N2.5bn DSO Trial: ICPC Has No Case Against Us, NBC DG, Others Tell Court

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The Director-General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Kawu Modibbo, Pinnacle Communications Ltd, and two others, on Monday, told Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo- Giwa of the Federal High Court Abuja, that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), has no case against them.

The defendants made the submission through their various lawyers while adopting their written addresses in respect of the no-case-submission they filed challenging the charge instituted against them by the ICPC.

The defendants are facing prosecution over the N2.5bn released to Pinnacle Communications with the approval of the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, under the Federal Government’s DSO project.

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Adopting his no-case-submission dated 16 December 2019, Kawu’s (1st defendant) counsel, Abdullahi Mustapha SAN, pursuant to sections 302 and 303 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, urged the court to discharge and acquit the 1st defendant of all the 3-count charges levelled against him by the State.

Mustapha submitted that the State was unable to make a prima facie case against the defendant and therefore cannot be asked to enter defence.

Moddibo Kawu’s counsel said none of the 9 witnesses called by the prosecution was able to establish the ingredients of the offence to warrant the 1st defendant to enter defence.

The 1st defendant’s lawyer posited that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution to discharge, adding that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses were full of contradictions and doubts.

More so, Mustapha submitted that failure of the prosecution to call the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed to testify being the person that gave the approval for the release of the fund was fatal to the case.

“A vital witness, in this case, was not called and the court was gracious to give ample time for the State to call the Minister as a witness but they failed.

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“The onus lies on the State to call the Minister as a witness because he gave the approval for the release of N2.5bn grant for the Federal Government’s Digital Switch Over project.

“As we speak my lord, the Minister has not come out to deny giving the 1st defendant the approval, he has not queried the 1st defendant, he has not said anything other than applauding the achievements of the defendant as DG of NBC.

“My lord,  for the Minister not to refute the approval, and not telling the court that he was misled nor say anything to the contrary, shows a big gap.

The counsel told the court that the controversial minutes of the meeting of the NBC Management board was not signed and adopted.

Therefore, Mustapha urged the court to sustain his no-case submission, and discharge and acquit the 1st defendant.

Similarly, counsel to the 2nd and 3rd defendants, Alex Izinyon SAN, urged the court to uphold his no-case submission dated December 17, 2019.

Izinyon said the prosecution failed to prove the essential ingredients outlined in sections 302 and 303 of ACJA, adding that the onus lies on the prosecution to prove its case and not the other way round.

He pointed out that PW4 and PW9 said there was no complaint or petition against the defendant but in the cause of investigating ITS, they stumbled on the N2.5bn released to Pinnacle Communications (4th defendant).

“PW9 said the Minister said he was misled. The Minister is the mouthpiece of the Federal Government. It is not in the mouth of a technocrat to interpret the Whitepaper on DSO project.

Also, Izinyon noted that the prosecution did not make any move to correct the contradictions in the evidence of the witnesses.

He, therefore, urged the court to hold that the prosecution has failed to prove its case against the defendants and that they should be discharged and acquitted.

The 4th defendant represented by Ama Etuwewe SAN also urged the court to uphold Pinnacle’s no-case submission just as he adopted the submissions of counsel to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants.

Etuwewe said the prosecution did not controvert the fact that the 4th defendant is a critical stakeholder in the DSO project of the FG.

Reacting, the prosecution counsel, Henry Emoreh urged the court to dismiss the no-case submission of the defendants, insisting that he was able to make a prima facie case against them.

He said there were no contradictions in the evidence of the witnesses, and that he has been able to link the defendants with the offence.

“It is not in dispute that the Minister of Information gave the approval, but if the defendants so wish, they can call the Minister to give evidence, the prosecution counsel said.

After the adoption, the judge fixed March 26, for ruling.

NAN

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