A Federal High Court, Abuja, has declined to release the international passports of the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Lucky Omoluwa and Dipo Onifade, who are on trial over their complicity in N2.5 billion Digital Switch-Over (DSO) fraud.
Counsel to Omoluwa and Onifade, Alex Iziyon (SAN), had approached Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa, with an application asking for the release of the passports of the two accused persons who are also on trial with the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Moddibo Kawu, to enable them travel to the United Kingdom for an unnamed conference.
Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa ruled that she cannot grant the plea until a response was heard from the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), who had filed a 12-count charge of fraud, money laundering and abuse of office against them.
She said; “They are entitled to respond to your application and I will give them time to do so.”
Before she adjourned the matter to 3rd June, 2019, for continuation of trial, the court also heard that the N2.5 billion released to Pinnacle Communications Limited as seed grant for DSO by Kawu was illegal according to the government White Paper guarding the process.
Ambassador Olukorede Willoughby, who chaired the White Paper drafting committee, testified that the seed grant was meant to be a start-up capital for a government-owned company excluding private companies.
He said, “The purpose of the seed grant as we planned it was that government should set up a firm and provide them with funds for equipment, capacity development and any other thing for the DSO.”
Willoughby, who served as Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Information and Communication before his retirement, when led by ICPC Counsel, Ebenezer Shogunle, told the court that the level playing field envisaged by the White Paper was for government to provide equal opportunities to all stakeholders only during licensing process.
He added that the White Paper which covered 2012 to 2015, was never meant to give start-up funds to private companies involved in the DSO.
Also testifying, Director, Engineering and Technology, NBC, Friday Ojone Ukwela, stated that the N2.5 billion paid to Pinnacle was not discussed in an emergency meeting held to discuss payments to signal distributors.
He told the court that the emergency meeting only discussed payment of carriage fees to signal distributors who had rendered services to government without even the mentioning of Pinnacle Communications Limited.