The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday told a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja that former Minister of Works, Dr. Hassan Lawal swindled the federal government in order to amass wealth using Buto Bagana Bridge contract.
A prosecution witness, Mr. Chike Nwibe during cross examination yesterday at the resumed trial of the ex-minister and nine others told the trial judge, justice Adamu Bello that the Public Partners did not default in their obligations under the Buto Bagana Bridge contract.
Instead, the witness said, it was Dr. Lawal who conspired with his cohorts to cheat the government.
The witness, who is a deputy superintendent of Police with the EFCC, told the court that the Public Partners on the contract made their payments, but could not say whether the payments were made at the appropriate time.
He said the private Partners in the project made zero contribution to the project, and that all the expenses made in respect of the project was from the contributions of the Public Partners in the Guto Bagana Bridge project.
Dr. Lawal and his co-accused persons are standing trial on a 44-count amended charge bordering on conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, conversion, and fraud, to the tune of N75.7 billion.
Other accused persons include Adeogba 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, pleaded not guilty to the amended charges.
Mr. Nwibe, a member of the investigating team, had earlier revealed how a contract to build what was known as Buto Bagana Bridge project across River Benue, from Nassarawa to Kogi State, became an avenue to swindle the state by the former minister and his accomplices.
He also disclosed how the former minister released the sum of N3 billion to Digital Toll Company Limited, 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.
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 court adjourned to July 9 and 11, 2013 for continuation of trial.