A former Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Emeka Mba and nine ex-members of the board are to explain to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) all they know about the sale/lease of 700Mhz spectrum to MTN for $171million (about N34,114,500,000.00). They are also to explain payment of 10percent broker fees of about N3.4billion to a Technology Adviser.
The said 10per cent payment was allegedly paid in a curious manner before the presidential approval of the request for the sale.
They have all been invited by the EFCC.
The invited ex-board members 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 (representative of the Ministry of Information).
Well placed sources said EFCC smelt a rat in the NBC over the sale of the 700Mhz spectrum to MTN.
The spectrum is for the purpose of providing digital pay TV broadcasting services.
It was gathered that NBC resorted to a desperate bid to auction the spectrum with a view to raising cash to enable Nigeria meet the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) deadline for the Digital Switchover (DSO).
But it was learnt that the spectrum was disposed of at a rate suspected to be cheap as its value as at May 2015 was over N200 billion.
A reliable source in EFCC said the its operatives will grill the 10 former top shots of the NBC on the following issues:
* The alleged sale of the spectrum at N34,114,500,000.00 instead of over N200billion
* Why was the spectrum sold eight days to handover to the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari?
* How come MTN did not know the Technology Adviser that was paid N3.4billion?
* What service did the Technology Adviser render to have received the huge 10 per cent broker fees?
* Is it true that the Technology Adviser was on retainer ship for N18 million per year?
* Why will a Technology Adviser be on retainer ship and still be paid broker fees?
The source said: “Members of the dissolved board of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) are to be quizzed by the EFCC for their role in the scam.
“These board members have been summoned for questioning beginning from Monday, April 25, 2015 at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
“The board members are going to be questioned in batches and the first batch is expected to appear before a crack panel of investigators on April 25.
“They are expected to be questioned over issues surrounding the sale/lease of the spectrum to telecoms giant MTN for $171million (about N34,114,500,000.00) and how 10percent broker fees amounting to N3.4bn was paid the Technology Advisor even before presidential approval.”
The source, giving an insight into the preliminary findings of the EFCC upon which the 10 ex-NBC top shots will be quizzed, said: “The board approved the payment on December 4, 2014 meeting but did not seek presidential approval until May 15, 2015. The approval for the sale/lease of the Spectrum eventually came on May 21, 2015.
“Contrary to the impression created by the NBC, MTN says it did not know Technology Advisor who claimed to have raised funds for the company.
“The spectrum was sold to MTN. There was no auction. MTN is licensed to broadcast and the spectrum was leased to it for 10 years at the rate of $171m. There was no broker in between.
“So where did the Technology Adviser come into the picture and on what basis did he collect the N3.4billion broker fee?”
A source at the NBC said that the Technology Adviser had “a retainer ship with the commission for which he was collecting N18million per year. Under the agreement, it had obligation to negotiate, attend meetings and give legal advice on technology to NBC.
“Based on this relationship, everybody in NBC had been asking whether it did not amount to double payment for the same company to receive broker fees for rendering services supposedly spelt out in the retainer ship agreement.”
In November 2015, the ex-DG of NBC told newsmen why the agency sold the spectrum.
He had said: “When it became obvious government could not spare the money, and in order to avoid missing another deadline, we began to consider other options. Our broadcast frequency, which is to eventually form part of the digital dividend after the DSO, had portions of it lying fallow while our broadcasters are still using part of it.
“We therefore proposed and got proper permission from government to license part of our spectrum lying fallow and to use the proceeds to finance the DSO…I’m pleased to inform you that we have successfully licensed MTN Nigeria Limited to use part of the 700Mhz to provide digital pay TV broadcasting services. We have thus raised N34 billion, slightly less than our budget.”