Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Minister Lai Mohammed In N2.5B Contract Scandal

The suspended Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Kawu, has a case to answer over the alleged fraudulent payment of N2.5 billion to a company under the digital switch-over project of the Nigerian government.

The Court of Appeal stated this on Monday in Abuja as it dismissed an appeal filed by Kawu and the others, which challenged the same decision by the Federal High Court on their no-case submission in their trial for the alleged fraud.

Kawu alongside the late chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Lucky Omoluwa, and the chief operating officer of the company, Dipo Onifade, are facing corruption charges before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa of the Federal High Court.

The anti-graft agency, ICPC, had charged Kawu with “using (his) position to confer a corrupt advantage to the tune of N2.5 billion.”

The case arose from the use of a seed grant the federal government released to NBC for the digital switch-over project.

According to the commission, their acts contravene Section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, and are punishable under Section 19 of the same law.

Kawu, in his capacity as the director-general of NBC, had allegedly recommended to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, to authorise the payment of N2.5 billion to the contractors without following due diligence.

The ICPC said Mohammed granted the illegal approval but would only appear as a witness in the case.

Kawu and the other accused persons were arraigned before the Federal High Court, Abuja, in May last year but were granted bail after they pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

After the prosecution had presented its case against them, Kawu, through his counsel, A. U. Mustapha, filed a no-case submission in December 2019. He asked the court to discharge and acquit him of the charge.

Delivering her ruling in February this year on his submission, Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa held that the ICPC had established a prima facie case against the accused persons.

Not satisfied with the ruling, the accused persons then approached the appellate court.

However, according to a statement by the ICPC on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal in Abuja dismissed their no-case submission.

The appellate court said they have an explanation to give over the payment of the N2.5 billion to a private company.

The case will now continue at the Federal High Court in Abuja at a date to be announced by the court.

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