Grass-cutting scandal: Court admits evidence in ex-SGF’s trial
An FCT High Court Maitama on Tuesday admitted a set of exhibits into evidence in the trial of Babachair Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and five others.
NAN reports that the former SGF and his brother, Hamidu, a director of Rholavision Engineering Limited; an employee of the company, Sulaiman Abubakar and the Managing Director of Josmon Technologies Limited, Apeh John Monday were charged by the EFCC with 10 counts of conspiracy and fraud.
EFCC accused Babachir Lawal of illegally benefiting from the approval of N544 million for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation.
The anti-graft agency alleged that Lawal, being the SGF, Hamidu Lawal as the Director of Rholavision Engineering Limited and Abubakar, a staff of Rholavision, about March 7, 2016, at Abuja conspired to commit the offence.
It alleged that the defendants fraudulently acquired a property, contrary to Section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
Ruling on the admissibility of these the documents, Justice Jude Okeke, admitted a letter and a forensic report into evidence .
According to him the exhibits, complied with the relevant sections of the law while the CD and the print out did not comply with sections 104 of Evidence Act and 379 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.
The documents are a forwarding letter dated March 20, 2018 for a forensic extraction of evidence from an iPhone.
Others are a forensic report, CD and a print out from the disc. He fixed Dec.3 for cross- examination of the prosecution’s second witness (PW2), Mrs Fatima Umar. The six defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them.
NAN reports that on Sept. 18, EFCC brought Mrs Fatima Umar, second witness (PW2), an EFCC officer and head, forensic unit to testify.
The prosecuting counsel, Mr Ufon Uket, sought to tender some documents through her but this was objected by all the counsel to the defendants.
Earlier, Responding to the objections by counsel to the defendants’ counsel, Uket told the court that the document he intended to tender was a letter of request for forensic extraction of evidence from the
Uket said that PW2 was chosen to testify in court because she was the digital forensic expert, who carried out the extraction of the information from the iPhone.
He added that PW2 explained the equipment and devices used, their proficiency and reliability in extracting messages from the iPhone.
He submitted that the witness, having orally laid the required conditions as in section 84 (2) for the admissibility of the disc and it’s print out, the certification of the print out is not required again.
Uket further submitted that section 84 of the Evidence Act provides two methods either by oral evidence 84 (2) or certificate of authentication 84 (4) and the report was prepared by the witness.
He said that the digital report does not require certification because it was primary evidence in its original form and can be admitted.
He also submitted that section 84 (2) of the Act did not specify or classify electronic evidence as secondary evidence, which needed certification.
He, therefore, urged the court to ignore the objections of the defendants and admit the documents in evidence.
He said that the digital report does not require certification because it was primary evidence in its original form and can be admitted. He also submitted that section 84 (2) of the Act did not specify or classify electronic evidence as secondary evidence, which needed certification.
He, therefore, urged the court to ignore the objections of the defendants and admit the documents in evidence because it was tendered through the witness and not from the bar.
Reacting, Mr Akin Olujimi, counsel for Lawal submitted that Section 379 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act provides that all documents from the prosecution should be served on the defendants.
He said they were not served with the disc that the prosecution tended to tender and opposed the submission of the prosecution that said that having served the print out, they were not obliged to serve the disc.
Olujimi submitted that there was no evidence to show that what was in the print out was the same thing as in the disc.
“How do I know what was in the disc, if I did not play it,’’ he submitted. The defence counsel further submitted that the report of digital information is governed by section 102 of the Evidence Act, not section 84 of the same Act.
According to him, the report has no life of its own but tied to the device it was generated from.
Olujimi, therefore, urged the court to uphold the objections and not admit the documents in evidence.
Mr Sunday Ameh, SAN, for the second defendant aligned with the submissions of Olujimi but added that from the evidence of PW2, the iPhone was in her custody as a public officer.
He submitted that by the provision of section 102 of the Act, the iPhone and its report are public document generated for public use.
Ameh said that the print out was a secondary document, which needed to be certified before it can be admitted.
Other defendants’ counsel aligned with the submissions of both Olujimi and Ameh.(NAN )