Charges have been filed against the director general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and three others by Nigeria’s Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
Those charged include NBC chief Is’haq Kawu Modibbo as well as Dipo Onifade, Lucky Omonuwa and Pinnacle Communications. The charges relate to alleged irregularities in the award of a N2.5bn (US$6.9m) digital switchover (DSO) contract.
The suspects are to face trial on a 12-count charge before a federal high court in Abuja, although there is no date for their arraignment yet. The charges were filed by ICPC officials Henry Emore and Adenekan Shogunle on January 14.
According to the charges, Modibbo approved a payment of N2.5bn to Pinnacle, owned by Omonuwa, as seed grant under the DSO plan of the federal government of Nigeria, even though he was allegedly aware the company was not entitled to the grant.
This is an offence and is punishable under Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Act 2000.
However, Modibbo and Pinnacle deny the allegations levelled against them, stating that the ICPC has no knowledge of the entire process of the contract award.
Over the Christmas season, 30 or more local and national TV channels were made available on Nigeria’s FreeTV platform, thanks to digital switchover (DSO).
The extra digital bandwidth made available by DSO has meant more television channels can be offered to homes with the right digital TV equipment.
Lucky Omoluwa, chairman of Nigerian tech firm Pinnacle Communications, said Nigeria’s population is now “more informed about the country’s events and issues” since DSO has been implemented in the country.
According to Omoluwa, the switch from analogue broadcasts in Nigeria has immense benefits on its citizens and the country as a whole. His comments were made as part of his annual Christmas announcement.
Pinnacle is reportedly the only private licensed national signals distributor as part of the DSO Nigeria programme.
It has been revealed that the contracts given to move Nigeria from analogue to digital broadcasting were approved by former president Goodluck Jonathan and not by information and culture minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the director-general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Modibbo Kawu.
Claims had been made in the past that the two were involved with the approval but a source has suggested they only implemented the white paper approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) under President Jonathan.
In 2014, a deadline was set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for Nigeria to move to digital broadcasting, which would make Nigeria the biggest digital television market in Africa, positively impact the Nigerian film industry and contribute to the growth of the economy.
The digital switchover budget was later approved by the FEC and contracts approved by the Jonathan administration.
“The allegation that the NBC DG also awarded contract to Pinnacle Communications is also false as the contract was awarded before the Muhammadu Buhari administration. It is also not true that the minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, claimed he was misled by the NBC DG into approving payment,” said the source.
“The mischief makers have cleverly hidden the fact that the minister also authored payment – based on the approval by the Jonathan administration – to other players in the Echo System, such as Inview, CCNL, ITS and set-top box manufacturers.”