By Soni Daniel, Emma Ujah & Umoru Henry
ABUJA—Director-General of National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, Mr. Modibbo Kawu, has justified the payment of N2.5 billion by the agency to a Nigerian communications firm, Pinnacle, saying the amount was commensurate with the quality and quantity of work so far done by the company and in accordance with the prevailing exchange rate.
Kawu, spoke in response to claim by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Commission, ICPC, that the payment was undeserving and questionable, leading to the quizzing of the NBC boss by the anti-graft agency.
Conducting a team of Vanguard journalists round the projects being undertaken by Pinnacle in Abuja to warrant the payment, Kawu said the expenditure was also to ward off protracted legal tussle, which Pinnacle had instituted against the NBC and the Federal Government with regards to the bids for the digital switchover project in Nigeria.
The D-G told Vanguard that there was nothing arbitrary in the payment and explained that ITS was paid in 2015 when the exchange rate was N165/$1, while Pinnacle was paid in June 2017, when the naira exchange rate had dropped to N380/$1.
Modibbo said: “We paid them six months after they had installed. That was June 2017. The question that follows is: you paid ITS N1.7 billion, how come you paid Pinnacle N2.5 billion? Very relevant question. ITS was paid in 2015. At that time, naira/dollar exchange rate was N165/$1. In the middle of 2017, the exchange rate was N380/$1. That was the context in which we paid them.”
Giving the background to Pinnacle’s coming on board as the second National Signal Distributor, Kawu said: “Pinnacle Communications won a bid in 2014. There was an open competitive bid that the NBC and DGT, the implementation arm of the Digital Switch Over carried out.
“About 11 companies were shortlisted in that bid process. This was an open, transparent, competitive bid that was broadcast on television two years before I became the D-G of NBC.
“The bid was for the second National Signal Distributor, because the white paper said that there should be one signal distributor out of the NTA system, because that Nigerian government had invested a lot of money in 154 transmission sites and so cannot allow it to just go away like that.
“A Signal Distributor was to come out of that. So ITS came out of that. A bid for the second National Digital Distributor was, therefore, to come from the competitive bid and Pinnacle won.
“It was asked to pay N680 million. At that moment, Pinnacle became the single largest contributor to the Digital Switchover up till today.”