Pinnacle Communications, a licensed digital switch-over operator in Nigeria has further raised the alarm over the alleged invasion of the company office by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC. It called on the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, to urgently investigate operatives of ICPC who recently made ‘’unlawful’’ attempt to break into its office in Asokoro area of the FCT without any court warrant.
Mr Abayomi Oyelola, Counsel for the company made the plea at a news conference on Tuesday in Abuja, saying the action was no doubt, a dastardly and gangster-like manner with an acclaimed “order from above’’ to arrest the company’s Chairman and Managing Director as well as seal the Pinnacle Operational office.
Oyelola said the intervention of the Minister of Justice was immediately required to compel the anti-corruption body to observe the rule of law.
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“This will help to deflate the obvious display of prejudice in the agency’s dealings with Pinnacle.
“The Management of Pinnacle Communications is compelled to address you, the members of the exalted fourth estate of the realm in view of January 15 distasteful invasion of its operational office by operatives of the ICPC.
“By way of introduction, pinnacle communications is a licensed digital switch-over operator in Nigeria that has so far been conducting its businesses in line with the laws of the land.
“The import of this is to draw the attention of the appropriate authorities and the general public to the despicable, unwarranted, and illegal invasion of the company’s office located on Charles DeGualle Street, Asokoro, Abuja by operatives of the ICPC.
“The action was no doubt, a dastardly and gangster-like manner with an acclaimed “order from above’’ to arrest the company’s Chairman and Managing Director as well as seal the Pinnacle Operational office.
“The operatives and policemen came fully armed in four vehicles, 3 hilux vans and a car, garbed in ICPC jackets that authenticated their identities. The company’s security cameras had captured the incidence with available footage as evidence.
“During the encounter, Pinnacle communications officials demanded the warrant of arrest and order of court that legally gave them the impetus.
“The operatives failed to produce any document. Rather they claimed that they were working with geographical coordinate. Whatever that means in anti-corruption parlance, we don’t know’’, Oyelola said.
Oyelola further said: “After Pinnacle officials made some calls to report the brazen and unpleasant incident in the presence of the invaders, one of the ICPC operatives answered a call’’.
According to him, the ICPC official precedes to hand the phone to one of his colleagues that appeared to have led the operation.
He explained that Pinnacle officials could hear the conversation of the operative saying: “We are here already’’, “we have not entered’’, “they claim he is not around’’, “No pressmen, nobody’’.
“Afterwards, the operative on the telephone suddenly said to his colleagues “let’s go let’s go let’s go’’, and they left hurriedly in that botched operation’’.
‘’The Pinnacle officials heard the operative lamenting on their way to their vehicles that they should have shot (gunshot) their way into the premises as soon as they arrived.’’
According to him, the invasion amounts to regulatory terrorism.
“This illegal attempt to harass and intimidate the company and its officials further confirms that ICPC has been on a witch-hunt mission from the beginning.
“Pinnacle as a law-abiding entity expresses concern on this show of dastardly act undertaken by ICPC.’
“ As law-abiding citizens, we are urging the ICPC’s Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, to respect the rule of law and call his men to order so as to forestall actions that could further tarnish the image of the commission’’, Oyelola said.
When Nigerian News Agency contacted ICPC on the matter, Mrs Rasheedat Okoduwa, the Public Relations Officer of the ICPC, said the commission heard about the incident.
She said that she was not in the position to respond.
”It is only the Chairman that can react. He is out of town for an official trip and will not pick his calls”, she said.
Nigeria News Agency reports that ICPC had dragged Pinnacle to court regarding payment on Digital Switch Over operation.
Pinnacle communications gained prominence when in 2014, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) which was elected to guide the country’s digitalisation process advertised the opening for a private signal distributor.
Following the advertisement, 16 companies bided and pinnacle communications, a fully indigenous company won.
The company thereafter paid the sum of 618 million mandatory license fees to the federal government.
When the license was eventually issued, the company discovered that some vital provisions in the initial license template had been removed from the final document issued after the stipulated fee had been paid.
The management approached the court for redress which stalled the process of the digital switch over until the present government came on board.
In 2016, the NBC, determined to return the country to the path of progress on the global initiative, invited Pinnacle communications for talks to end the debacle.
After series of meeting, an agreement was reached between the company and the government.
The company also beat the three-month deadline given to it to set up its operation in Abuja, in order to qualify for any payment.
NAN further recalls that the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo had inaugurated the Abuja Digital Switch Over Station in 2016 which was followed by the Kaduna station commissioned by Kaduna State Governor.
After what appeared to be a satisfactory work, the sum of N2.5 billion was paid to the company after the Abuja station was successfully delivered.
The white paper which is the guiding document for the DSO gives the power of approval to the Minister of Information.
The company, therefore, expressed shock when the ICPC announced the trial of the D-G of NBC and two other principal staff of Pinnacle communications over same payment.
The trio was preferred a 12-count charge bordering on abuse of office, money laundering and misleading a public officer with the intent to defraud the federal government.
According to the anti-graft body, the alleged offences are in contravention of Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
The Presidency had in 2016, released N10 billion to the Ministry of Information and Culture for the DSO programme and a White Paper was issued directing how the process should be executed.
Based on the guidelines provided by the White Paper, two companies were nominated to handle the process, one of which was ITS, an affiliate of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
To this end, the sum of N1.7 billion was released to it as seed grant for the commencement of the switch-over.
It was, however, alleged that Director-General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mr Modibbo Kawu fraudulently recommended Pinnacle Communications Limited, a private company, to the Minister of Information and Culture, for the release of N2.5 billion against the guidelines contained in the White Paper”.
However, findings have shown that while Pinnacles won the bid in 2014, Kawu came into office in 2016.
The ICPC claimed that the Minister of Information was misled in the transaction, the allegation is pending before the court.
The company said it had since joined in the action in response to the pleadings made in court by the commission, adding that the current threat was contemptuous.