From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
For the second consecutive time, a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), on Friday rejected computer generated exhibits sought to be tendered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Dr Babachir Lawal in his trial on alleged N544M contract scam.
The court held that the exbibits extracted from iphone 7 of one Musa Bulani, an associate of the former SGF failed admissibility test as conditions precedent stipulated by law for their admission were not met by the anti graft agency.
EFCC had on January 24, 2021 suffered the same fate following the rejection of its computer generated forensic report report by the same court on the same grounds.
Delivering ruling in an objection by Babachir Lawal against set of computer generated exhibits, Justice Charles Agbaza threw out the exhibits on the reason that the provisions of the Evidence Act on such documents admissibility were not met.
The computer generated documents were sought to be tendered by EFCC through its 8th witness, Mr Dare Folarin, an EFCC operative who had in his evidence in chief informed the court on how the documents were shown to him when he was invited to a laboratory during their analysis.
Counsel to the anti graft agency, Mr Ofem Uket had applied to tender the exhibits but the application was vehemently opposed by Chief Akin Olujimi SAN on various grounds.
Olujimi asked the court to reject the exhibits on the ground that what the EFCC wanted to do through Folarin was to smuggle into the court, exhibits earlier rejected by the same court when it ruled against admitting a Compact Disc on the said iPhone.
The senior lawyer informed the court that EFCC had already filed an appeal against the ruling of the court on the rejection of the computer generated exhibits at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
However in his ruling, Justice Agbaza agreed that his court had last year rejected similar exhibits and that the EFCC was only attempting to bring into the court records, exhibits already marked rejected.
Apart from the exhibits admission not conforrming with law, the Judge held that any oral evidence of the EFCC’S witness will amount to hearsay since he was not the maker and did not sign them.
“I have carefully examined the foundation of arguments for and against the admissibility of the exhibits in dispute and found only two issues for determination.
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“The first issue is on whether the evidence of the prosecution witness falls on hearsay in respect of the exhibits while the second issue is on whether this court has once rejected the exhibits sought to be tendered.
“On issue one, the witness on his own informed the court of how he was invited into the EFCC laboratory and was shown information extracted from a iphone 7.
“On this, Iam satisfied that the witness is not the maker of the exhibits in dispute. They were only shown to him according to his oral evidence here.
“Therefore, anything said or to be said by the witness is nothing but hearsay and for this reason, I resolve this issue in favour of the defendants.
“On the second issue, there is no dispute that the exhibits were earlier sought to be tendered but they were turned down and marked rejected and even, the rejection is a subject of appeal at the Court of Appeal.
“For this reason, I agree that the exhibits cannot be admitted having been earlier rejected and marked rejected.
However, trial of the defendants could not proceed as the EFCC counsel told the court that his witness, Dare Folarin p was indisposed and cannot make it to court and applied for an adjustment.
Due to no objection from the defense team, Justice Agbaza fixed February 16 and 17 for continuation of trial.
The former SGF is facing a 10-count charge the EFCC filed against him but however pleaded not guilty.
The charge borders on alleged diversion of funds, criminal conspiracy, and official corruption.
Those standing trial along with him are his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal; Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday, and two companies, Rholavision Engineering (fifth defendant) and Josmon Technologies (sixth defendant).