Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Dr. Ishaq Moddibbo Kawu, has been docked 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. Dipo Onifade.
They were, however, granted bail in the sum of N100m each and two sureties each in the like sum after entering a plea of not guilty to all the 12-counts charge brought against them by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
Justice Folasade Ogunbanjo Giwa who admitted them to bail, however, gave them 10 days within which to perfect the conditions attached to their bail or risk being remanded in prison custody.
While ruling on their bail applications, Justice Giwa said she was admitting them to bail based on the provisions of Sections 35 and 36 of the 1999 Constitution which presumed the defendants innocent of the alleged offences until proved otherwise.
She further relied on Sections 158, 159 and 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
Justice Giwa said two of the 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.
One of the sureties must reside within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with landed property and must deposed to an affidavit of means.
In addition, the court directed the prosecution to verify the addresses of the sureties.
On the part of the defendants, the court has barred them from travelling out of the country without obtaining the permission of the court.
Justice Giwa also ordered them to deposit their International Passports with the Director of Litigation of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The judge said in the event the defendants inability to meet up with their bail conditions within ten working days, they should be taken into prison custody until the conditions were met.
After the charge had been read to them by a clerk of the court, the prosecution counsel, Henry Emore, 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.
While Mustapha appeared for Ishag Modibbo; Dr. Izinyon appeared for Dipo Onifade while 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 were ordinary 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 co-defendants 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.
Out of the 12-counts, Sir Omoluwa is standing trial on counts six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven and twelve.