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Buhari Urged To Suspend NBC Boss Over N2.5b Fraud

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President Mohammadu Buhari has been urged to suspend the Director General, Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, (NBC) Dr. Kawu Modibbo over reports linking him with alleged mismanagement of about N2.5 billion meant for the commission.

In a petition sent to President Mohammadu Buhari a copy of which was also sent to the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission, (ICPC), the Human Environment and Development Agenda, (HEDA) said the suspension of the DG was necessary to ensure fairplay in the on-going trial.The group said the fact that the ICPC had commenced investigation was enough for Kawu to have stepped aside but that if he fails to do that, he should be suspended.

In the statement signed by HEDA signed by its Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, the leading anti-corruption maestro said the ICPC had already carried out detailed investigation of the NBC Chairman which prompted Kawu’s prosecution.

HEDA urged Buhari to invoke Rule 030406, a constitutional clause which states that a public officer can be suspended where a prima facie case, the nature of which is serious, has been established pending investigation into the misconduct. Rule 030406 also applies to erring officials of the Federal Civil Service Commission or the Permanent Secretary/Head of Extra-Ministerial Office shall forthwith suspend an official from the exercise of official powers and functions and from the enjoyment of associated emoluments.

HEDA said the DG should be suspended within the next 14 days adding that he can only be reinstated if he is exonerated by the court of law. The trial is currently on-going before Justice Folasade Ogunbanjo-Giwa of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Suraju wrote in the petition “We make bold to reiterate that the investigation carried out by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission which led to the eventual prosecution of the Director-General was properly investigated and established a prima facie case before prosecuting same. It is important to note that our organisation believes in presumption of innocence and basis for our request is premised on the allegations and the investigation of the ICPC as ground for the serious misconduct to warrant immediate suspension.”

Citing other relevant legal provisions, HEDA noted that “The allegations to be tried by the court is such that carry some weight and, in the circumstance, to aid the speedy and smooth adjudication of the prosecution, we are of the strong believe that in the best interest of justice, the Director General be suspended.”

It said the allegations levelled against the Director General of NBC, is such within the definition of Serious Misconduct as defined in the Federal Government Civil Service Rules in Rule 030401 which defines “Serious misconduct as a specific act of very serious wrongdoing and improper behaviour which is inimical to the image of the service and which can be investigated and if proven, may lead to dismissal.”

It also referred to, Chapter 3, Section 4, 030402 (a-w) which enumerates acts that constitute serious misconduct and out of the lot, we consider the Director General in breach of the following, according to the allegations levelled in the charge against him by the ICPC; “as in Rule 030402 (j) Bribery; (k) Corruption; (1) Embezzlement; (m) Misappropriation.”

HEDA said Kawu’s suspension will promote transparency, accountability and good governance while keeping sanity in the anti-corruption campaign. It said it is a wrong notion that Kawu, being a political appointee should not be subject to the civil service rule.

Quoting Section 5 (2) of the National Broadcasting Commission Act, 1992, which states that the Director General shall be appointed by the President, Commander in Chief of the Armed forces on the recommendation of the Minister, HEDA said “The position occupied by the Director being the Chief Executive of the commission and same is on appointment, it is usually common place that since it is a political appointment, he ought not be bound by the Civil Service Rules, we answer in the negative because the Federal Civil Service Rules invariably applies to the Director General of the NBC, regardless of being a political appointee, he or she becomes bound by the Federal Government Civil Service Rules for the duration of his or her appointment and we believe that since this position is one which the DG falls, same should apply to him as well in the case of interdiction.

The presidency in 2016 had released N10 billion to the Ministry of Information and Culture for the digital switch-over programme which entailed the migration of telephone lines from analogue to digital platforms. A White Paper was issued directing that the process be specifically handled by government-affiliated companies. Based on the guidelines, two companies were nominated to handle the process, one of which was ITS, an affiliate of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). N1.7 billion was released as seed grant for the commencement of the switch-over.

However, ICPC through investigation discovered that the process was fraught with alleged corrupt practices. It was alleged that Mr. Kawu fraudulently recommended a private company called Pinnacle Communications Limited, to the Minister of Information and Culture, for the release of N2.5 billion against the guidelines contained in the White Paper leading to the company being credited with N2.5 billion paid into the Zenith Bank account of Pinnacle Communications Limited in May/June, 2017.

The trio, Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Moddibbo Kawu, alongside the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Mr. Lucky Omoluwa and the Chief Operating Officer of the same company, Mr. Dipo Onifade were finally arraigned on the May 2, 2019 before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa of the Federal High Court, Abuja in a 12-count charge bordering on the abuse of office, money laundering and misleading of a public officer with the intent to defraud the federal government, in contravention of Section 26 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 19 of the same law. This was after several failed attempts to bring the suspects in the dock based on suspicious complaints of ill health or lack of service of the processes. The ICPC had discovered during investigation, several suspicious transfers of large sums of funds from into the bank accounts of several organisations and individuals. For instance, it was also discovered that N100 million of the fund was paid into the personal bank account of one Mr Onifade in Zenith Bank which he claimed was for legal services that he had rendered to the same Pinnacle Communications where he is employed as a staff.

The investigation revealed that another N450 million was transferred into the account of Sabdat Investment Limited, a Bureau de Change, which then converted the money into dollars and handed it over to the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Lucky Omoluwa, in his Kaduna residence.

Media reports claimed Mr. Lucky Omoluwa had repeatedly ignored invitation by the Commission and also sought the leave of the Federal High Court, Abuja, to stop the investigation as well as unfreeze the Zenith Bank account of the company that was frozen by ICPC. The same court had however ordered him to appear before ICPC for interrogation.

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