By Toby Prince
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, is at the centre of an alleged multi-billion telecommunication fraud.
According to Premium Times, Mr Mohammed may have ignorantly signed a N2.5 billion payment to a private digital broadcast signal distributor without due diligence.
The embattled minister had approved the controversial payment in May 2017 which raised eyebrows with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) tracking the transaction since June 2018.
The Minister revealed to the ICPC that he followed the recommendation of the director-general of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
Mr Modibbo Kawu, the DG of NBC has already been charged for allegedly deceiving Mr Mohammed to perpetrate the fraud.
Mr Kawu, though, strongly denied the allegations, and the ICPC said he would appear in court on Wednesday alongside Lucky Omoluwa, the founder of Pinnacle Communications Limited, a digital broadcasting firm that received the payment in 2017.
The report further stated that Mr Mohammed was questioned last year but was unable to provide any information beyond his claim that he only acted on the documents presented to him.
Rasheedat Okoduwa, the agency’s spokesperson, told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday that Mr Mohammed was not charged because he said he was deceived into signing the payment.
Mrs Okoduwa, however, added that if further revelations emerged during Mr Kawu’s trial that could necessitate arraigning Mr Mohammed, the ICPC will not hesitate to do so.
The N2.5 was withdrawn from the N10 billion naira that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) seized from the NBC in 2016. Detectives said the money was banked in a manner that violated the treasury single account (TSA) policy.
Mr Kawu, however, alleged political forces were out to get him, but not that he had done anything wrong in office.
“I have been informed from several quarters that there are certain political forces who are determined to use the issue of a court arraignment to force me out of office,” Mr Kawu said.
“The plan is to lean on such arraignment to commence a media campaign that will insist I step aside from my position until I have been cleared in the courts.”