N3.4bn Fee: NBC Board Replies EFCC

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Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
Members of the Board of Directors of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) have justified the actions they took in selling a radio spectrum worth N34 billion and paying a commission of N3.4 billion to the consultants, saying that it was the best action taken to raise money for Digital Switch Over in Nigeria.

The members, including the former Director General of the commission, Emeka Mba, had been summoned to appear before the EFCC to answer questions on why they hastily paid out the sum of N3.4 billion to the technical consultant engaged by the board even before presidential approval was sought and obtained.

The others invited by the EFCC to appear this week are: Professor Herbert Orji (Chairman), Mohammed Kabir Umar, Mike Iheanetu, Yakubu Busa Buji, Ebenezer Ayorinde, Isa Badamasi Dahiru, Prince Dennis Sam, Jude Nnodum (SAN), and Peter Dama; as well as Basil Udotai, and Technology Advisors LLP.

The members who wrote the EFCC through their lawyer, Chief Ogwu Onoja (SAN), objected strongly to the approach adopted by the EFCC to invite them to answer to their actions while in office through the media, describing it as a media trial.

The members, whose appointments were terminated in July last year, said they should be given national honours for their ingenuity in raising the bar in digital transmission rather than being chastised through media trial by the EFCC.

According the members, there was no scam whatsoever relating to the payment of the sum of N3.4 billion to the consultant as it represented only 10 per cent of his professional fee, which was successfully reviewed downwards from the initial 20 per cent which the consultant requested for.

“Members of the commission remain proud of all the unprecedented accomplishments recorded in the NBC during their tenure, which have now propelled both NBC and the Nigerian broadcasting sector to national and international limelight,’’ the board members added.

“Most importantly, our clients are extremely proud and were privileged to have been in the saddle of the NBC when very difficult but time tested decisions and judgment calls had to be made for the future of Nigeria as a whole; the growth and viability of our broadcasting sector and the overall development of ICT.

“To that extent, our clients consider as one of the key highlights of their tenure, the review and approval of the innovative and novel proposal by Technology Advisors, the Technology Law Consultants to NBC, which eventually resulted in raising the sum of N34 billion, now being utilised by the federal government for the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project.

“Consequently, our clients resent and reject entirely, the impression created by the EFCC and fed to the media these past months that the special auction process or the licensing that resulted from it, are somehow the result of criminal conspiracy and so must be fraudulent.’’

The lawyer said that if this project is viewed with the best of intentions, the first thing the EFCC or anyone for that matter, would come to appreciate is the ingenuity that went into crafting the innovative processes and procedures, while strenuous adherence to all applicable laws, rules, regulations and official government circulars and directives.

According to the suspects, “This project was the first of its kind in Nigeria, and indeed Africa. The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) cited it as a very creative DSO funding model for which other African countries should adopt; and Mr. Emeka Mba, the former DG of NBC, was granted African Broadcasting Regulator of the Year Award on account of this project.

“It is a highly commendable and life changing project for which every Nigerian should applaud; and our clients can absolutely assure the EFCC that no crime was committed in this process.