The Federal High Court in Abuja will make a ruling on a motion challenging the N2.5bn fraud allegation against Pinnacle Communications Ltd brought against it by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
Pinnacle is embroiled in the digital switch saga, a Federal government project that authorized public-owned institutions to implement the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting in Nigeria in accordance with the 2012 government White Paper section 11.2 (a).
The project was awarded to NTA, the federal government owned broadcasting station. The white paper encouraged that another signal distributor be licensed immediately in addition to it for a smooth implementation process.
In 2014, Pinnacle emerged successful bidder out of nine companies after a rigorous public tender and full compliance with due process.
The ICPC had claimed that Pinnacle was fraudulently recommended to the Minister of Information and Culture for the release of N2.5bn against the guidelines contained in the White Paper.
The date was fixed by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba after the submissions of counsel in the matter.
Moving his motion on notice, the plaintiff’s counsel urged the court to lift the order of post-no-debit placed on the account of Pinnacle domiciled in Zenith bank.
Ekanem SAN, plaintiff counsel, told the court that the ICPC has not adduced cogent reasons why the order freezing the account should be granted.
Ekanem argued that what the commission has continued to say was that they are still conducting an investigation on the source of the fund.
He disclosed that chairman of Pinnacle as a mark of respect for ICPC honoured an invitation extended to him on November 14, where he made a statement under caution and was subsequently granted bail.
‘You cannot clamp down our client’s account based on mere suspicion and not even with a valid court order’ the plaintiff’s counsel posited.
Reacting to the notices of preliminary objection filed by E. A Shogunle, counsel to the 1st respondent (ICPC), and Abdullahi Abubakar, counsel for the 3rd respondent (AGF), Ekanem insisted that the claim of respondents that they are challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter was misconceived.
Counsel to Pinnacle told the court that his client is not challenging any order made by a magistrate court because ‘there was no order of court freezing the account of the plaintiff.’
The plaintiff’s counsel in urging the court to dismiss the objection said what the respondents referred to as an order of court was an ICPC order.
Ekanem told the court that the 21 days given to ICPC to conclude the investigation and unfreeze the account have elapsed, yet the agency did not comply with the directive.
However, the ICPC and the AGF contended that the plaintiff’s claim was purely a matter between the company and Zenith bank, and therefore should be at the Federal Capital Territory High Court.
Shogunle argued that what the ICPC only temporarily seized the funds pending outcome of investigation.
He stated that there was evidence of money laundering which suggested that the fund was a proceed of unlawful activity.
Consequently, Shogunle said, in accordance with section 45 of ICPC Act, the commission’s chairman can order a bank to temporarily freeze a suspected account.
After hearing counsel, Justice Dimgba fixed December 14, for ruling.
A recent statement by Rasheedat Okoduwa, ICPC spokesperson, last Thursday, had mentioned the company among those quizzed in connection with the alleged fraud.