By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court, Abuja has ordered the suspended Director-General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Kawu Modibbo to enter his defense in a fraud charge case against him.
Consequently, the court dismissed his no-case submission application made before the court by the defendant.
Modibbo and two others are answering a fraud charge of alleged N2.5billion preferred against him by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
By dismissing the application, the court, therefore, ordered the defendants to enter their defense in the matter.
Modibbo, alongside Pinnacle Communications Limited, its Chairman, late Lucky Omoluwa, and the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, Dipo Onifade were alleged, in the charge, to have misappropriated the N2.5b in the course of disbursing the seed grant for Federal Government’s Digital Switch-Over (DSO) project.
In the ruling, Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo affirmed that the prosecution was unable to establish a prima facie case against them.
Also, the judge deleted the name of late Omoluwa, who died some months ago, from the charge on the instance of the prosecution.
While adopting their no-case submissions on February 10, 2020, the defendants had contended that the prosecution failed, through all its witnesses, to make out a prima facie case against them.
Modibbo, through his counsel, Abdulhakeem Mustapha (SAN) urged the court to discharge and acquit his client on the three counts of the charge.
“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 witness, but they failed.
“The onus lies on the state to call the minister as a witness because he gave the approval for the release of N2.5 billion grant for Federal Government’s DSO project.
“As we speak, my lord, the minister has not come out to deny giving the first defendant the approval. He has not queried the first defendant; he has not said anything other than applauding the achievements of the defendant as the 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,” Mustapha argued further.
Counsel to the second and third defendants, Alex Izinyon (SAN), spoke in the same vein, arguing that the prosecution failed to prove the essential ingredients outlined in sections 302 and 303 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA).
In the same vern, counsel to the fourth defendant, Ama Etuwewe (SAN), also prayed the court to discharge and acquit his client.
However, in a counter-argument, the prosecution lawyer, Henry Emore, urged the court to reject the defendants’ no-case submission and hold that the prosecution has made out sufficient case against the defendants to warrant their being called upon to enter their defence.
In her ruling Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo held that with the evidence led by the prosecution, there was the need for the court to call on the defendants to respond to the allegations made against them.
Meantime, the matter has been adjourned till July 1 for the first defendant to open his defense.