#TrackNigeria – Former Minister of Information Lai Mohammed has finally made a statement to the ICPC investigators taking responsibility for the approval of the N2.5 billion payment to Pinnacle Communications Limited by the National Broadcasting Commission under the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project.
In his statement dated June 13, 2019, made available to defence counsel in the alleged fraud case brought against the NBC DG Ishaq Modibbo Kawu and executives of Pinnacle Communications Limited, Lai as he is fondly called said he approved the payment “on the strength of” particular reference to section 11.2 (c) of the White Paper governing Implementation of the DSO in Nigeria by the NBC DG in recommending the payment to him for approval.
Lai further said section 11.2(c) of the White Paper “directed the NBC to put in place necessary conditions and ensure that close to a level playing field is achieved in reference to the significant advantage over new entrants enjoyed in the DSO ecosystem by the Government Signal Distributor, in this case the ITS that came out of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which already had 157 transmission sites spread across Nigeria.”
The former minister added that the recommendation letter from NBC also recalled that ITS had already been paid N1.7 billion for DSO rollout in three states and therefore noted that the payment of N2.5 billion to Pinnacle Communications Limited would represent close to a level playing field that the White Paper called for.
He explained that by virtue of their position as chief executives of various parastatals under his ministry, he frequently relied on their expert professspinal advice when they sought his approval for projects.
” I wish to state categorically that there was no meeting in London between me and Pinnacle Communications Limited or its representatives regarding any form of payment to Pinnacle Communications Limited or its representatives,” Lai declared in his hand written statement to ICPC.
The former minister further stated that he did not need to seek approval of the Federal Executive Council for the payment to Pinnacle Communications Limited since he already had a presidential directive that the money released, about N10 billion was to be used under his supervision for the Digital Switch Over (DSO).