The trial of former Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged contract scam suffered a setback, yesterday, as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court rejected the forensic report and exhibits sought to be tendered against him by the anti-graft agency.
The ex-scribe is being tried along with five others before Justice Charles Agbaza.
The documents, which were in three categories, were struck out by the court on the ground that the conditions for their admissibility were not met by the plaintiff.
The presiding judge held that the forensic report and other computer-generated documents violated provisions of the Evidence Act, 2004.
According to Justice Agbaza, both the claimant and the defendants did not dispute the fact that the documents were generated through computer, but however observed that Section 84 of the Act, which relates to admission of such documents, was not complied with by the EFCC.
He added that a certificate of compliance was not provided as required by law before the exhibits could be accepted, even as the oral evidence of the prosecution witness, Mrs. Fatima Umar, did not conform to provision of the law on how the information obtained from the phone of a private person was generated.
The judge further held that the evidence of the witness fell short of Section 82 of the Act, while agreeing that under Section 102 of the same law, the uncertified items formed public documents having been prepared by the EFCC as a public body.
He consequently marked the exhibits as rejected and threw them out.
The case was thereafter adjourned till July 8, 2021 for continuation of proceedings.
The ex-SGF, had in April, asked the court to reject the computer-generated documents sought by the plaintiff to be tendered as exhibits against him in the suit.
Lawal had told the court that the forensic laboratory report generated from computer was not admissible in law because it was not in its original form and certified as required by law.
The EFCC, through its counsel, Ofem Uket, had sought to tender a forensic report obtained from print out of a mobile phone belonging to one Musa Bulani to establish the money laundering charges filed against the defendants.
But Lawal’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), raised an objection against admission of the documents on the ground that their sources ran foul of Sections 84 and 256 of the Act.
He had argued that the printed hardcopy was not obtained from Compact Disc (CD) but an iPhone.
Olujimi had argued further that the extraction was not marked as a Certified True Copy (CTC), claiming that the EFCC hacked into someone’s phone and came up with what it found and sought to tender it without following due process of law.
For the documents to be admitted, the defence argued that a certificate signed by the maker must accompany them since they were electronically generated.
He, thereafter, prayed Justice Agbaza to reject the extracted information.
Attorneys to the second to sixth defendants, John Itodo, Napoleon Idenala, Ocholi Okutepa and Emmanuel Oru, aligned themselves with Olujimi’s submission and adopted it as their arguments.
Those standing trial along with Lawal are his younger brother, Hamidu, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday and two companies, Rholavision Engineering (fifth defendant) and Josmon Technologies (sixth defendant).