May 9, 2019

Information Minister approved payment of N2.5bn to Pinnacle for digital switchover-witness



Mrs Alheri Saidu, a witness in the on-going trial of Director -General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Modibbo, says the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, approved payment of N2.5billion to Pinnacle Communications Ltd.

Saidu, a witness of the prosecuting agency, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) revealed this at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The witness, a retired legal adviser to NBC, told the court that Mohammed made the approval in accordance with the provisions of the 2012 White Paper on Implementation of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project.

She was led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Mr Henry Emore.

The court admitted the White Paper in evidence and marked it as exhibit two.

She said that a total of N10 billion was approved for the DSO project by the Federal Government from which another company CCNL was also paid based on the minister’s approval.

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The witness further told the court that when she was the acting Director -General of NBC, she did approve the payment to CCNL without a board.

She added that 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.

While being cross-examined by A. V Etuwewe, counsel to Pinnacle Communications, the witness denied a statement credited to her in the minutes of an emergency management meeting of NBC held on May 31, 2017.

The statement was in respect of the request for payment by Pinnacle.

The statement was that “All over the world where the DSO was implemented, the government paid for services rendered to it”.

Saidu said when she saw the statement, she did not formally write to disown that portion of the minutes credited to her.

She also disclosed that the Abuja DSO was officially launched with equipment and facilities of Pinnacle on the Mpape Hill, Abuja, on Dec. 22, 2016, by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammad Buhari.

She added that the Information Minister, herself and other stakeholders were present during the DSO launch.

An earlier witness, Mr Olawale  Oshisanwo,  a deputy- director of Finance at NBC told the court that he processed the payment of N2.5 billion to Pinnacle Communications Ltd.

He said this was after all the necessary documentation were attached and the audit department also passed it for payment.

Oshisanwo said although he raised some observations with the director-general, he admitted not putting such observations in writing.

Modibbo is standing trial with three other defendants; Lucky Omoluwa, Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Ltd (PCL) and the Chief Operating Officer Dipo Onifade as well as PCL.

The trio including PCL is facing trial over allegations of fraud in the digital switchover project of the Federal Government.