Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari and Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, are under fire for allegedly tinkering with the president approval in the award of radio and TV broadcasting licences.

In 2016, Mr Kyari was accused in an online report of taking N500 million from communications giant, MTN purportedly to help it mitigate the fine of $5 billion imposed on it by federal government, just as the embattled NBC boss is currently facing charges bordering on misappropriation of N2.5 billion.

The recent recommendation by the NBC of applications by some companies for the grant of FM Radio and Digital Television broadcasting licenses by President Muhammadu Buhari has been soiled in acts of forgery, breach of trust, fraud and systemic racketeering by Messrs Kyari and Kawu.

Mr Kawu, on the 20th July 2018, ‎wrote a letter with reference No. NBC/SEC/FMIC/II entitled, “Recommendation of Applications for the Grant of FM Radio and Digital Television Broadcasting Licenses by the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces” to the President through the Chief of Staff.

“Your Excellency, in accordance with the provisions of Sections 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and Section 2(1)(b) and (c) of the National Broadcasting Commission Act, Cap NII, Laws of the Federation, 2004, the National Broadcasting Commission hereby submits for the grant of FM Radio and Digital Terrestrial Television broadcast licenses by the President, Commander in chief of the Armed Forces, the under listed companies whose applications have been processed and found to be in conformity with the statutory requirements for the grant of broadcast licenses as stipulated by the NBC Act.”

According to the letter obtained by DAILY NIGERIAN, the NBC requested Mr Buhari’s ‎approval for a total of 303 licenses made up of 245 for radio and 58 for television.

While the radio licenses were sought for each of the six geographic zones viz: ‎North Central, 48; North East, 20; North West, 44; South East, 29; South South, 37 and South West, 67, approval for the television licenses were sought viz: National TV stations, 35; Regional TV stations, 7 and 16 for some states and the FCT.

However, the Chief of Staff, in his letter with reference No. SH/COS/II/II/A/54 and dated 24th September, 2018, conveying the approval of the president stated that, “The President has approved your request for the grant of FM Radio and Digital Terrestrial Television broadcast licenses to the one hundred and seventy (170) organisations and institutions recommended in your submission.”

In the Chief of Staff’s summary to Mr. President, FM Radio and Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Licenses numbering 147 and 23, respectively were approved by the President.

However, according to documents obtained by DAILY NIGERIAN, the Chief of Staff and the DG of NBC, having secured Mr Buhari’s approval,‎ conspired to substitute names of approved licensees with forged and non existent applicants.

Investigation by DAILY NIGERIAN reveals that names of corporate bodies that neither applied for any license nor have their names initially on the list of NBC’s memo, were inserted and names of approved beneficiaries, expunged from the president’s approved list.

List of companies that neither applied for any license and their names not on the list of approved licenses but smuggled in are:

1. Bigger Best Nigeria Ltd
2. High Fidelity Comm. Ltd
3. Cooper Platform Ltd
4. Hattara TV and Radio
5. Oho Media Ltd
6. IZY Group of Companies
7. Oracle Executive Services and Consult Limited
8. TAP Television Network
9. New Radio Network
10. Seamaster Global Resources Ltd

DAILY NIGERIAN further reveals that the NBC DG, whose company is Word, Sound and Vision Multimedia (WSV) with CAC registration number RC647641 was allocated six broadcasting licenses. The licenses are distributed thus: one in Abuja; one in Lagos; one in Kano, one in Kaduna and two in Ilorin, his hometown.

In an advertorial in the Vanguard newspaper of May 24, 2019, a civil society organization, CSO, Coalition Against Corruption and Bad Governance, CACOBAG, corroborated DAILY NIGERIAN findings and further revealed that, “From our search at the Corporate Affairs Commission, some of the companies were not registered as legal entities.”

CACOBAG in a statement by its chairman, Toyin Raheem, issued in Abuja on the June 8 confirmed DAILY NIGERIAN investigation that six slots were for his (Modibbo‘s) private company, Word, Sound and Vision Multimedia (WSV) Limited and another 10 were approved for companies which neither applied nor appeared on the list approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The CSO’s independent findings revealed that Babagana Kingibe, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and his family were among the 10 beneficiaries of the radio licenses recently doled out by NBC.

“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 doled out by the leadership of NBC is owned by 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.

“Our findings at relevant quarters 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.

“Further investigations also reveal that the company has only two directors/shareholders, who are both children of Mr Kingibe,namely; Abdulkabir Kingibe and Zara Aminu Deribe, who both gave the same address as 59 Nelson Mandela Crescent, Asokoro, Abuja.

“This is obviously another confirmation of one of the ways the deadly 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,”‎ CACOBAG stated.

Responding to DAILY NIGERIAN inquiry regarding the six licenses said to have been allocated to his company as well as the 10 licenses allegedly allocated to those companies that did not apply for them, the NBC DG responded as follows:

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 …to the President, for the grant of Radio and television licenses”. These are very broad powers, but at the end of the 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, does 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! That is EIGHT YEARS BEFORE I was appointed Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), in 2016. 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 for certain, but obviously, political reasons. 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 the Corporate Affairs Commission, 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-presented, re-examined and added to the list sent to the President for approval. This time it was approved.

As for Ambassador Babagana Kingibe and his children, is there a law in Nigeria which precludes them from being given a radio license? If there is such a law, please let me see it. 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 being talked about, has NOT paid a kobo for any of the locations and therefore has 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. You would do well to direct your inquiry to the presidency, to ask why the President approved licenses for those companies. 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.

Sometimes, companies might even be willing to pay their license fees, but the NBC is unable to collect such payment, if there’s no availability of frequencies in such locations. That is the problem with Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt today. We don’t have frequencies to allocate in the three cities. As for those that allegedly got licensed even when they didn’t apply, it was the President exercising his prerogative as the approval authority.

Efforts to get the response of the Presidency and Mr Kyari on the matter were unsuccessful as presidential spokesman Garba Shehu did not respond to our reporter’s calls and text message, seeking clarifications on the matter.