EFCC Arraigns Ex-Works Ministers on Fresh Fraud Charge
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has arraigned a former Minister of Works and Housing, Dr. Hassan Lawal on a 9 count fresh criminal charge bordering on money laundering and embezzlement of N44 million. Lawal who was docked before Justice Bilkisu Aliyu of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Tuesday May 17, 2011 was appointed Minister of Works and Housing in 2007, later served as Minister of Labour and Productivity .
The minister was alleged to have conspired with one Aisha Okuboye who is now at large between November 3, 2008 and March 29, 2010 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, to launder the sum of N44 million belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria. However, Okuboye was not in court for the arraignment, a situation which prompted her counsel, Charity Ogumu to address the court .
When the charges were read to the accused person, he pleaded not guilty to the 9 count charge and his counsel, Yahaya Mahmud, filed a formal bail application urging the court to grant bail to the accused person. But prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu, while opposing the application, said since some of the accused persons are already at large and all efforts to bring them to justice had proved abortive; he feared that Lawal, if admitted to bail, may frustrate trial, in view of the huge amount involved.
Presiding judge, Justice Aliyu, while refusing to grant the accused bail, said 'I am not going to grant this bail application. The accused should be remanded in prison custody till the next adjourned date of 8th, 9th and 10th of June 2011.' He however promised accelerated hearing of the case. She further directed that all parties to the case must tidy up their cases for the substantive suit.
Count one of the 9 count charge reads:' That you, Dr. Hassan Muhammad Lawal 'M' and Aisha Okuboye, 'F', on 9th October 2009 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the federal High Court, did commit an offence to wit: transfer the sum of N15,000,000.00(Fifteen Million Naira), being proceed of an illicit act, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004, and also punishable under Section 14 (1) of the same Act.'
It would be recalled that the EFCC had on May 11, 2011 , arraigned former Minister Lawal and 7 others before Justice Aliyu on a 24-count criminal charge bordering on fraudulent award of contracts, money laundering and embezzlement amounting to N75.7billion.