Engr. Friday Ukwela, a prosecution witness called by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), on Monday told a Federal High sitting in Abuja that the Digital Switch Over facility put in place by Pinnacle Communications Ltd (PCL), “is world class”.
Ukwela, a Director Engineering and Technical, NBC, made the disclosure before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo Giwa, the judge in the ongoing trial of the Director General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Ishaq Modibbo Kawu and three others.
Testifying upon cross examination by counsel to Pinnacle Communications Ltd (4th defendant) Ama Etuwewe, the ICPC witness also stated that the DSO project “is a very expensive venture” adding that the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who approved the payment of N2.5billion to PCL, “is familiar with DSO project but does not know substantially everything about DSO”.
“I know that the DSO is a very expensive project.
“Yes, I was part of the team that visited and inspected the DSO facility put in place by Pinnacle Communications Ltd.
“It is a world class facility and has been in operation till date” the witness told the court, while answering questions from the 4th defendant’s lawyer.
Furthermore, the fifth prosecution witness stated that going by the government White Paper on the DSO project, “it was agreed that signal distributors should be paid for services rendered.
However, Ukwela disclosed that television stations whose signals are being distributed by PCL across the length and breadth of Nigeria have not been paying for Carriage Fees because the fees have not been determined by the industry.
It would be recalled that one Charles Adama, the fourth prosecution witness had admitted that the N2.5bn was part of the N10bn released by the Federal Government to execute the DSO Project in the country and that the NBC had not received any complaint from the FG in respect of the money paid to PCL.
According to Adama, “the presidency did not complain up to this moment; the Information Minister agreed that he approved the N2.5bn, and has not written to withdraw the approval up till now, neither did he inform us that he was misled nor told us in writing that PCL was not entitled to the N2.5bn.
The ICPC investigator claimed he did not know that the national launch of the DSO was performed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari on the site of the Pinnacle Broadcast Centre on Mpape Hill in December 2016, months before the payment made to PCL because they did not visit the site or the Kaduna Broadcast Centre during investigations.
He said he was aware that PCL paid over N600 million for the signal distributor license in 2014 but did not know that it subsequently took NBC to court for breach of the license agreement which was withdrawn following negotiations initiated by the Buhari Administration in 2016 to resume DSO implementation.