Babachir Lawal

Ex-SGF Babachir trial :Court rejects EFCC forensic report for not meeting admissibility requirements

The trial of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal bedore an FCT High Court for allegedly awarding his own firm N544M grass cutting contract  continued on Thursday in Abuja.

Lawal is being prosecuted by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), along with five others; including his younger brother Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday, and two companies, Rholavision Engineering (fifth defendant) and Josmon Technologies (sixth defendant
Justice Charles Agbaza  the trial court judge on Thursday rejected  a forensic report evidence tendered by the prosecution lawyer as exhibit.

The  court said that  conditions precedent for the admissibility of the forensic report were not met by EFCC the prosecuting agency.

Justice Agbaza stated this while ruling  on the admissibility of the   forensic report tendered by the prosecution counsel .

Ruling on an application  by the defendant that was argued by Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), on behalf of the former SGF, Justice Charles Agbaza held that the forensic report and  other computer generated documents violated the provisions of the Evidence Act, 2004.

The Judge held that both EFCC and the defendants did not dispute the fact that the documents were generated through computer but however said that Section 84 of the Evidence Act, which relates to admission of such documents were not complied with by EFCC

Besides, Justice Agbaza said that certificate of compliance was not provided as required by law before such exhibits could be accepted while the oral evidence of a prosecution witness, Mrs Fatima Umar, did not conform with provision of the law on how the information obtained from an iPhone of a private person was generated.

The Judge further held that the evidence of the witness fell short of Section 82 of the Evidence Act, while he agreed that under Section 102 of the same Act the uncertified documents formed public documents having been prepared by EFCC as a public body.

The former SGF,had in April asked  the court  to reject computer generated documents sought by the EFCC to be tendered as exhibits against him in the N544M contract fraud trial. 
Babachir Lawal had told the court that the forensic laboratory report generated from computer was not admissible in law because they were not in their original form and not certified as required by law. 

The EFCC through its counsel Mr Ofem Uket had sought to tender a forensic laboratory report obtained from print out of Iphone belonging to one Musa Bulani to establish the money laundering charges filed against the former SGF and five others.

But counsel to Babachir Lawal,  Chief Akin Olujimi SAN had raised objection against admission of the documents on the ground that their sources ran foul of sections 84 and 256 of the Evidence Act 2014.

He  had argued that the printed hardcopy obtained from the Compact Disc is not the original source but the iPhone.

Olujimi had argued further hat the extraction was not marked as a Certified True Copy (CTC) adding that 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,  Olujimi argued that a certificate signed by the maker must accompany them since they are electronically generated evidence and urged Justice Charles Agbaza to reject the extracted information.

John Itodo, counsel for the second defendant, Napoleon Idenala, counsel for the third defendant, Ocholi Okutepa, counsel for the fourth and sixth defendant, Emmanuel Oru, counsel for the fifth defendant all aligned themselves with Olujimi’s submission and adopted it as their arguments.

The prosecution counsel had in a counter, argued otherwise and insisted that there iwas no need to issue a certificate, stressing that a witness has testified in court and has presented original documents.

Further hearing on the matter was adjourned to July 8,2021