promotion exercise, which also affected 3,628 other officers moved to their next ranks.
This is contained in the latest statement by the Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, an assistant corps marshal.
“The newly appointed Deputy Corps Marshals are to proceed on terminal leave with immediate effect,” the statement added.
Olagunju (PhD), before the promotion was the Commandant, Federal Road Safety Corps Academy Udi, Enugu State, while Kibo was the Zonal Commanding Officer in charge of RS2HQ Zonal Command Lagos.
The statement also said, “Out of the 3,628 other Officers promoted, 84 Deputy Corps Commanders (DCC) were elevated to the rank of Corps Commander (CC), 211 Assistant Corps Commanders to the rank of Deputy Corps Commander, 52 Chief Route Commanders (CRC) to the rank of Assistant Corps Commander (ACC) and 716 Superintendent Route Commanders (SRC) to the rank of Chief Route Commander (CRC). In the same promotion exercise, 1092 Route Commanders were elevated to the rank of Superintendent Route Commander, 691 Deputy Route Commanders got the the rank of Route Commander as 782 Assistant Route Commanders will now be decorated with the new rank of Deputy Route Commander.”
It said the approval for the elevation came at the end of the meeting of the commission, ratifying the resolution of the Establishment Committee of FRSC on promotion of Officers, where the exercise was deliberated upon.
The Board Chairman, Mallam Bukhari Bello expressed delight over the transparency and objectivity that heralded the whole process and urged the promoted officers to show more commitment and rededicate themselves to achieving the corporate mission of the corps which is to eradicate road traffic crashes and create a safer motoring environment in the country.
He stated that the promotion was part of the FRSC drive towards rewarding excellence, diligence and hard work.
The corps marshal, Dauda Biu, congratulated the newly elevated officers for their excellent performances during the exercise, noting that every promotion comes with greater responsibilities.
He charged them to put in their best in the course of their duties as the new ranks called for more focus, more dedication, commitment and passion.
He promised to improve the general welfare of the personnel of the corps.
Support hijab to suppress urge for nudity, crime – Muslim groups
Muslim groups have called for maximum support for hijab to ensure decent dressing in the society and address the urge for appearing almost nude in the public.
They made the call in their different messages delivered in Lagos on Wednesday at a press conference to commemorate the World Hijab Day.
Secretary of NASFAT Women Affairs, Lagos Zone 2, Alhaja Aishat Busari, asked people to stop bullying those wearing hijab, stressing that there must be religious tolerance for peaceful coexistence of people in the society.
She said “This is a simple call to movers and shakers of the world to live by their sayings and preaching of peaceful coexistence, a significant part of the SDGs.”
She also said, “It is disheartening to know how much the society applauds immorality and frowns on right choices. How women empowerment is preached, yet the empowerment and choice of Muslim women is opposed. In this World, where the urge to go naked is prevalent, let’s join hands together, schoolteachers/administrators, leaders of faith, and every one to encourage modesty, the use of hijab.”
She maintained that anyone discriminating against the Hijab would not only be violating the law and peaceful co-existence but also encouraging violence.
“Let’s rise against all forms of discrimination against women and girls. Let’s rise against all forms of discrimination against the Hijab,” Busari stated.
Executive Director, Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, said the Hijab for Muslim women apart from being a fulfilment of a divine commandment is also guaranteed by section 38 of the 1999 constitution.
She stated, “Though the Hijab was legislated and enjoined on Muslim women over 1400 years ago as described in Chapter 24 (Surah An-Noor,Verse 31) of the Qur’an, we keep seeing how it is even more relevant today. Nakedness marked a distinctive feature of pre-civilization , hence to adopt modesty in dressing is progression.”
Even as she acknowledged the recent Supreme Court judgement was a landmark achievement for hijab, there were still issues casting shadow on progress made so far.
