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Digital Switchover scam: Modibbo-Kawu’s lawyer’s absence stalls trial again

THE trial of the current Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Ishaq Modibbo-Kawu for alleged misapplication of the sum of N2.5 billion seed grant for the Digital Switchover programme of the federal government, was stalled again on Friday.

The development was because of the absence of Modibbo-Kawu’s lawyer, A. U. Mustapha, in court.

On Thursday, Modibbo-Kawu and his co-accused persons – Lucky Omoluwa and Dipo Onifade – were granted bail in the sum of N100 million each, with two sureties in like sum who must be persons of good standing in the society and possess landed property in Abuja and would be willing to deposit the title documents of such property with the court until the determination of the case.

The accused persons were also barred from travelling outside the country and ordered to submit their international passports with the court registry. The case was adjourned till Friday for the continuation of hearing.

When the trial resumed on Friday, counsel to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Henry Emore, informed the court that he was ready for the trial to begin and that his witness was in court. The other parties in the trial also expressed their readiness.

Modibbo-Kawu’s counsel, Mustapha, had appointed another lawyer, Adetayo Adeyemo, to hold brief for him, but the lawyer informed the court that he would not be able to cross-examine the witness because he was not fully seized of the facts of the case as he was only holding brief for Mustapha.

He pleaded with the court to allow the counsels to the second, third and fourth defendants to cross-examine the witness, while Mustapha would carry out his own cross-examination on the next adjourned date.

The trial judge, Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa, however, disagreed with Adeyemo. She said that being the counsel to the principal accused person – or standing in for him as the case may be – he ought to be the first to cross-examine the witness.

Visibly not pleased, Ogunbanjo-Giwa said she was adjourning the case at the instance of the first defendant, but warned that once the five adjournments guaranteed by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) is used up, she would not grant him any other adjournment.

Ogunbanjo-Giwa also asked the ICPC counsel, Emore, which he would prefer: to go ahead with proceedings and take the cross-examination later or to adjourn the matter? Emore opted for the latter.

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The judge subsequently adjourned the matter to May 8, 2019, for continuation.

The ICPC accused Kawu of introducing a private company – Pinnacle Communications Limited – to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, as one of the companies to handle the Digital Switchover programme of the federal government in 2016. This was in spite of a government directive that stated clearly that only government-affiliated companies should be engaged for the project.

According to the ICPC, Lai Mohammed was not included in the charge because he said he was deceived by Moadibbo-Kawu into releasing the N2.5 to Pinnacle Communications. Reports, however, show that Mohammed was fully aware of all the issues before approving the release of the funds.

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