James Ojo, Abuja, with agency report
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) is set to arraign the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Dr. Ishaq Moddibbo Kawu, today.
Justice F. O Giwa of the Federal High Court, Abuja had ordered that the NBC boss be brought to court, today, even on a stretcher; when he failed to appear in court, citing ill-health.
Modibbo, who denied he had been suspended from office, last Friday, was dragged to court by ICPC; over alleged complicity in the misapplication of the N2.5 billion Seed Grant for the Federal Government’s Digital Switch-Over (DSO) programme.
He, alongside the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Mr. Lucky Omoluwa, and the Chief Operating Officer of the same company, Mr. Dipo Onifade, would be arraigned, today, according to the Commission’s spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa.
They are facing a 12-count charge bordering on abuse of office, money laundering and misleading a public officer with the intent to defraud the federal government, in contravention of section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
The Presidency had, in 2016, re
leased N10 billion to the Ministry of Information and Culture, for the DSO programme and a White Paper was issued directing how the process should be executed.
Based on the guidelines provided by the White Paper, two companies were nominated to handle the process, one of which was ITS, an affiliate of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and N1.7 billion was released to it as seed grant for commencement of the switch-over.
It was alleged that Moddibo fraudulently recommended Pinnacle Communications Limited, a private company, to the minister, for the release of N2.5 billion; against the guidelines contained in the White Paper.
As a result, the Commission filed charges against him and his accomplices and secured March 12 for their arraignment.
In his reaction, Kawu told Premium Times that ICPC has failed to adequately understand the matter before bringing charges.
“Pinnacle Communications is not a non-profit organisation and could, therefore, not have been able to provide a charitable signal to homes,” he said.
He added that the ICPC had been deliberately oblivious to the timeline of the deal and that he was not the one who licensed Pinnacle.
The NBC boss also said that was done by the previous director general, during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
Kawu said he met an ongoing lawsuit instituted by Pinnacle against the NBC for reneging on some of the earlier agreements before the licence was issued.
“But I immediately moved to resolve the crisis through a process of arbitration because it was delaying the country’s deadline for digital switch-over,” he said.
Following a series of discussions, the firm agreed to withdraw its lawsuit and work with the government to resolve the dispute, which centred around electronic programme guide and content aggregation.
Although a pilot phase was launched in Jos, in April 2016, it was not until December 2016 that the formal commissioning was held in Abuja, by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the event.
Kawu said Pinnacle completed the switch-over, a “milestone for the country” at the time.