Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s information minister, has admitted he did not do due diligence before signing off on a controversial N2.5 billion payment to a private digital broadcast signal distributor.
Naija News learnt that Mr Mohammed told the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) that he only approved the payment based on the recommendation of the director-general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in May 2017, according to those familiar with the investigation.
Anti-graft detectives at the ICPC have been investigating the transaction since June 2018.
Already the ICPC has charged Modibbo Kawu, the DG of NBC, for allegedly deceiving Mr Mohammed to perpetuate the fraud.
Mr Kawu 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.
Anti-graft officers questioned Mr Mohammed last year as part of their investigation, but he was unable to provide any information beyond his claim that he only acted on the documents presented to him.
Mr Mohammed did not let detectives record the session, saying he needed “clearance” from Boss Mustapha, the Nigerian government secretary.
Rasheedat Okoduwa, ICPC’s spokesperson, disclosed on Monday that Mr Mohammed was not charged because he said he was deceived into signing the payment.
Meanwhile, Naija News learnt that An ICPC official revealed how the Minister“bullied” those detailed to question him because of his “high role” as the top image maker for the government. Even though Mr Mohammed did not cooperate with investigators, the ICPC had been reluctant about charging him for approving the contract.
An online newspaper also gathered that Mr Mohammed played more role than just signing documents. He signed several documents and also took parts in discussions between Pinnacle Communications and embarked on foreign trips to inspect equipment for Nigeria’s digital switchover, according to those familiar with the matter.