Senior Admin Officer, Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), Fatimah Sanni, asserted that discrimination against women in hijab is Islamophobia
She said, “At MPAC, we challenge Islamophobia, discrimination, and the ideologies that drive them. At the same time we promote empowerment and freedom to practice hijab in safety. We believe that the female Muslims should be free to express their religious beliefs free of discrimination and prejudice. “This is why we have continued to support initiatives like the World Hijab Day campaign.”
She called the attention of government agencies to the plight of Muslim women when seeking government services particularly the taking of biometrics.
According to her, despite the law recognising the use of the Hijab and does not require the ears to be brought out of the hijab, “et we get numerous verified reports of Hijabis being compelled to either take off their hijabs completely or bare their ears when they require their biometrics taken even for a sim card registration!”
Assistant Welfare Secretary, The Criterion, Lagos District, Modinat Braimah, declared that the wearing of hijab was of immense benefit to the society.
She said, “The hijab marks the wearer as honorable, respectable, chaste and modest with expected high level of morals.
“The Muslim woman dressing does not oppress Muslim women or any other woman for that matter as the media wants to portray it. It is not a political tool or a fashion statement. It is the dignity of the human person of a Muslim woman as guaranteed by the constitution of our dear country Nigeria.”
She also cautioned against harassment of innocent female Muslims wearing hijab, adding, “Our strength as a community and indeed a nation lies not in how we treat the high and mighty, but how we care for the weak and vulnerable.”
Similarly, Ameerah FOMWAN Lagos State, Alhaja Sherifat Ajagbe, stated that all women deserve to be protected from gender-based violence.
She recalled the recent report of a young lady in Niqob raped in a mosque in Ibadan, Oyo State, describing it as heinous crime against humanity and desecration of the mosque.
“It is sad indeed that Muslim women who are known to be modest have become targets of these criminal elements. Indeed, the hijabi is almost becoming ‘endangered species’ as she is being discriminated against by her fellow citizens and she’s also not safe from the attacks of criminals,” Ajagbe said.
She added, “We at FOMWAN Lagos as well as the other 17 participating Organisations hereby call on the relevant authorities to prosecute as a matter of urgency the perpetuator of this heinous crime named as Idris A.K.A Kesari as well as his father popularly called Al-Majiri who not only helped the perpetrator to escape, before arrest but also seeks to intimidate the victim as well as concerned Nigerians.”
FG dismisses Transparency International (TI) verdict on Nigeria
Federal Government, yesterday, dismissed the recent verdict on Nigeria by Transparency International (TI), which said the country dropped five places in the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).
It boasted that some of the government’s legacy projects have been facilitated with funds known as Abacha loot, hitherto stolen and stashed abroad by a former Nigerian leader but returned to the country.
This came against the backdrop of reports that Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 points while ranking 150 among 180 countries on the 2022 Corruption Perception Index released by TI, a development which has continued to stoke concern by citizens.
Although the country maintained its previous year’s (2021) score of 24 out of 100 points, however, there was a change in rank from 154 to 150, as some other countries performed more poorly in 2022.
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Fielding questions, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, downplayed the rating, saying the Nigerian government’s fight against corruption is not at the whims and caprices of the global agency.
The minister spoke after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said: “We are not really worried or bothered about rating of the TI, because we know that everything we do is to ensure that we fight corruption the best way we know how to. If TI is not seeing this, then I think it has to change its template. But, again, we’re not fighting corruption to impress TI.
“We are not fighting corruption because we want to impress Transparency International or any organisation whatsoever. We’re fighting corruption because we believe if we do not fight corruption, there’ll be no growth, either in terms of the economy or even political.”
The minister added: “Therefore, what we do and what we’re putting in place to fight corruption is not because we want to be rated by anybody. I can assure you that we do not know what template TI is using. Whatever template it is using, it is clearly oblivious of what this administration is doing to fight corruption.
“Corruption fighting is not just by how many people have you arrested? How many people have you tried? How many people have you convicted? Of course, even in that respect, we have a very impressive record.”
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