PINE Secretary, Bulani exonerates Lawal in N544m grass cutting contracttrial

Ogunsakin Mustapha
5 Min Read
Former Secretary to the Federal Government, Babachir Lawal

Umar Bulani, an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) witness Wednesday told a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja that the companies allegedly linked to a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal executed the N544M contract job to 100 percent completion.

According to the witness, the removal of evasive grass from Rivers in Yobe State was awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE) and not by the office of the SGF.

Bulani who was the Secretary of PINE at the time the contract was awarded in his testimony pointedly told Justice Charles Agbaza that the PINE was proud of the projects awarded to Josmon Technologies Limited as main contractor and Rholavision Engineering Limited as consultant because of their impact on the benefiting communities.

Babachir Lawal alongside his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal; Suleiman Abubakar; Apeh Monday and two companies, Rholavision Engineering Limited and Josmon Technologies Limited are being prosecuted by EFCC before Justice Agbaza, sitting at Jabi, Abuja.

They face a 10-count charge bordering on fraud relating to removal of evasive plant species to the tune of N544 million for which they pleaded not guilty.

Testifying for EFCC on Wednesday at the resumed hearing of the case, Bulani, who was the fifth prosecution witness (PW5), informed the court that the contracts for the removal of evasive grass and irrigation were in two phases, which were handled by Josmon Technologies Limited.

He told the court that Rholavision Engineering Limited served as consultant to PINE for the projects.

According to the PW5, “The projects were 100 percent completed and we were proud of those projects because of of the impact they had on the communities.”

He further informed the court that the first phase of the contracts was awarded at the cost of N272,524,356.02 to Josmon, while the second phase was N258,132,735 to the same company.

According to him, payments were made to the contractor after the consultant, Rholavision Engineering Limited, submitted valuation certificates of specific drop down which were confirmed by PINE’s internal monitoring and evaluation unit.

He said that PINE was a special purpose vehicle established by government to quickly intervene and reduce the hardship of the people of the North-East caused by Boko Haram insurgents.

“The government realised the effect of Boko Haram in the North-East and thought it wise that regular budgetary efforts to the region would not be possible at that time.

“Therefore, the government in its wisdom decided to establish a special purpose vehicle that would quickly intervene and reduce the hardship of the people in the region,” the witness told the court.

While being cross examined by counsel for the former SGF, Chief Akin Olujimi SAN, Bulani said Babachir Lawal was not involved in the processes leading to the award of contracts to both Josmon and Rholavision.

According to him, all PINE did in awarding the contracts were in strict compliance with all relevant laws and guidelines, adding that he was happy he did the right thing as PINE secretary.

The EFCC witness told the court that he was not under any pressure to award the contracts for both phase one and two, informing that the awards were diligently done with fear of favour.

According to him, “in the process of awarding the contracts for phase one and two, I was not under any pressure. The award of the contracts was diligently done without fear or favour.”

He informed the court that it was not only Josmon and Rholavision, who are the fifth and sixth defendants in the case, that were awarded contracts by PINE, saying that, “contracts were also awarded by PINE to several other companies.”

The witness told the court that the second, third and fourth defendants were neither staff of PINE nor Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, adding that they did not participate in any way in the processes leading to the award of the contracts.

The matter has since been fixed for November 10 for further hearing by Justice Agbaza.

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