The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered ICPC to unfreeze the account of Pinnacle Communications Limited and counselled anti-corruption agencies of government against taking drastic action that could prevent private enterprises from flourishing prior to concluding investigations to justify such action.
Delivering his ruling in the case instituted against ICPC by Pinnacle Communications Limited for instructing Zenith Bank to freeze its account Friday, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba maintained that the anti-corruption war was as beneficial to the society as flourishing private enterprises, pointing out that scuttling the operations of major private organizations like Pinnacle Communications Limited also sent negative signals to the international community about Nigeria’s business environment.
Justice Dimgba described ICPC’s action against Pinnacle Communications Limited as “an overkill just like using a sledgehammer to kill a fly” considering that even after six months since the case was instituted and despite leeway provided by many adjournments by the court, ICPC could not file any charges against the company, emphasizing that it should not have frozen the account without establishing a prima facie against it.
The judge remarked that anti-corruption agencies should not base their actions on rumours or “beer parlour stories” but on thorough investigations that could sustain judicial scrutiny.
.It would be recalled the media was agog over a statement credited to the spokesperson of the ICPC, Mrs Rasheedat Okoduwa, who claimed that the agency was investigating an alleged N2.5bn fraud levelled against the DG of NBC, Dr Moddibo Kawu, and other top officials of the corporation.
She added that the money involved was a grant released to the agency by the Federal Government for its digital switch-over programme.
The statement further said “The Presidency in 2016, released N10bn to the Ministry of Information and Culture for the digital switch-over programme which entails migration of telephone lines from analogue to digital platforms and a White Paper was issued directing that the process be specifically handled by government-affiliated companies.
“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. N1.7bn was released to it as seed grant for the commencement of the switch-over. Okoduwa added that the agency discovered that the process was fraught with alleged corrupt practices.”
The statement also alleged that Kawu fraudulently recommended a private company, Pinnacle Communications Limited, to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, for the release of the money against the guidelines contained in the said White Paper.
The ICPC’s statement was debunked in a statement by the spokesperson of NBC, Hajia Maimuna Jimada.
She said “The NBC is not aware of any fraud case involving the DG, and therefore not aware of any ICPC investigation on the DG.”
Jimada said the commission had been carrying out the digital switch-over scheme with utmost diligence and transparency, and would continue to do it until the project was completed across the country.