By ANDREW JOKSON
The bubble has truly burst at the ICPC following the fizzling out of it’s much hyped N2.5 billion fraud charge against DG of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Ishaq Modibbo Kawu and top executives of Pinnacle Communications Limited at the Federal High Court, Abuja where it has failed to produce any witness or evidence in support of its claim that the said amount paid by NBC to Pinnacle Communications Limited was illegal, irregular and unauthorized.
The ICPC prosecutor Henry Emore was visibly flustered at the last hearing on May 27 as, for the second consecutive time, he admitted inability to produce any of three remaining witnesses he had promised would turn up. While at the previous hearing the expected witness had gone on “pilgrimage”, this time the witness was “bereaved”, a situation that led to an abrupt adjournment barely an hour into the scheduled three or four hearing specially set aside by the presiding judge, Folashade Giwa to accelerate proceedings.
Both the judge and defence counsel were flabbergasted and Alex Izinyon (SAN) asked the judge to close the ICPC case describing the conduct of the prosecutor as a disappointing indication of laxity and time wasting after sufficient notice of dates set aside, a position that two other defence counsel promptly aligned with. The presiding judge mitigated the ICPC dilemma by giving the prosecutor the last chance to bring all his witnesses at the next hearing or risk foreclosure, berating the prosecutor for wasting the court’s valuable time that could have been better utilized for other pending trials.
That episode marked the latest in a series of unexpected and unexplained shortcomings in the prosecution of a case the ICPC had literally deployed the media to declare the defendants guilty long before arraignment and then clumsily converted its website to a parallel court where incomplete testimonies and biased selection of snippets of exhibits tendered were highlighted in furtherance of its trial-by-media agenda.
The media manipulation however back fired fatally as the ICPC top witnesses–a retired NBC legal adviser, NBC deputy director of finance and even a senior investigator who supposedly worked on the case– collectively crumpled under cross examination by defence counsel to affirm that the DSO White Paper did not specifically outlaw the payment of N2.5 billion by NBC to Pinnacle Communications Limited whose “very expensive world class broadcast technology” equipment was used for the national launch of the DSO in Abuja in 2016 by VP Osinbajo on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari and has since then been powering the 35 channel digital transmissions for the Federal Capital and environs and that the NBC DG duly processed the payment through the supervising Minister Lai Mohammed who approved it without hesitation, among other factors debunking the ICPC so-called investigation and charges against the defendants.
As if this was not sufficient self-indictment, the ICPC has been caught in a web of politically-motivated intrigues and in house amorous entanglement combined to effectively hijack its official procedures and decision making especially affecting the investigation and prosecution of cases. The NBC DG Ishaq Modibbo Kawu is the sole target of a political cabal intent on planting its crony in his position to consolidate the media empire building manoeuvres of its Grand Master’s 2023 presidential permutations. The DSO and Pinnacle Communications Limited were surreptitiously roped into the plot by the well-positioned Information Minister Lai Mohammed who has been desperate to appease the cabal after being outsmarted by Ishaq Modibbo Kawu in getting the NBC top job even as Lai Mohammed was busy claiming to be on top of the situation for Dele Alake to be planted there.
The former minister who is still lurking around SGF Boss Mustafa weeks after handing over eagerly linked up with his ICPC cabalists and NBC hirelings with the ultimate objective of “just arraignment” and media smear campaign against Kawu in his mistaken belief that he could suspend the DG on that ground thereby paving the way for Alake. Thus, apart from securing a highly absurd “immunity” from arraignment for payment he approved, Lai Mohammed had no concern about the absence of any tangible basis for using the DSO as the weapon of vendetta. The trial by media and politically-motivated “investigation” were orchestrated by the open secret marriage of convenience amorously linking the ICPC investigation department with the publicity unit and has recently shifted focus from the bogus N2.5billion “fraud” to the selective extracts from the Pinnacle bank account which is a malicious violation of the privacy of bank account transactions of a reputable company that has not been indicted. The ICPC had last year been forced by court order to lift its freeze order on Pinnacle’s account by an Abuja Federal High Court that found no justification for ICPC’s action and even cautioned it against basing its actions on spurious “pepper soup joint gist”.
The fiasco over the mercenary investigation and prosecution of DG NBC a d Pinnacle Communications Limited executives has become an internal scandal among ICPC staff and management who have been highly agitated by the increasing failure rate of the commission’s prosecutions in recent times due to the “privatisation” of official duties by a few management staff. The inauguration of a new board that was expected to sanitise the agency has turned out to be another hoax because of the continuing influence of the political cabalists as well as the exposure of yet another in house scandal of payment of salary in advance of Senate confirmation of the board for almost a year amounting to millions of naira which is now gathering dark clouds of impending implosion that will lead to a massive shake up and flushing out of the entire board and management of the ICPC. IT IS A MATTER OF TIME!
ANDREW JOKSON is public affairs analyst in Jos