The furore generated by the allegations of ICPC against the DG of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and Pinnacle Communications is most certainly yet to settle.
It will be recalled that the NBC and its DG, at a recent press interview, vehemently denied the allegations levied against them by ICPC, through the Rasheedat Okoduwa press release. The NBC spokesperson, Mrs Maimuna Jimada, even went to the extent of claiming ignorance of any investigation against its Director General.
Meanwhile, the Competent Governance for Accountability and Civic Trust in a letter, dated 21 November 2018, to ICPC Chairman demanded the release of Information on the much talked about issue under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. The Chairman of ICPC in his reply dated 26 November 2018 and signed by one Sharon Ogiri-Okpe, referred the FOI request on the bidding process for the licensing of Pinnacle back to NBC. The same letter however said that the ICPC investigation on the allegations of the release of N2.5 Billion to Pinnacle Communications was “stalled” because of a pending court action by Pinnacle Communications against the ICPC and Zenith Bank.
A group, the Competent Governance for Accountability & Civic Trust says its investigations at the Federal High Court Abuja however show that the position of ICPC in the letter may be far from the truth.
Documents filed in Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/779/2018 by Pinnacle Communications against ICPC, Zenith Bank and the Federal AG, show that Pinnacle is challenging the defendants over the use of a fraudulent or non existent Magistrate Court order procured by ICPC to direct Zenith Bank to restrict Pinnacle from operating its bank account since June 2018.
In the court papers filed, Pinnacle said it was not opposed to ICPC discharging its duty by carrying on any investigation but that the Magistrate Court order relied on by one Akeem Lawal, ICPC Head of Department/Investigation, to write directing Zenith Bank to place a no-debit restriction on Pinnacle bank account is fraudulent and non existent. Pinnacle also claims that the Magistrate Court that issued the purported order had no jurisdiction to issue such order. Copies of the Magistrate court order seen in the file show it to be on the letterhead of ICPC.
It will be recalled that Justice Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria only recently chastised Magistrate Courts following series of complaints for issuing reckless orders to Police. The top jurist is quoted as saying that “In addition, reckless remand orders must not be issued by your courts where it appears that the Police lack evidence to prosecute a criminal matter or your courts do not possess the requisite jurisdiction to entertain such matter.”
How ICPC will reconcile issuing a press release on 15 November 2018 saying it’s investigations show an alleged fraud by NBC and Pinnacle and on 26 November 2018 the same ICPC say that its investigation into the same matter was “stalled” because of a court action remains to be seen.
The question being asked is what formed the basis of the press release of 15 November 2018 by Rasheedat Okoduwa spokesperson of ICPC when there was either no investigation or incomplete investigation as the Chairman ICPC’s letter of 26 November 2018 clearly alleges?
Insiders are now asking: is ICPC playing the ostrich here or is the anti-graft agency playing a premeditated script.?