A civil rights organisation, Coalition Against Corruption and Bad Governance (CACOBAG) says it has uncovered perpetuation of alleged corrupt practices in approval of 16 illegal slots of radio licenses by the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mallam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, allegedly for himself and prominent Nigerians close to the Presidency.
Tongues are said to be wagging in NBC as to how six slots were allegedly awarded to a private company, Word, Sound and Vision Multimedia (WSV) Limited, associated with the NBC chief, while another 10 were approved for companies which allegedly neither applied nor appeared on the list approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The chairman of CACOBAG, Alhaji Toyin Raheem, in a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday, said independent findings revealed that a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and his family were allegedly among the 10 beneficiaries of the radio licenses recently dolled out by NBC.
When Nigeria Everyday sought a response from Mallam Kawu, he did not pick calls to his line, but when an sms message was sent to him, he promised to send a response via an email.
He did a little over 24 hour later and it reads in full:
“Good evening. Your text message from yesterday night stated thus: “ I need your reaction to allegations that NBC awarded six radio licenses to a company you are associated with, while 10 others approved by the President did not apply for the licenses”. According to the Act which sets up the NBC, in 1. (b) of POWERS OF THE COMMISSION, it is given the power of “receiving, processing and considering applications for the establishment, ownership or operation of Radio and television stations. And in 1 (c) we have the power of “recommending applications through the Minister to the President, for the grant of Radio and television licenses”. These are very broad powers, but at the end of the licensing process: application; verifications of status of the company; structures of ownership, NBC compiles those eligible, and the list is transmitted to the Presidency for APPROVAL. At that point, NBC or its DG, do not have the powers to influence who is given a license or who is denied.
“Your inquiry asserted that “NBC awarded six licenses to a company (I am) associated with”. Neither NBC nor its DG has the power to AWARD licenses. ALL licenses are APPROVED by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And because it is his SOLE PREROGATIVE, he approves licenses for whomsoever he chooses and denies licenses too. The company in question WORD, SOUND & VISION MULTIMEDIA LTD. applied for its license in 2008! It met all the set criteria and was eventually shortlisted for the approval, but it was DENIED by the PDP administrations of Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan. The company made representations to top members of the PDP administrations, and they frankly explained that they would NEVER give the company a license. The effort was abandoned, while the application was still in the books of the NBC. I was appointed DG of the NBC in May 2016, and the first step taken was to remove me COMPLETELY from the Directorship of the company. You can check with CAC to verify the fact. Other people run the company and I have not visited the company in three years; I don’t know anything about their operations. But as a bona fide Nigerian company, their application was re-examined and added to the list sent to the President for approval. This time it was approved. Now, what does it really mean to get approval? You have the go ahead IN PRINCIPLE to operate radio/tv stations. however, that is merely a piece of paper, UNTIL AND UNLESS you have paid the requisite license fees to the NBC and you’re allocated frequencies to operate. As of today, the company has NOT paid a kobo for any of the locations and has therefore NOT been issued with frequencies to operate anywhere in the locations for which it got approval. These are the facts, so those making allegations are either ignorant of the processes or are being mischievous or both.
“The second aspect of your inquiry is that “10 others approved by the President did not apply for the licenses”. As I have indicated earlier, it is the SOLE PREROGATIVE of the President to APPROVE licenses. ALL presidents before President Buhari have similarly approved licenses for several companies. What then happens is that such companies regularize the processes with the NBC. The truth is that radio and television licenses have become very popular and many Nigerians want to participate in the broadcasting industry. When NBC submits the list to the Presidency, the next level is to get the Nigerian security services to do background checks on all the applicants to determine their suitability to be licensed for radio and television ownership in Nigeria. Again, that is a process that the NBC or its DG do not participate in and cannot therefore influence. It is after the completion of the background checks that the Presidency then SELECTS those that get the presidential approval. The list is returned to the NBC and we begin notifying the successful companies to pick their letters and the payments are made, and frequencies are consequently allocated to the new stations. So a company might actually be approved for licenses by the President, but if that company hasn’t paid the statutory license fees, it merely holds pieces of paper. That is the situation with the company they have raised allegations against. As for those that allegedly got licensed even when they didn’t apply, it was the President exercising his prerogative as the approval authority.
“I hope this satisfies your inquiry. Please feel free to reach me for any other related inquiries that you may have”.
Alhaji Raheem of CACOBAG however demanded that the Federal Government should direct anti-corruption agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other-Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate the allegation.
The organisation threatened that should the Federal Government and its anti-graft agencies fail to act by probing the allegations, it would “be left with no other option but to approach the court to seek an order of mandamus to compel them to do their duty as conferred on them by the laws of the land.”
Raheem said, “We are again compelled to draw the attention of President Buhari and indeed the Nigerian public to another finding, which indicates that one of the 10 illegal radio licenses dolled out by the leadership of NBC is owned by (members of) the family of Alhaji Babagana Kingibe”.
“The 10 companies that did not apply or bided for any radio license were smuggled into a list already approved by President Buhari.
CACOBAG said its findings show that one of the beneficiaries of the doctored license list is Oracle Exclusive Services and Consult Ltd, with its registered address as 20 Monrovia Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja.
It added that its further investigations also reveal that the company has only two directors/shareholders, who are both children of a former SGF, who both gave the same address in Asokoro.
“This is obviously another confirmation of one of the ways the… cabal around President Buhari operates by circumventing due process and manipulating his approvals for personal benefits.
“We believe this is totally unacceptable in a country governed by rules and regulations. This is an abuse of office and a display of cheer greed.”
The CSO urged Buhari and the anti-graft agencies that had been petitioned on this matter to move swiftly and probe its allegation against NBC and its leadership.
“We reiterate our earlier call on President Buhari to immediately direct the EFCC and ICPC to launch an investigation into this embarrassing development to protect the integrity of the administration, which professes zero tolerance for corruption as one of its cardinal pillars. We equally assure the public of our commitment to expose
corruption anywhere we find any”, Raheem stated.