DSO caught in ICPC/NBC face-off over alleged N2.5b unlawful payment

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The Digital Switch Over (DSO) from analogue television broadcasts in Nigeria is now at the centre of a major row between the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Miscellaneous Offences Commission (ICPC) over a N2.5 billion payment to Pinnacle Communications Limited that will scuttle further progress on the much delayed project.

The ICPC seems bent on acting on its alleged investigations into the payment despite the widespread outrage it generated when its press release on the matter two months ago exposed a series of factual, terminological and contextual errors and misrepresentations which strongly indicated that the ICPC was grossly misinformed and misled in its supposed investigations into the affairs of the DSO, NBC and Pinnacle Communications Limited.

The loud silence from the ICPC in the face of a barrage of criticism and accusations of wholly adopting unverified contents of petitions from disgruntled DSO contractors as well as the invalidation of its order freezing accounts of Pinnacle Communications Limited by a Federal High Court in Abuja that also admonished the ICPC to stop relying on “beer parlour gossip” and ensure thorough professional investigations before instituting any action sealed the prospects of ICPC’s DSO probe.

However, news of ICPC filing charges against the NBC DG, Ishaq Modibbo Kawu at the Federal High Court, Abuja on the same issues raised in its earlier “outrageous” press statement emerged Wednesday on the social media without any formal statement from the ICPC as it has been doing was subsequently confirmed indicated that the Commission was not backing off though it has lost the zeal to announce the decision.

But the NBC DG, Ishaq Modibbo Kawu promptly issued a statement reiterating his insistence that all payments under the DSO project were made in compliance with the provisions of the FG White Paper as well as the FG directive that all payments for DSO be approved by the Minister of Information. He explained that Pinnacle Communications Limited was not “an unqualified company” the second licensed national signal distributors for the DSO after winning the bidding process in 2014 and paying NBC N680 million he described as the “single biggest contribution to DSO so far”. He also confirmed that Pinnacle Communications delivered the Abuja National Switch Over in 2016 Kaduna in 2017 and were appointed signal distributors for Abuja, Kaduna, Gombe and Asaba switch over by NBC.

The NBC DG said Pinnacle Communications Limited were paid N2.5 billion for their work May 2017 which is the figure being bandied around by the ICPC. The DG also maintained that the ICPC stated that it received a petition from a faceless person as the basis of their action and the contents of their first press release that had several factual errors and also the basis of the court action.

There is serious concern in the broadcast sector that the DSO, which was twice postponed and thereafter delayed by protracted court action before the Ishaq Modibbo-led NBC management succeeded in resolving the disputes and getting the DSO launched and progressively implemented across the country as one of the major change dividends of the Buhari Administration, will soon be stalled again by the ICPC’s actions.

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