Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the suspended Director-General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Kawu Modibbo, and two others to enter their defence in respect of the alleged N2.5 billion fraud charge brought against them by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
In a ruling on Wednesday, Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo dismissed their no- case submission for lacking in merit.
The court thereafter struck out the name of Omoluwa who died some months ago from the charge upon an application by the prosecution counsel.
Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo rejected the defendants’ argument that the prosecution was unable to establish a prima facie case against them.
Kawu, Pinnacle Communications Limited, its Chairman, Lucky Omoluwa, and the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, Dipo Onifade, were alleged, in the charge, to have misappropriated the N2.5b in the course of disbursing the seed grant for Federal Government’s Digital Switch-Over (DSO) project.
The defendants had, while adopting their no-case submissions on February 10 this year, contended that the prosecution failed, through all its witnesses, to make out a prima facie case against them.
Kawu’s lawyer, Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN) urged the court to discharge and acquit his client on the three counts of the charge.
Mustapha said: “A vital witness, in this case, was not called and the court was gracious to give ample time for the state to call the minister as witness, but they failed.
“The onus lies on the state to call the minister as a witness because he gave the approval for the release of N2.5 billion grant for Federal Government’s DSO project.
“As we speak, my lord, the minister has not come out to deny giving the first defendant the approval. He has not queried the first defendant; he has not said anything other than applauding the achievements of the defendant as the DG of NBC.
“My lord, for the minister not to refute the approval and not telling the court that he was misled, nor say anything to the contrary, shows a big gap,” Mustapha said.
Lawyer to the second and third defendants, Alex Izinyon (SAN), spoke in similar vein.
Izinyob noted that the prosecution failed to prove the essential ingredients outlined in sections 302 and 303 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
Lawyer to the fourth defendant, Ama Etuwewe (SAN), also prayed the court to discharge and acquit his client.
In a counter-argument, the prosecution lawyer, Henry Emore, urged the court to reject the defendants’ no-case submission and hold that the prosecution had made out sufficient case against the defendants to warrant their being called upon to enter their defence.
Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo, in her ruling on Wednesday, held that, with the evidence led by the prosecution, there was the need for the court to call on the defendants to respond to the allegations made against them.
The judge adjourned till July 1 for the first defendant to open his case.