EX Works Minister Faces More Charges


Embattled former Minister of Works, Dr Hassan Muhammad Lawal was on Tuesday re-arraigned on a fresh nine-count charge bordering on money laundering and conversion of the sum of N42 million before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.


The former minister was last week docked alongside 14 others for allegedly defrauding his ministry of the sum of N4.56 billion and was denied bail by the court.


On the fresh charges, the former minister pleaded not guilty to the charges and attempted to get the court to grant him bail but the attempts failed.


He was supposed to be re arraigned on a ten-count charge but the charges were reduced to nine as the other accused person, Mr. Adesanya Adewale, was said to be at large.


Prosecuting counsel, Mr. Wahab Shittu, asked the court to strike out count one. He also asked the court to remand the accused person in prison pending trial.


Mr. Yahaya Mahmood, counsel to the former minister, pleaded with the court to admit his client to bail especially as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is yet to file a proof of evidence before the court.


He said in the bail application that his client, whose health has deteriorated since his arrest, suffers from a kidney ailment which requires constant medical attention.

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He also told the court that his client is presumed innocent until proven guilty and as such is entitled to his liberty as long as the court puts in place necessary conditions that will guarantee his appearance for trial.


Opposing the application for bail however, Mr. Shittu asked the court to consider the weightiness of the offence committed by the accused person, saying such offence must be treated with seriousness as it affects the image of the country both at the local and international levels.


He said it will be risky to grant the accused person bail, particularly as the other accused person is presently at large, as there is a likelihood of him absconding, given the colossal sum of money involved.


While stating that there are no sufficient materials before the court to justify the bail, Mr. Shittu averred that it is not enough to say the accused person suffers a medical condition without producing a medical report as well as credible evidence given by an expert to that effect.


In denying the application, Justice Bilikisu Aliyu said even though it has been refused at this stage, the case will be given accelerated hearing until it is concluded.


The case has been adjourned till June 8, 9 and 10 for trial.
By Nnamdi Felix/Abuja

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