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NBC Kawu Modibbo

Revealed: Why NBC through Minister’s directive paid Pinnacle group N2.5bn

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A clear indication has emerged showing that the rollout of Digital Switch Over (DSO) that took place in Abuja on December 22, 2016 was on the insistence of the federal government and not on the readiness of the Signal Distributor, Pinnacle Communications Limited.

In an exclusive telephone interview with a top official of the Ministry of Information and Culture who is detailed in the happenstances trailing the rollout of digital transmission in Abuja on Thursday, the official said “First of all, it is important to make the revelation that the rollout of Digital Switch Over (DSO) that took place in Abuja in December was on the insistence of the federal government and not on the readiness of the Signal Distributor, Pinnacle Communications Limited”.

On why Pinnacle Communications could not foot the bills of the transmission infrastructure development, the official who wished not to be named said “The issue is that every business operator has its plan, pace and financial expenses roadmap which the owner wishes to carry out”.

“But when the company is being compelled in a hurry to do what it is not yet ready or what it has not planned for with speed, it means that there must be an empowerment by way of funding for the company to do what the compeller needs. This was how the N2.5bn funding came about. The key factor that actually played out was that the federal government was bent on showing Nigerians that it is serious in DSO. A political point was at stake which I think the government got, but not without a fee.

“Remember when the company won the signal distributorship; they have their own roadmap, and time frames for carrying out operations.

Business Hilights had reported on Wednesday that Hajia Maimuna Jimada, NBC’s Public Relations Officer, said the N2.5bn payment was made for delivered services and not for any frivolous activities.

According to her in an interview, “The payment was paid to Pinnacle for services rendered. The truth of the matter is whoever is accusing NBC should come up with documents to back the claim”.

Continuing, she averred that “The NBC is a transparent agency and has paid our stakeholders for different services rendered. How much payment will NBC be making public in the media? That is not our practice. It is not for NBC to be defending itself when we know that all payments made are within our purview and if someone is aggrieved, should provide documents to back up the claim. Normal due process was followed; there is nothing secretive about it at all. Agencies are empowered to make payments and whatever payment made was within our power for a just cause”.

Before now, followers of the issue had queried if NBC has the powers to seek services worth up to N2.5bn without following a bidding process through the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP).

They queried why it has been very hard for NBC to reveal the actual services rendered within the short period so that it will be easy for the public to weigh if such services formed part of the original jobs of Pinnacle Communications or truly a job or services that can be outsourced in the first instance.

However, giving further insights, the Ministry official recalled that “Pinnacle Communications took NBC to Court in the beginning over what they perceived as a negation of the bid agreement because from the licence given to them, certain things were later removed and sourced to some third parties”.

“But when Lai Mohammed came in, he brokered the peace between Pinnacle and NBC. Part of the settlement deal is for Pinnacle to start rolling out in Abuja. It is important to understand that it was not Pinnacle’s priority to start rolling out immediately after the peace process. It was vide government’s directive and compulsion that they started rolling out and as you know, you cannot compel somebody to do something without empowerment which boils down to the funding.

Explaining more on why the payment was made, the source averred that “since Pinnacle Communications started transmission in Abuja on December 22, 2016, they have not earned a kobo because the stations they are carrying are actually supposed to pay for carriage of their signals”.

“But because we are still in the period of dual carriage, whereby stations like AIT, Channels, NTA and others are still running their analogue transmission in Abuja, the stations cannot be compelled to start signal service payment to Pinnacle.

As long as they are still running their analogue transmitter, you cannot expect them to pay signal distributor. In the light of this scenario, it was decided that government is going to foot the bills for those carriages.

Continuing, the official noted that “As it is, government owes Pinnacle for all the carriages of over 30 TV signals they have been carrying in Abuja”.

“Now the company has been working in six select states across the six geopolitical zones with installations of transmitters. I think they have almost concluded Kaduna, they are now moving on to either Kebbi or Gombe and others in that sequence.

“What should be understood is that Pinnacle has its roadmap on how to rollout without stressing its pockets, but when government want speed, it has to bring in money for that and that is what is happening.

“Government though the NBC felt that to sustain the DSO, the Pinnacle Communications deserves some financial relief so as to continue pending when it will return to profitability on the actual switch off of analogue transmission.

“Am sure NBC must have secured some kinds of approvals before making the payments.

On why the stations were not able to switch over their analogue signals, the source said “They cannot switch off yet in Abuja because of the sensitivity of the city’s topography which is full of ups and downs”.

“For example, if you leave Abuja, going to Karu, the whole population under the shadow of one hill cannot receive digital signal. What is happening is that Pinnacle had done their survey of all those areas that cannot get digital signals but are getting analogue signals vide their Antenna from different directions.

For example, NTA has a station near Keffi, that fills the gap backward to them in these areas.

With these observations, Pinnacle has identified transmission gaps to be filled and they cannot do that until the raining season recedes.

“The truth of the matter is that until everybody in every city including Abuja is receiving signals, there will be no switchover and that means also that government will continue to pay for the digital signals pending when the TV stations will be compelled to put off analogue transmission.

It is important to note that analogue coverage must be replicated with digital coverage in every corner of a city or state before NBC can compel owners of the private stations to switch off analogue transmission and that is when we can say we have concluded DSO in Nigeria.

However, a source at the NBC confided in our correspondent that the planned earlier Press briefing by the Director General, Mallam Is’haq Modibbo Kawu on Thursday was put off due to another wider Press Conference being put together by the Minister himself on the matter next week Tuesday in Abuja.


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