5th July, 2011
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday accused former Works Minister, Dr. Hassan Lawal, of plotting to jump bail and has consequently challenged the release of his travel documents.
The former minister is being prosecuted alongside 13 others for an alleged N75 billion Naira fraud.
The anti-graft agency stated this in a motion opposing the application filed by the former Minister wherein he requested for a temporary release of his travel documents which he deposited at the court as part of the conditions for his bail.
It claimed that the application seeking for the release of the travel documents filed by Dr. Lawal is a ploy for him to jump bail.
Lawal and 13 other accused persons are standing trial before Justice Adamu Bello of a Federal High Court siting in Abuja.
The others include Dr. Adeogba Godwin Ademola, Eng. Abbey Ayodele; Eng. George Elzoghibi; Nairda Limited; Thahal Paul; Okala Phillip Yakubu; Dave Enejoh; Digital Toll Company Ltd; Swede Control Interlink Ltd; Proman Vital Ventures Ltd ; Siraj Nigeria Ltd; Wise Health services Ltd and GIS Transport Ltd. Lawal is the principal accused person in the charge.
Lawal had on 21st June, approached the court with a motion on notice urging the court for an interim release of his international passport to enable him travel overseas to perform the lesser Hajj (Umra).
The EFCC counsel, Wahab Shittu, opposed this application and argued that the sole reason for the application which is for the ex-minister to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform a non-mandatory lesser Hajj is not compelling enough to warrant the release.
According to Mr. Shittu, â€œthere is no compelling finality about the hajj neither will the non-performance adversely affect the applicant in any wayâ€.
He further argued that considering the gravity of the offence of N75 billion fraud and the conviction, if found guilty, that the risk involved in releasing the travel documents is greater compared to the denial of the request.
He also observed that where the former Minister jumps bail, that the power of the court to reach him outside its jurisdiction will be limited and this, the lawyer contended, will put a clog in the wheel of justice.
Mr. Shittu, in furtherance to his objection, argued that the reason placed before the court for the release of the ex-minister’s travel documents is not cogent enough in relation to the risk involved, especially in view of his likelihood to jumping bail, which he said is high.
Similarly, the EFCC also challenged the application of another accused person, Engr. George Elzoghbi, a foreigner, who also filed an application praying the court to release his travel documents on health grounds.
He claimed that he has a health problem which resulted in an extensive surgery carried out on his back and touching on the spine sometime in July 2009.
But the EFCC told the court that it is not in doubt that if the accused person steps outside the country and outside the jurisdiction of the court, that his likelihood of jumping bail is very high.
The court will rule on the two applications on Wednesday, 6 July.
The EFCC, had on Wednesday 11 May , 2011 arraigned Lawal and 13 others on a 24-count charge bordering on fraudulent award of contracts, money laundering and embezzlement amounting to N75.7 billion.
He was also accused of awarding contracts to non-existing companies, awarding contracts to companies without financial and infrastructure muscle to deliver; contract splitting, contract duplication to same companies and fraudulent crediting of his personal account with government monies not earned.
Count one of the 29 count charge reads: â€œThat you, Dr. Adeogba Godwin Ademola, â€˜Mâ€™, while being the Managing Director of Swede Control Interlink limited, sometime between 2006 and 2009, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, conspired to fraudulently obtain, with intent to convert, the sum of N24, 360,000, 000 being proceeds of an illegal act to wit: with aim of concealing its illicit origin and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 17 (1) (a) of the Money laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under Section 14 (1) of the same Act.”
Count three reads that â€œYou, Dr. Hassan Lawal, â€˜Mâ€™, while being the Minister of Works of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Adeogha Godwin Ademola â€˜Mâ€™, Digital Toll Company Limited, Swedes Control Interlink Limited, Proman Vital Ventures Ltd, PEB 04 Nigeria Ltd; Lassa Ltd; Odomac Nigeria Ltd; Okala Phillip Yakubu, â€˜Mâ€™ and Thahal Paul â€˜Mâ€™, between 2006 and 2009, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, conspired among yourselves to defraud the Federal Government of Nigeria of the sum of N4, 872, 000,000, with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the said sum and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 17 of the money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004 and punishable under Section 14 (1) (b) of the same Act.â€
By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja