By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Trial Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, deferred the arraignment of the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, Ishaq Kawu Modibbo, till May 2.
Modibbo is facing a 12-count charge that was preferred against him and three others by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences related Commission, ICPC.
Others on trial are the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Ltd, Sir Lucky Omoluwa, Mr Dipo Onifade and Pinnacle Communications Ltd itself.
The Defendants were fingered in alleged irregularities in the award of an N2.5billion Digital Switch Over (DSO) contract.
ICPC alleged that the NBC boss hoodwinked the Minister of Information and Culture to approve payment of N2.5billion to Pinnacle Communications Limited, a private company owned by his friend, Omoluwa who is the 3rd defendant.
According to the anti-graft agency, Omoluwa, whose firm was not qualified for such grant, subsequently transferred the sum of N537.25million out of the N2.5bn to a Bureau De Change operator for the dollar equivalent.
The BDC operator was said to have delivered the dollars in cash to the 3rd Omonuwa at his residence in Kaduna.
Meantime, the planned arraignment of the Defendants was stalled on Wednesday following the absence of the 2nd Defendant, Onifade, even though both Modibbo and Omoluwa.
Onifade’s lawyer, Dr. Alex Izinyon, SAN, told the court that his client notified him through a text message that he left Kaduna in the early hours of Wednesday to attend the proceeding.
Though the court stood the matter down for over four hours, attempts by Iziyon, SAN, to reach his client proved futile, as his phone lines did not connect.
Iziyon who was visibly worried drew the attention of the court that his client had consistently made himself available since the day he was served with a copy of the charge, “I pray nothing has happened to him”, he stated.
Iziyon subsequently applied for a short adjournment to enable his client to be present to enter his plea to the charge.
Responding, the prosecution counsel, Mr Henry Emore, confirmed to the court that he saw the chat between Onifade and his lawyer.
“We sincerely hope that all is well with the 2nd defendant. We conceded to the plea for an adjournment” Emore submitted.
In a short ruling, Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa adjourned the matter to May 2 for arraignment.
The trial Judge had on March 12, directed that the NBC boss who was absent on two separate dates that the matter was scheduled for arraignment, be produced in court unfailingly.
Modibbo’s lawyer, Mr Abdullahi Mustapha, SAN, had told the court that his client was absent due to ill-health, saying he was previously admitted in a hospital.
“My client had major surgery 10 years ago and is very ill. I have a medical report from the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital to confirm that he is currently ill, and I shall be filing it before the court registry” Mustapha told the court.
One of the counts in the charge against the Defendants, read:“That you, Is’haq Kawu Modibbo, Sir Lucky Omonuwa and Dipo Onifade sometime between December 2016 and May 2017 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired with each other to use the position of , Is’haq Kawu Modibbo as the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission(NBC) to confer corrupt advantage on Sir Lucky Omonuwa, your friend and associate by recommending to the Hon. Minister of Information and Culture to approve payment of N2.5billion to Pinnacle Communications Limited, a private company owned by Sir Lucky Omonuwa as seed grant under the DSO of the Federal Government of Nigeria when you knew that the said company was not entitled to receive such grant and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 26(1) (c ) and punishable under Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000″