N2.5bn fraud: NBC boss, Kawu, Omoluwa, others docked, get N100m bail each

The Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Dr. Ishaq Moddibbo Kawu was on Thursday arraigned over alleged misapplication of the N2.5 billion seed grant for Digital Switch-Over (DSO) programme of the federal government.

Others arraigned with Kawu were the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Mr. Lucky Omoluwa and the Chief Operating Officer of the same company, Mr. Onifade.

They were however granted bail in the sum of N100 million each and two surety each in the like sum after entering a plea of not guilty to all the 12 -count charge brought against them by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

The trial judge, Justice Folasade Ogunbanjo Giwa who admitted them to bail however gave them ten days within which to perfect the conditions attached to their bail or risk being remanded to prison custody.

While ruling on their bail applications, Justice Giwa said she was admitting them on bail based on the provisions of sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 constitution which presumed the defendants innocent of the alleged offences until proven otherwise.

She further relied on sections 158, 159 and 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 and added that the two sureties must be federal civil servants not below the rank of Grade level 17 who must show evidence of tax payment within three years period.

While one of the surety must reside within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with landed property and must depose to an affidavit of means, the court directed the prosecution to verify the addresses of the sureties.

The court also barred the defendants from travelling out of the country without obtaining the permission of the court and ordered them to deposit their International Passports with the Director of Litigation of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The Judge said in the event the defendants are unable to meet up with their bail conditions within ten working days, they should be taken into prison custody until the conditions are met.

After the charge had been read to them by a clerk of the court, the prosecution counsel, Henry Emore had applied for the commencement of trial, but counsel to the defendants, Abubakar Mustapha (SAN); Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN) and A.V. Etuwewe all moved applications for the bail of the defendants.

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While Mustapha appeared for Ishaq Modibbo; Dr. Izinyon appeared for Dipo Onifade and Sir Lucky Omoluwa, Etuwewe appeared for Pinnacle Communications Ltd.

They urged the court to admit their clients to bail pending trial as the alleged offences are bailable in nature.

Although the prosecution counsel, Emore had opposed the bail applications filed by Modibbo Kawu and Omoluwa, on the grounds that they breached their administrative bail, the court nevertheless granted them bail.

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, ICPC filed charges against him and his accomplices.

Out of the 12- counts, Omoluwa is standing trial on counts six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve.

Part of the charge reads: “That you, Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, Sir Lucky Omoluwa and Dipo Onifade sometime between December 2016 and May 2017, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired with each other to use the position of Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, as Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to confer corrupt advantage on Sir Lucky Omoluwa, your friend and associate by recommending to the Hon. Minister of Information to approve payment of the sum of N2.5 billion to Pinnacle Communications Ltd, a private company owned by Sir Lucky Omoluwa as “Seed Grant” under the Digital Switch-Over programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria, when you knew that the company was not entitled to receive such grant and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 26(1)(c) and punishable under section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000.”

The matter was adjourned till today, Friday, May 3, 2019, for the commencement of trial.

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