Lai Mohammed, the immediate past minister of Information and Culture, is to appear before a Federal High Court in Abuja to explain his role in the alleged misuse of the N2,5 billion payment for the Digital Switch Over (DSO) programme.
Mohammed’s invitation by the court was made known in a statement issued by Rasheedat Okoduwa, spokesperson of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The ICPC had filed 12 counts against Modibbo Kawu, Director General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC); Lucky Omoluwa, Chairman of Pinnacle Communications Limited; and Dipo Onifade, the Chief Operating Officer of the company.
The anti-graft agency is also prosecuting Kawu for alleged abuse of office and money laundering.
According to the statement, Mohammed was invited to explain his role in the DSO payment after he claimed that he was misled by the NBC DG.
The former Information minister has also been asked to shed more light on the probe he conducted while in office concerning the payment.
The statement read: “The former minister’s involvement had come under questioning following discovery by the ICPC during investigations, that a government White Paper that governs the execution of the DSO programme was allegedly flouted by the head of the NBC.
“Mohammed had however admitted in a statement to the commission that he was misled by Kawu, as opined in court by a witness from the ICPC, Osanato Olugbemi. Olugbemi, led in evidence by counsel for the ICPC, Henry Emore, also told the court that the payment of N2.5bn from the NBC to Pinnacle Communications Limited as seed grant was suspicious because only government-owned company was approved to benefit from the grant according to the White Paper.”
The ICPC said Olugbemi informed the court that the final payment of the fund to the private company “were shrouded in secrecy.”
Noting that an emergency meeting of the NBC board management was called in which some aspects of the payment were not discussed, the anti-graft agency stated that the witness also told the court that 47 suspicious transactions were attributed to Pinnacle Communications Chairman after the receipt of the funds on June 2, 2017.
The statement read: “The transactions include payments of N363m to one Idowu Olatunde, N274.4m to one James Segun and N127 m to Onifade. Onifade explained that he received the money as legal fee he rendered to the company.
“A Bureau de change operator, Salisu Daura, who also testified in court, said he received N167m in two installments of N97m and N70m. Daura added that the sums were converted into $265,000 and $195,735 at the rate of N360 to US dollar, and handed the cash to one Alhaji Sabo, supposedly on behalf of Pinnacle Communications,