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Payment to signal distributors very clear in FG’s DSO white paper—NBC DG

Contrary to earlier accusations that the Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is’haq Kawu Modibbo Kawu, illegally paid the sum of N2.5 billion to one of the two signal distributors, Pinnacle Communications Ltd, the agency has explained that apart from getting the requisite approval from the government, it was clearly provided in the prevailing White Paper driving the nation’s march to Digital Switchover (DSO).

It would be recalled that the media was recently inundated with reports that the anti-graft agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) queried the DG over the payment following unverifiable whistle apparently blown by an insider that the Commission under Kawu’s watch paid Pinnacle the said amount without approval.

However, explaining issues on the allegation, he recalled that Pinnacle Communications Ltd. is the second licensed signal distributor for digital switchover in Nigeria after ITS.

He disclosed that referring Pinnacle as unknown company is diversionary as it remains the single largest contributor because it paid a license fee of N680 million to the NBC even before he became the Director General of the Commission.

NBC boss Kawu narrated that the White Paper on DSO stipulated that NBC should provide a platform for the second signal distributor because the first signal distributor had facilities all over the country.

He explained that “The white paper says the second signal distributor is coming in with a disadvantage, so the NBC should provide a level playing field to ensure that a signal distributor carryout the process successfully”.

“This is the context in which the payment was made and we did not only pay just a signal distributor.

“NBC paid N2.5 billion to pinnacle communication for facilitating digitisation in Abuja, Kaduna and other parts of the country as the work progressed.

“NBC paid the first national signal distributor, Integrated-Television-Services (ITS) N1.7 billion and as at the time the money was paid, the exchange rate of naira to a dollar was about N167.

“When we paid Pinnacle in 2017, the dollar exchange for naira was N380.

“So if you look at N2.5 billion and N1.7 billion in terms of the amount of money paid, the exchange rate had affected the payment so it was not as if we just threw money at them. All those things were measured,” he said.

It would be recalled that as part of drive to get things done fast so as to meet the next DSO deadline, the federal government released N10 billion to NBC, with a directive that the money should be used for the digital switchover process and supervised by the Minister of Information and Culture.

While explaining that Pinnacle got the license after an open bidding process that was broadcast on television, two years before he came to the NBC, he averred that “Every payment that NBC made in the context of the digital switchover got approval from the minister. We paid the signal distributors, Set Top Box manufacturers, content aggregators, we have partly paid the set light provider and we partly paid the people who are doing the call centre”.

“To activate the box, you have to make certain calls to the centre and we have call agents who work for NBC on 24 hour basis and we pay them through the company,” he said.

Apart from giving out approved support facilities to the two signal distributors, Kawu disclosed that NBC spent money to train its staff and some members of the National Assembly on the digital switchover as well as other stakeholders.