The suspension of the Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mallam Modibbo Kawu, at the weekend, by President Muhammadu Buhari was to pave the way for unhindered trial and ensure state resources are not used in the defence of N2. 5bn fraud allegations levelled against him, as he is standing trial at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Kawu is being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) for paying N2. 5bn seed grant to Pinnacle Communications Limited, one of the signal distributors for the Digital Switch-over projects.
According to ICPC, the payment was in contravention of the Federal Government’s White Paper on switch-over from analogue to digital broadcasting.The Guardian learnt that in a letter from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (DGF) conveying his suspension, which was dated February 13, 2020, the most senior Director in the commission, Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Dr. Armstrong Idachaba has been mandated to take over pending the outcome of the case.
Sources close to the commission told newsmen that ICPC had since 2019, recommended that Kawu be suspended until the case is determined to avoid using official resources to pursue his case.
According to the sources, the payment of the N2.5bn contravenes the Law, as the White Paper on Digital Switch Over did not make provision for payment of seed grant to any private operator for the DSO but recommended only that a seed grant be given to an independent company to be formed from the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) as a major broadcast signal distributor.
The sources said this informed the reason NBC under the leadership of the former Director General of the commission, Mr. Emeka Mbah paid the first national signal distributor, Integrated-Television-Services (ITS) N1.7bn as seed grant to enable it procure equipment and commence services.
The sources disclosed that N2. 5bn paid to Pinnacles Communications, aside contravening the provisions of the White Paper, was above the approved limits of the Director General and even a minister, as such an amount could only be approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).