Former Information Minister, Lai Mohammed has failed to appear before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court in respect of the N2.5bn Digital Switch Over (DSO) project contract awarded to Pinnacle Communications Ltd.
The immediate past communication minister is expected to tell Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo Giwa all he knows about the contract that has led to the trial of the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, Ishaq Kawu Modibbo, Pinnacle Communications Ltd and two others.
Mohammed’s name is contained in the list of additional witnesses lined up by the prosecution counsel, Henry Emore among others.
He was expected to appear in yesterday’s proceedings and testify as the Minister who approved the payment of N2.5bn to Pinnacle.
However, after calling two witnesses, the prosecution counsel informed the court that he was to call the former Information Minister but for his absence.
Umore said Mohammed had travelled out of the country but is being expected back into the country on or before July 31.
In addition, the court was told that Mohammed had finally made statement before the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), as a former Minister.
The prosecution also informed the court that the other witness he wished to call, was still in Saudi Arabia.
However, counsel to Onifade Oladipupo (second defendant), and Sir Lucky Omoluwa (third defendant), Alex Izinyon, SAN, told the court that he had already filed an application to oppose the list of additional witness filed by the prosecution counsel.
Izinyon said the defence team had already joined issues with the prosecution on the failure of the ICPC to call the Information Minister who approved the payment of N2.5bn to Pinnacle as well as join him as a defendant in the case.
A witness called by the ICPC told the court that the then Information Minister had refused to make statement to the ICPC, claiming that he needed to get clearance from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Earlier, upon cross examination by Izinyon, a prosecution witness, Olugbemi Abraham, told the court that “During investigation, we could not interview the then minister of information because he said he needed clearance from the Secretary to Government of the Federation.”
Abraham, however, revealed that they later took statement from Mohammed during the pendency of this case, admitting that “Really, we did not bother to get in touch with the SGF to enable him allow the Information Minister to make statement.”
Abraham admitted that NBC, based on the provision of the White Paper that government should provide condition for a level playing field for signal distributors, is the one that would determine the level playing field.
Meanwhile, Justice Ogunbanjo Giwa has adjourned to July 1, ruling on a motion by the second and third defendants Jumoke Akinjide.