28th January, 2022
By Edith Nwapi
Justice Charles Agbaza of an FCT High Court on Friday rejected evidence by a witness of the EFCC in the trial of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal.
Lawal is charged alongside his younger brother, Hamidu, who is a director of Rholavision Engineering Limited.
Others charged with him are an employee of the company, Suleiman Abubakar; Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Limited, Apeh John Monday.
The two companies Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited were also charged.
The EFCC charged them with 10 counts of fraud relating to a contract awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North-East (PINE) for the removal of evasive plant species to the tune of N544million.
They all pleaded not guilty.
Delivering a ruling, Justice Agbaza agreed with the defendants that the court in 2021 rejected some exhibits on the said phone.
He added that the EFCC was only attempting to bring into the court records, exhibits already marked rejected.
The judge held that any oral evidence of the EFCC’s witness on the rejected exhibits would amount to hearsay since he was not the maker and did not sign them.
“I have carefully examined the foundation of arguments for and against the admissibility of the evidence in a dispute and found only two issues for determination.
“The first issue is on whether the evidence of the prosecution witness falls on hearsay in respect of the exhibits, while the second issue is on whether this court has once rejected the exhibits sought to be tendered.
“On issue one, the witness on his own informed the court of how he was invited into the EFCC laboratory and was shown information extracted from an iPhone7.
“I am satisfied that the witness is not the maker of the exhibits in dispute. They were only shown to him according to his oral evidence here.
“Therefore, anything said or to be said by the witness is nothing but hearsay and for this reason, I resolve this issue in favour of the defendants.
“On the second issue, there is no dispute that the exhibits were earlier sought to be tendered but they were turned down and marked rejected and even, the rejection is a subject of appeal at the Court of Appeal.
“For this reason, I agree that the evidence cannot be admitted having been earlier rejected and marked rejected,” Justice Agbaza held.
Thereafter, he adjourned the case until Feb. 16 and Feb. 17 for the continuation of the hearing.