The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday called its first witness in the prosecution of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and three others for alleged corruption.
The five accused persons are standing trial before Justice Jude Okeke of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Maitama.
Mr Lawal alongside his younger brother, Hamidu David Lawal; Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh John Monday and two companies, Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd; were arraigned on March 18 on an amended 10-count charge bordering on fraud, diversion of funds and criminal conspiracy to the tune of over N500 million.
They were earlier arraigned before Mr Okeke on February 13 and the prosecution was meant to open its case on March 18.
During the court session on Thursday, the prosecution counsel, Ufem Uket, informed the court that “today is for hearing”.
Mr Uket proceeded to call his first witness, Hamza Adamu, who was a deputy director, Finance and Account, with the Presidential Initiative for North East (PINE) in 2017.
Testifying in the dock, Mr Adamu said he was responsible for all payments made by PINE to consultants, contractors, and staff.
He confirmed to the court that the sixth defendant (Josmon Technologies Ltd) won the contract for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation.
Mr Adamu said that a 95 per cent payment was approved for Josmon Technologies Ltd after completing a large part of the job.
“After almost completing the job, they (the fifth and sixth defendants) demanded payment.
“The consultant issued a certificate and approved 95 per cent payment. It was sent to me for payment.
“I raised a request for payment and sent it to the Permanent Secretary, Special Service Office. Approval was granted and payment was made,” he said.
He said instead of N258 million which is 95 per cent, only N225m was approved due to insufficient funds.
He added that N203 million was paid directly to the contractors after N11.5m was deducted as tax.
“Payment was made through remittal platform. I finalised the payment and money was paid into the account of the sixth defendant,” the witness said.
Attempts to tender payment vouchers and other vital documents were stalled due to the objection raised by counsel to the fifth defendant, J.O Uzo.
Mr Okeke then adjourned the case to June 18 for ruling on the admissibility of documents and continuation of hearing.