The on-going trial of the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) over an alleged abuse of office and money laundering has been stalled by the absence in court of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Alhaji Mohammed was scheduled to appear before a Federal High Court, Abuja, on October 2, as a prosecution witness to explain his role in the alleged misapplication of N2.5 billion Federal Government Digital Switch-Over (DSO) programme.
ICPC had filed a 12-count charge before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa, against Kawu, Lucky Omoluwa and Dipo Onifade, the Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Pinnacle Communications Limited respectively, saying that the NBC director general misled the Minister into approving government funds to a private company.
Mohammed had admitted in a statement to the Commission that he was misled by Kawu, as opined in court by a witness from ICPC, Osanato Olugbemi.
However, at the resumed hearing, counsel to the Commission, Henry Emore informed the court that the Minister was unavoidably absent because of an urgent national assignment.
He said, “I have been in court since 9am. I called the Personal Assistant to the witness and he said that he was unavailable due to an urgent assignment.”
Emore, before asking for a new date to bring the Minister, prayed the court to subpoena a second witness, a Bureau de Change operator, Sabo Shuaibu, who had repeatedly failed to attend court despite numerous invitations put to him.
Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa granted the subpoena and advised prosecution counsel to be mindful of the five adjournments allowed by the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, having used up three already.
The trial judge also ordered the release of the international passport of Kawu, to enable him attend the World Radio-Communication Conference (WRC 19) taking place in Egypt.
His counsel, A. U. Mustapha (SAN) had filed an application praying the court to allow the NBC boss to travel to the Sharm El-Sheik venue of the conference scheduled to hold from 28th October to 22nd November, 2019.
The judge further ruled that Kawu’s international passport must be returned to the court Registrar upon his return from Egypt on or before 30th November, 2019.
Kawu was also told to depose to an affidavit before the court stating that his surety must agree to be detained by security agencies if he fails to return for his trial and that the said surety must also surrender his international passport to the court in place of Kawu’s.
The matter was then adjourned to 21st October and 3rd, 4th and 5th December, for continuation of trial.