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Court orders NBC boss, Kawu to appear in court over N2.5 billion fraud

A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Moddibo Kawu, to appear before it to answer to allegations of N2.5 billion fraud brought against him by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC).

Kawu is 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.

He was charged alongside two others: Lucky Omoluwa and Dipo Onifade, Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Pinnacle Communications Limited respectively, over their alleged complicity in the mismanagement of the N2.5 billion seed grant for the Digital Switch-Over programme of the federal government.

The ICPC alleges that Kawu contracted out the federal government digital switch-over project to his friends and cronies and the N2.5 billion earmarked for the programme was converted to personal use by the said contractors. The offence contravened Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

According to Rasheedat Okoduwa, spokesperson for the ICPC, when the case came up before Justice F. O. Giwa on Tuesday, Kawu was not present in court. His lawyer, A. U. Mustapha, produced a doctor’s report claiming that his client is on admission at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Ilorin, Kwara State.

“He is on admission at the hospital at the moment. He had major surgery 10 years ago and I have a medical report from the University of Ilorin showing why he cannot be here. I ask for adjournment pending when he will be well enough to attend court,” Mustapha told the court.

Counsel to the ICPC, Henry Emore, did not oppose the plea for adjournment, however, he asked the court to note the maximum number of times adjournment can be granted based on the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

In her ruling, Justice Giwa listened to the plea of the defence counsel and adjourned the case to April 17, for arraignment. She, however, stressed that the defendant must be produced in court on the next adjourned date.

“You must ensure that your client is in court even if he has to be on a stretcher; I am agreeing to this adjournment taking into cognizance his health issues, but the trial needs to go on, you must ensure he is in court next time,” Giwa warned.

She also asked the ICPC to investigate the authenticity of the medical certificate presented by the defence counsel and report back to the court.

The ICIR had reported how Kawu and the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed were implicated in the alleged N2.5 billion digital switch-over fraud.

Mohammed and Kawu were said to have approved payment to a private company for the digital switch-over programme, in contravention of a government directive stating that the process should be handled only by government-affiliated companies.

Investigations by the ICPC revealed that though the funds were released to the private companies, there was no evidence that the job for which it was released was carried out.

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