How NBC paid N2.5b DSO fund to private firm, by witness
A prosecution witness in the trial of Director General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Modibbo Kawu and three others, has told the court how N2.5 billion for the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project was approved.
Testifying before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa of the Federal High Court, Abuja, a retired legal adviser to NBC, Alheri Saidu, told the court that Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, approved the payment of the money to Pinnacle Communications Limited (PCL).
Saidu affirmed that Mohammed’s approval was in line with provisions of the 2012 White Paper on Implementation of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project.
The White Paper was admitted as exhibit two in court.
The company is facing trial with its Chairman, Lucky Omoluwa and Chief Operating Officer (COO), Dipo Onifade, over allegation of fraud in the Federal Government’s DSO project.
She stated that the Federal Government approved N10 billion for the DSO project from which another company, CCNL was also paid based on the minister’s approval.
Saidu further disclosed that when she was Acting Director General of NBC, she approved the payment to CCNL without a Board.
According to the witness, in 2014, another limited liability company set up by the NTA – ITS Limited was paid N1.7 billion by the NBC for the DSO as recommended by the 2012 White Paper.
However, during cross-examination by counsel to PCL (fourth defendant) A. V. Etuwewe, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) witness could not cite where the White Paper proscribed such payments to PCL.
Saidu also denied a statement credited to her in the minutes of NBC’s emergency management meeting held on May 31, 2017, in respect of request for PCL’s payment.
She allegedly said: “All over the world where the DSO was implemented, government paid for services rendered.
Saidu stated that when she saw the statement, she did not formally write to disown that portion of the minutes credited to her.
On reference to ‘level playing field’ for the private signal distributor in the White Paper, Saidu said it could mean not putting the private signal distributor at a disadvantage, among other interpretations.
Saidu also disclosed that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammad Buhari, launched the Abuja DSO with equipment and facilities of PCL on the Mpape Hill, Abuja, on December 22, 2016, adding that Mohammed and other stakeholders were present at the launch.
Testifying earlier, NBC Deputy Director of Finance Olawale Abiodun Osisanwo (pw1), told court that he processed the payment of N2.5b to PCL after all necessary documentation was attached and the audit department passed it for payment.
Also, an Assistant Director of Human Resources Department, Chukwuemeka Iwunna (pw2), who acted as Secretary to the NBC board, disclosed that the DG summoned an emergency management meeting to discuss request for payment from PCL, stressing that the minutes he produced was what happened at the meeting.