The former Minister of Works allegedly committed fraud to the tune of N75.7 billion.
A Deputy Superintendent of Police with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Chike Nwibe, Thursday, told an Abuja court how a former minister, Hassan Lawal, colluded with contractors to defraud Nigeria of N75 billion.
The Commission had re-arraigned Mr. Lawal, and nine others, before the Federal High Court, Abuja on a 44-count amended charge bordering on conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, conversion, and fraud, to the tune of N75.7 billion.
Mr. Lawal and his co-accused (Adeogba Ademola, Digital Toll Company Limited, Swede Control Interlink Limited, Proman Vital Ventures Limited, Nairda Limited, Siraj Nigeria Limited, and Wise Health Services Limited), were first arraigned on May 11, 2011. They all pleaded not guilty to the amended charges.
The prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu, sought the leave of the court to commence trial. He said the prosecution is ready to move speedily with trial and indeed had a witness on hand to testify against the accused persons.
How the fraud was done
Mr. Nwibe, a member of the investigating team, while testifying, revealed how a contract to build what was known as Buto Bagana Bridge project across River Benue, from Nassarawa to Kogi State, became an avenue to swindle the state by the former minister and his accomplices.
He also disclosed how the former minister released the sum of three billion to Digital Toll Company Limited, despite objections to the handling of the contract by stakeholders, the inability of the concessionaires to pay their side of the equity fund, and the resolution not to approve further payments for the project.
Digital Toll was registered a day before the contract was awarded and is owned by the second accused, Adeogba Ademola, the investigator said. The company was made concessionaire of the project which was originally given to Swede Control Intertek Limited (equally owned by the second accused) by the Federal Executive Council.
Mr. Nwibe further stated that apart from not paying 60 percent of the equity contribution in the Public /Private Partnership contract agreement, Digital Toll Company diverted part of the N6.4billion, a 40 per cent contribution by the public partners (Nassarawa, Kogi and the Federal Government).
Other anomalies discovered during investigation including the award and payment of a satellite imaging contract to Sirag GIS Transport Limited to the tune of N438 million, even though the same project had earlier been awarded to Nairda Limited for N2.6 million and fully paid.
The case has been adjourned to February 4 and 6, 2013 for continuation of trial.
Mr. Lawal was first appointed Minister of Labour and Productivity by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004, a position he retained in 2007 when the late President, Umaru Yar’Adua assumed office. He became the Minister of Works and Housing in December 2008 until his removal by President Goodluck Jonathan in March 2010.
He is currently on bail courtesy of the Abuja court.