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ICPC suit against NBC, Pinnacle disrupting DSO process—Stakeholders

Since the beginning of the suit filed by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) against the leadership of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) late last year, there had been serious drawback on the hitherto excellent speed of the adopted regional Digital Switch Over (DSO) from analogue to digital TV experience in Nigeria.
This was the general position of industry stakeholders’ who reviewed the nation’s DSO journey so far in Lagos recently.
They disclosed that such distraction is capable of frustrating the chances of Nigeria meeting the set new target to join other global communities in DSO which will further free up digital dividend that will boost broadband penetration ahead of Nigeria’s journey to knowledge economy.
Recall that the issues leading to the suit had been cleared by the Director General, Mr Is’haq Modibbo Kawu during a press conference in Abuja late last year.
Kawu had made it clear that his action relied on the express approval by the Minister of Communications, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who though it wise to maintain a level playing ground between the two approved signal distributors; the ITS, which is working in collaboration with the Nigerian television Authority (NTA) which had before his appointment as DG, received similar facility to fast track delivery of critical infrastructure.
Accordingly, NBC boss averred that his action which received the needed executive approval, gave the same value of support to Pinnacle Communications so as to maintain level playing ground between the two signal distributors.
However, following the suit filed by ICPC on the explained matter, Kawu will today, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, appear before Justice F. O. Giwa of the Federal High Court, Abuja over allegation of financial crime worth N2.5bn.
In a statement signed by ICPC, NBC boss would be tried alongside the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Mr Lucky Omoluwa, and the Chief Operating Officer of the company, Mr Dipo Onifade.
The anti-graft agency is claiming that the amount misapplied by Kawu and others was a seed grant meant for the digital switch-over programme of the Federal Government.
The statement read in parts: “Kawu and others were meant to appear before the court on March 12, 2019 but he failed to do so, citing ill-health as a reason, thereby prompting Justice Giwa to order him to appear in court on the adjourned date even if it is on a stretcher.
“The accused persons are facing a 12-count 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.”
ICPC is further arguing that the Presidency had released the sum of N10bn in 2016 to the Ministry of Information and Culture for the digital switch-over programme, noting that a White Paper was issued directing how the process should be executed but Kawu went against the directive.
ICPC further noted that “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. N1.7bn was released to the company as seed grant for the commencement of the switch-over.
Business Hilights gathered that “It was alleged that Kawu fraudulently recommended Pinnacle Communications Limited, a private company, to the Minister of Information and Culture, for the release of N2.5bn against the guidelines contained in the White Paper. As a result, the commission filed charges against him and his accomplices.”
Recall that at the last hearing, the GD of NBC was absent as he was said to under the weather, forcing the Court to rule that even if it demands the DG appearing on wheelchair, let it be.