By Abubakar Mahmoud Ahmed
Early this week, a younger colleague alerted me to a story that was making the rounds on social media. A mushroom “civil society group” called COALITION AGAINST CORRUPTION AND BAD GOVERNANCE, CACOBAG, with address at Abeokuta Expressway, Abule Egba, in Lagos State, issued a screaming press release, alleging “license racketeering rocking the National Broadcasting Commission”.
How the mushroom group located in a ghetto of Abule Egba in Lagos State was able to discern “racketeering” allegation, that is “rocking the National Broadcasting Commission”, must be one of the wonders of contemporary life; but it seemed so obvious, that those behind this latest story about the NBC, were merely ratcheting up a figment of their own imagination, but one that was part of an orchestrated campaign, against Malam Modibbo Kawu, the Director General of the NBC.
And it didn’t take too long in the press release, to see through the effort by the flotsam and jetsam of the Lagos “civil society” rabble. They gleefully announced their discovery, which must be like Einstein’s discovery of the Grand Theory of Relativity. CACOBAG (like truly irresponsible windbags),announced that: “Information at our disposal indicates that the embattled (embattled? Who declared the war?) DIrector General of the NBC, Mallam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu recently (RECENTLY? The CACOBAG windbag ruffians couldn’t even get the exact dates?), allocated six slots of Radio license to his private company”.
The disturbing discovery
The group went further to allege the “disturbing discovery of how the DG NBC surreptitiously allocated six slots of radio license to his private company, Word, Sound and Vision (WSV) Ltd to himself (SIC) in the recent allocation of Radio and Television broadcast license to private operators in the country”. Not done, CACOBAG, headed by a certain Toyin Raheem, went further to state that “Mallam Modibbo Kawu who is currently being prosecuted along with others in court by the ICPC over an N2.5 billion fraud case gave himself through his private company six prime radio license slots in Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, Kano and two in Ilorin Kwara State”. Having made the “earth-shattering” discovery, CACOBAG said it was “totally unacceptable”; it was “an abuse of office and a display of cheer (CHEER?) greed and racketeering”. So, “we (THE WINDBAGS) at CACOBAG are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to take immediate action”. And just in case Nigerians forget what I have stated in two previous articles, concerning Malam Modibbo Kawu, the windbags of “CACOBAG”, revealed again just what their sponsors have desperately longed for and which is tearing their hearts: “we wonder why Modibbo Kawu who is facing trial on charges of corruption and criminal conspiracy is still allowed as the DG of NBC”. CACOBAG and the Lagos-based political group that sponsors them, have been terribly sad, that the ICPC trial-by-media and subsequent arraignment in court, have not led to Malam Modibbo Kawu’s removal. They have not been able to put their man, a Lagos-based journalist who was a former Commissioner in Lagos in the position of DG NBC, true to their wish, and as part of the agenda to control as many strategic institutions as possible, by the Lagos-based greedy political machinery. Not surprisingly, this week, the CACOBAG press statement has been reported in THE NATION and THE PUNCH newspapers and some of the online outlets, that have been at the heart of the campaign of vilification against Malam Modibbo Kawu, the DG of the NBC.
Painstaking investigations at the NBC HQ
I wanted to know the truth of the allegations as well as the really true position in respect of the licensing of Radio and television stations by the NBC. So early this week, I made very painstaking investigations at the NBC HQ in Abuja, in respect of these allegations. I swear to Allah, that I made the investigation with an open mind, and with the sole purpose of knowing the truth of the matter. My informants at NBC gave me an opportunity to ask questions, and they also quoted to me the relevant papers on the same subject. These professionals expressed surprise about the development, saying that my inquiry was the first time they were being made aware of an alleged “license racketeering” issue at the NBC. I was informed that even the DG, Modibbo Kawu, only got to know about the press release by CACOBAG, when he got a call from a reporter from THE SUN newspaper. The reporter had informed him (Malam Modibbo Kawu), that his editor wanted to know Kawu’s view concerning the subject. It was later that day, that someone forwarded to him by WHATSAPP, the press statement by CACOBAG. At the NBC, I was informed, that the last set of 147 radio licenses were approved and issued by President Muhammadu Buhari on September 24th, 2018. That was eight months ago. How come that CACOBAG is just “discovering” the subject of their press release? So the statement by CACOBAG alleging “licensing racketeering rocking the National Broadcasting Commission”, was, therefore, a figment of the imaginations of the “CACOBAG busybodies. It was clear, that the story must have come from the desperate desire of those behind the ICPC case, to add fuel to fire, with the new allegation, and who must have been working with insiders in the NBC; those in the Commission, who have regularly, secretly, released documents of the Commission to external clients.
