Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has confirmed that the Digital Switch Over facility installed by Pinnacle Communications Ltd (PCL) is of world class standard.
The confirmation was made by the Commission’s Director of Engineering and Technical Services, Engr. Friday Ukwela, while testifying as prosecution witness for the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
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He testified before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa in the case against the Director General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Modibbo, and three others.
Ukwela told the court under cross examination by counsel to Pinnacle Communications Ltd, Ama Etuwewe, that the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project “is a very expensive venture.”
He added that Minister of Information Lai Mohammed, who approved the payment of N2.5 billion to PCL, “is familiar with DSO project but does not know substantantially everything about DSO.”
“I know that the DSO is a very expensive project.
“Yes, I was part of the team that visited and inspected the DSO facility put in place by Pinnacle Communications Ltd.
“It is a world class facility and has been in operation till date,” the witness told the court, while answering questions from the 4th defendant’s lawyer.
Ukwela, who is the fifth prosecution witness, stated that going by the government White Paper on the DSO project, “it was agreed that signal distributors should be paid for services rendered.
He, however, disclosed that television stations whose signals are being distributed by PCL across the length and breadth of Nigeria have not been paying for Carriage Fees because the fees have not been determined by the industry.
Earlier, Charles Adama, the fourth prosecution witness, had admitted that the N2.5 billion was part of the N10 billion released by the Federal Government of Nigeria to execute the DSO Project in the country; and that the NBC had not received any complaint from the government in respect of the money paid to PCL.
According to Adama, “the presidency did not complain up to this moment; the Information Minister agreed that he approved the N2.5 billion, and has not written to withdraw the approval up till now; neither did he inform us that he was misled nor told us in writing that PCL was not entitled to the N2.5 billion.
The ICPC investigator claimed he did not know that the national launch of the DSO was performed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari on the site of the Pinnacle Broadcast Centre on Mpape Hill in December 2016, months before the payment was made to PCL because they did not visit the site or the Kaduna Broadcast Centre during investigations.
He said he was aware that PCL paid over N600 million for the signal distributor license in 2014 but did not know that it subsequently took NBC to court for breach of license agreement which was withdrawn following negotiations initiated by the Buhari Administration in 2016 to resume DSO implementation.