N2.5bn Fraud: NBC DG, Kawu, Others arraigned by ICPC

After several unsuccessful attempts due to absence in court of the accused persons, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has finally arraigned the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), 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.

Kawu, alongside the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Mr. Lucky Omoluwa and the Chief Operating Officer of the same company, Mr. Dipo Onifade, were docked before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The Commission, in a 12-count charge, accused them of abuse of office, money laundering and misleading a public officer with the intent to defraud the federal government, in contravention of Section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 19 of the same law.

The charge reads in part; “That you, Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, 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 to confer corrupt advantage on Lucky Omoluwa, your friend and associate by recommending to the Minister of Information to approve payment of the sum of N2.5 billion to Pinnacle Communications Limited, a private company owned by Lucky Omoluwa as ‘Seed Grant’ under the Digital Switch-Over Programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria when you knew that the said company was not entitled to receive such grant and 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.”

All the three accused persons pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them. Their counsel, A. U Mustapher, Alex Iziyon and A.V Etuwewe jointly prayed the court to grant them bail on liberal terms.

Counsel to Kawu, A. U. Mustapher (SAN) urged the court to grant his client bail saying that he is a responsible citizen that has been serving the country meritoriously.

On his part, Iziyon (SAN), who is representing Omoluwa, prayed the court to grant him bail because the alleged offence was bailable.

ICPC’s lawyer, Henry Emore, however objected to the bail applications for Kawu and Omoluwa but expressed no objection to Onifade’s saying he did not abuse his administrative bail.

Emore citing reasons for his opposition, told the court that the duo of Kawu and Omoluwa, had jumped the administrative bail granted them by ICPC and as such would likely do so again if admitted to bail by the court.

The trial judge, Ogunbanjo-Giwa, in her ruling, admitted the accused persons to bail in the sum of N100 million each, with two sureties in like sums. 

She added that the sureties must be reputable persons in the community with landed properties within Abuja metropolis. The title documents of the said landed properties must be kept in the custody of the court throughout the duration of the trial.

The judge further ruled that one of the sureties must be a civil servant in the employment of the federal government on salary Grade Level 17, living within the jurisdiction of the court and must also show evidence of tax payment for the last five years.

Other bail conditions include the trio submitting their international passports to the Deputy Court Registrar and that they cannot travel out of the country.

Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa ruled that the accused persons should remain on the administrative bail from ICPC as she gave them 10 days to perfect the bail conditions. 

She concluded that the three men would be arrested by ICPC and committed to prison custody, if they failed to meet the conditions after the 10 days and adjourned the matter to the next day for hearing.