How N2.5b DSO project was approved, by witness

Lai Mohammed to explain role in alleged fraud on October 2
A prosecution witness in the trial of Director-General, National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Modibbo and three others, has told the court how N2.5 billion meant for the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project was approved.

Testifying before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Alheri Saidu, a retired legal adviser to NBC, told the court that the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, approved the payment to Pinnacle Communications Ltd in line with the provisions of the 2012 White Paper on Implementation of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project.

The White Paper was admitted as Exhibit 2 by the court.

Pinnacle Communications Ltd is facing trial alongside its Chairman, Sir Lucky Omoluwa and the Chief Operating Officer, Dipo Onifade.

She stated that N10 billion was approved for the DSO project by the Federal Government from which another company, CCNL, was also paid based on the approval of the minister.

The prosecution witness further disclosed that when she was the acting director-general of NBC, she did approve the payment to CCNL without a board.

According to the witness, 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.

During cross-examination by the counsel to the fourth defendant (PCL), A.V. Etuwewe, the ICPC’s witness could not cite where the white paper prohibited similar payment to PCL.

The witness also denied a statement credited to her in the minutes of an emergency management meeting of NBC held on May 31, 2017, in respect of the request for payment by PCL.

She was alleged to have contributed that “all over the world where the DSO was implemented, government paid for services rendered to it.”

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

She said there was no legislative document covering implementation of the DSO, as the White Paper was a policy guide referred to in implementing the project.

Meanwhile, former Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has been scheduled to appear before the Federal High Court, Abuja, on October 2, 2019 to explain why he approved the release of N2.5 billion DSO seed grant to a private company.