MODIBO KAWU’S ICPC TRAVAILS AND THE EMEKA MBA SHADOW THAT WON’T GO.
My attention was drawn to an article making the rounds, about how I, in league with some powerful people, are scheming to remove a serving director general from office. The article in question, “The Modibbo Kawu ICPC Indictment: Shine Your Eyes,” authored by one Abubakar Mahmoud Ahmed, has over 20 mentions of my name, and attempts to show that I am in cahoots with the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the national leader of APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed. The convoluted piece makes a lot of allegations, mangles publicly available data, and makes proclamations that would be laughable if they were not so egregious.
On a good day I would let personal attacks slide, but these are not normal times. Nigeria today is polarised, overflowing with propaganda that justifies impunity, and the suffering that my family and I have endured by reason of already existing lies compel me to respond to this.
I served as the Director General of the National Broadcast Commission, NBC, between May 13th, 2013 and February 15th, 2016. During my tenure I was saddled with the weighty responsibility of ensuring Nigeria’s transition from analogue to digital broadcasting with a deadline set by the International Telecommunication Union, ITU for 17 June 2015. It is important to note that up until now, Nigeria has failed to meet that deadline.
Prior to Mr. Lai Mohammed’s appointment as Minister of Information in late 2015, I had never met the gentleman. Upon his appointment as supervising minister of the agency I headed, as is customary, all parastatal Chief Executives made it a point of duty to build a positive working relationship with their supervising Minister. That relationship, at no time amounted to the payment of illicit funds to anyone on Mr. Mohammed’s behalf or at his behest.
As a matter of record, it would have been impossible for the NBC during my tenure to fund any person or political party, not to talk of funding the political campaign of the incumbent president at that time. The license fee of ?34 Billion from MTN came in August 2015, a clear five months after the 2015 general elections. The NBC account details are available for scrutiny, and the EFCC did more than scrutinise those accounts. The EFCC committed several months to scrutinising my personal accounts, which have remained frozen since 2016 with severe repercussions to my family and I.
The records of the proceedings of the licensing round and the decision to appoint and license Inview Technology as the preferred middleware conditional access provider for the digital switch over are still available, as are my own records. If the payment to Inview for the DSO was deemed illegal, I believe that my successor at the NBC would have long ago taken the appropriate actions to rectify such an illegality, but more than three years after, the same framework is still in operation, and is the basis of the successes recorded with the analogue to digital switch over.
Preparatory to the ITU DSO deadline of June 2015, the NBC and Digiteam in May 2014 announced a public expression of interest in at least three national newspapers, the Federal Tender publications, and via other international trade press for persons interested in applying for “type approval certification for the manufacture or dealership of DTT set top boxes.” This announcement was done more than a year before the NBC raised the ?34 billion for the DSO in August 2015. How then can this article claim that my friends and associates set up shell companies to bid for chunks of the ?34 billion that did not exist? The selection of the STB manufacturers was an open process conducted by Digiteam, after which the selected companies paid the NBC ?50 million each for the right to manufacture STB locally.
Two Ministers, Information Minister Labaran Maku, and Mrs Omobola Johnson, the Minister of Communication Technology approved the DSO budget after rigorous arguments. The minutes and documentations including the formula for calculating the subsidy rebate scheme, as part of a mechanism to stimulate digital uptake and local manufacturing are detailed out in the relevant official documents. It was on the basis of certification of the process by both ministers that the presidential approval was obtained.
Why then, did the author of the article not mention this process?
Today, I am proud that the decision to go the subsidy rebate route has led to the establishment of at least six world-class STB and electronics manufacturing plants in Nigeria, including Gospell Digital in Calabar, Trefonics Ltd in Abuja, SMK Engineering in Abuja, DigitTunes in Lagos, and TVE owned by NTA located in Oshogbo. The Minister, and the current DG of the NBC proudly participated at the commissioning ceremony of Gospell Digital in Calabar free trade zone way back in 2017.
Let me say this perhaps for the first time publicly, the decision taken to license Pinnacle Communications Ltd was at great personal and professional risk to me, against the very clear directives of some very influential persons in government at that time. And yes, in order to ensure that the decision of the NBC and Digiteam stood regarding the licensing of Pinnacle, I did undertake a campaign to seek political cover for my decision to go ahead with the licensing of Sir Lucky Omuluwa’s Pinnacle Communication, something that I would later be accused of collecting millions from him to stand by the decision of the Commission. At no time during my tenure did I encourage others to treat any other licensee as a “leper.” The facts are abundant in several minutes of DSO contact team meetings which held regularly at Protea Hotel Asokoro, now BON Hotel, Abuja, even though Pinnacle and their agents boycotted, and made attempts to disrupt, under the guise that they had taken NBC and myself to court. The records of those meetings are still available, and I have my copies. In fact, we held so many stakeholder meetings at Protea Asokoro, Abuja preparatory to the ITU’s June 2015 deadline.
Despite the persecution meted out to my family and I, I left the NBC in February 2016 with my head and shoulders high. We started one of the most far-reaching and visionary digital broadcasting reforms to transform Nigeria broadcasting and media industry. Today those achievements serve as the platform for continuing growth in that sector. Again, the ?10 billion, which the writer claimed I hid from the TSA, was in the same NBC bank account where the money was received from MTN as license fee. I have been accused of many things, but even the EFCC has not accused me of personally enriching myself, or of using the NBC’s money to finance any politician’s campaign.
Everyone else mentioned in the disgraceful article is capable of defending themselves, including Mr. Lai Mohammed who allegedly received illicit handouts from me, in exchange for providing assurances of support to keep me in office. I am extremely lucky to have served as chief executive of two federal parastatals, positions that I never lobbied for, and I say with some modesty that at both agencies I did my best to uplift them, and contribute to the growth of the Nigerian media and entertainment industry.
I am certain that the ICPC have the mechanisms to determine who the author of the petitions with them is and indeed the person petitioned against also has the right to see who the petitioner is. I am not a bitter or vengeful person, and I would wager that people that I have worked with or relate with can testify to this. I have zero interest in going after anyone’s job.