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N2.5bn fraud: Arraignment of Kawu, NBC boss, others stalled

THE arraignment of the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Dr Ishaq Moddibbo Kawu over his alleged complicity in the misapplication of the N2.5 billion seed grant for Digital Switch-Over (DSO) programme of the federal government was, on Wednesday stalled following the absence of the Chief Operating Officer of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Mr Dipo Onifade.

Kawu, alongside the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Mr Lucky Omoluwa and the Chief Operating Officer of the same company, Mr Onifade, were to be arraigned yesterday before Justice Folasade Ogunbanjo Giwa of a Federal High Court, Abuja but Onifade’s absence in court stalled the arraignment.

When the matter came up, Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN), representing Onifade, who is the 3rd defendant in the matter, told to court that his client was to travel down from Kaduna state for the arraignment, prompting the court to stand down the case for an hour.

However, at the end of the one hour, Izinyon informed the court that his client was yet to return from Kaduna and pleaded with the court to bear with him.

The SAN, who was disturbed over Onifade’s inability to be court informed the trial judge that several calls put to the MTN phone number of the defendant were unsuccessful, adding that, “I just hope that all is well with him.

“I am just apprehensive that all is well with him. His MTN phone number cannot be reached, this is my predicament and I am passionately pleading with you your Lordship to defer this arraignment.

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“We are supposed to clear the preliminary stage today with the arraignment but please grant me the indulgence of shifting this arraignment as I do not want to make a categorical statement on his presence tomorrow,” he said.

The prosecution counsel, Henry Emoreh did not object to the request for adjournment when his opinion was sought by the court.

Justice Ogunbanjo Giwa subsequently fixed May 2, 2019, for the arraignment, and advice Izinyon to counsel his client to always be in Abuja a day to the trial date.

Kawu and his codefendants are facing a 12-count charge bordering on abuse of office, money laundering and misleading a public officer with the intent to defraud the federal government, in contravention of Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

The Presidency had in 2016, released N10 billion to the Ministry of Information and Culture for the DSO programme and a White Paper was issued directing how the process should be executed.

Based on the guidelines provided by the White Paper, two companies were nominated to handle the process, one of which was ITS, an affiliate of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) N1.7 billion was released to it as seed grant for the commencement of the switch-over.

It was alleged that Kawu fraudulently recommended Pinnacle Communications Limited, a private company, to the Minister of Information and Culture, for the release of N2.5 billion against the guidelines contained in the White Paper.

As a result, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) filed charges against him and his accomplices.

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