The immediate past Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has been dragged by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), to appear before a Federal High Court, Abuja to explain his role in the alleged misappropriation of N2.5 billion Federal Government Digital Switch-Over (DSO), programme.
According to the message sent out by the spokesperson of the ICPC, Rasheedat Okoduwa, the minister is to appear in the case as a prosecution witness in the case against the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Modibbo Kawu.
Recall that Kawu is being arraigned for alleged abuse of office and money laundering.
ICPC had filed a 12-count charge before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa, against Kawu, Lucky Omoluwa and Dipo Onifade, the Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Pinnacle Communications Limited respectively, saying that the NBC director general misled the former Minister into approving government funds to a private company.
The statement from the anti-corruption statement said the former Minister’s involvement had come under questioning following the discovery by ICPC during investigations, that a government White Paper that governs the execution of the DSO programme was allegedly flouted by the head of NBC.
Rasheedat Okoduwa said that Mohammed, had however admitted in a statement to the commission that he was misled by Kawu, as opined in court by a witness from ICPC, Osanato Olugbemi.
She added that Olugbemi, led in evidence by counsel to ICPC, Henry Emore also told the court that the payment of N2.5 billion from NBC to Pinnacle Communications Limited, as seed grant was suspicious because the ICPC found out through its investigations that only government-owned company was approved to benefit from the grant according to the White Paper.
Adding that: “the court also heard that the processes that led to the final payment of the fund to the private company were shrouded in secrecy as revealed by the minute from an NBC emergency board management meeting, where issues of carriage fees owed Pinnacle and not seed grant was discussed.
He told the court that 47 suspicious transactions were originated by the Chairman of Pinnacle Communications, Omoluwa, immediately after the receipt of the funds on June 2, 2017”.
She said the transactions include payments of N363 million to one Idowu Olatunde, N274.4 million to one James Segun and N127 million to Dipo Onifade, the Chief Operating Officer of the company.
The ICPC informed the court that Omoluwa refused to explain the reasons for the payments to Olatunde and James when asked by ICPC, but Onifade explained that he received the N127 million as legal fees he rendered to Pinnacle Communications Limited.