The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on Thursday November 15, 2012 re-arraigned former minister of works, Dr. Hassan Lawal and nine others before Justice Adamu Bello of 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.
Lawal and his co accused (Dr. Adeogba Godwin Ademola, Digital Toll Company Limited; Swede Control Interlink Limited; Proman Vital Ventures Limited; Nairda Limited; Siraj Nigeria Limited and Wise Health Services Limited), who were first arraigned on May 11, 2011, however pleaded not guilty to the amended charge.
The prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu, sought the leave of the court to commence trial as, according to him, the prosecution was ready to move speedily with trial and indeed had a witness on hand to testify against the accused persons.
Testifying, Mr. Chike Nwibe, a deputy superintendent of police with the EFCC and a member of the investigating team, revealed how a contract to build what was known as Buto Bagana Bridge project across River Benue from Nasarawa to Kogi state became an avenue to swindle the state by the former minister and his accomplices.
He disclosed how, 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, the former minister went ahead to release the sum of N3 billion to Digital Toll Company Limited.
The company, registered a day before the contract was awarded and owned by the second accused, Dr. Adeogba Godwin Ademola 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.
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 40 percent contribution by the public partners (the Nasarawa, Kogi and Federal governments).
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 4th and 6th February 2013 for continuation of trial.