I was further educated, that there are certain basic facts about licensing procedures that those behind the mischievous story were patently ignorant about. The DG of NBC cannot and does not have the power to “allocate licenses” to himself or to anyone else. This is because all radio and television licenses are approved by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is the president’s prerogative to approve (or withhold) licenses, to properly registered Nigerian companies, not the NBC Director General. What the NBC does, is to compile the list of applicants; these are then submitted to the Presidency. From that point, the NBC or its Director General has no power to influence which company is then issued the license by the President. That has always been the case. I was then shown the applications for licenses by the company Word, Sound & Vision Multimedia Limited. The applications dated to September 26, 2008, eleven years ago. Similarly, I discovered that the PDP Presidents of the period, late Umaru Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan refused to give Word, Sound & Vision Multimedia Limited licenses, despite the fact that it met all the NBC’s laid down criteria for licensing. I was later informed at the Word, Sound & Vision Multimedia Limited Office, just how intense was the effort they made to speak to the top people in the administrations concerned, and a former PDP Governor, who became highly influential during the Yar’adua administration spoke forthrightly: “Modibbo we in the PDP will never give you a license; not after all that you’ve written against us in your weekly columns”. I was informed that Malam Modibbo Kawu and his team at Word, Sound & Vision Multimedia Limited stopped bothering about trying to get the radio licenses. At least under the PDP administrations. Modibbo Kawu was appointed Director General of the NBC in May 2016; and one of the first steps he took, was to be completely excluded from the directorship of the company, Word, Sound & Vision Multimedia Limited. At the company’s office, they told me that he has not even visited the offices of the company in the past three years. But the people running the company re-raised the issue of their application, and these were shortlisted and submitted, along with 162 other applications for commercial radio licenses, not to mention the television, campus and community stations. In the exercise of his powers, President Muhammadu Buhari approved 147 licenses, including those for Word, Sound & Vision Multimedia Limited. There was no way that the NBC DG could have influenced the list that the president approved.
The people at the NBC here in Kaduna, told me further to my inquiry, that getting the approval was one thing, and that is often only the first step. They become effective and can be called licenses in real terms, only when the license fees have been paid and the licensee is issued frequencies to operate as radio stations. I got to know that in the 2015 round of licensing done by President Goodluck Jonathan, there was a company that was issued 14 licenses; another one got six; there was another one that got 4 and yet another, owned by Mr Godfrey Ohuabunwa, that was given seven licenses. It turned out that most of these licenses were not paid for, and so are not on air today. As I stated earlier, I met the lawyer working as General Manager of Word, Sound & Vision Multimedia Limited; at their offices/ studios in Jabi, and he confirmed that they were issued the licenses; but since September 2018, they have not been able to pay, and consequently, they have not been issued frequencies to operate. The lawyer expressed surprise that the CACOBAG people were mischievously linking the licenses to a so-called racketeering issue at the NBC. He said that as a bonafide Nigerian company, Word, Sound & Vision Multimedia Limited was entitled to seek the licenses, and he added further, that Malam Modibbo Kawu was removed from everything related to the company, from the moment that he was appointed the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission. What I discovered further, was that licenses issued by the President are actually provisional and they translate to nothing, until they have been paid for, and the NBC’s Engineering Directorate issues the frequencies for transmission.
So the question to ask is simple. Why have the windbags of CACOBAG gone to town with their allegation about “license racketeering” at the National Broadcasting Commission? The reason appears very clearly. The sponsors of the ICPC trial-by-media, against Malam Modibbo Kawu and Pinnacle Communications Limited, as well as the arraignment in court, have seen the way that their case is crumbling under cross-examination. It is looking like the court route is not going to earn them the prize of removal of Malam Modibbo Kawu from his position as Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission. So they have chosen to go through a different route. There are so many “For Hire”, unemployed scum bags in the urban centres of Nigeria today, who call themselves “civil society activists”.
Lagos political machinery
The Lagos political machinery that is desperately seeking the ouster of Malam Modibbo Kawu as DG of the NBC, so that they can implant one of their own, as part of the systematic takeover of all strategic Federal institutions, controls and funds many of these so-called “civil society” groups; the windbags of CACOBAG belong to the Lagos political rabble that believes it must destroy everyone that is in the way of their inordinate ambition to takeover every strategic institution in Nigeria. They work with other blindly ambitious individuals inside the NBC; these are the ones who release NBC documents, for the ridiculous purposes, such as has been done by the windbags of CACOBAG . But in this, their inordinate agenda, they will also fail. The Lagos political group does not own Nigeria. It cannot use blackmail and dirty politics to hound decent, hard working Nigerians from genuine service to our country. They cannot be allowed to malign the characters of patriots genuinely serving Nigeria. Neither the windbags of CACOBAG nor their sponsors in the Lagos political machinery will be allowed to destroy the character of Malam Modibbo Kawu, just because they want this former Commissioner to be forcibly implanted as DG of the NBC. There was nothing like a “license racketeering” at the NBC, as alleged by the hired guns of CACOBAG. It is a futile attempt at creating a cheap scandal that has no basis, but which is the manner the Lagos political machinery has always operated. Nigerians have now seen through their evil plans against an innocent patriot, Malam Modibbo Kawu. Their plot will not succeed. The Holy Qur’an in Suratul Al-Anfal (8:30) said: “…the plot and plan, and Allah too plans and Allah is the Best of planners”.
Abubakar Mahmoud Ahmed retired Journalist; Public Affairs Consultant and Hadith Scholar, lives in Kurmi Mashi, Kaduna.