The management of Pinnacle Communications Ltd, on Tuesday, condemned the alleged invasion of its Abuja office by operatives of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
This was contained in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Tuesday by the lawyer to Pinnacle Communications, Abayomi Oyelola.
“Pinnacle Communications condemns, in very strong terms, the illegal attempt by ICPC to harass and intimidate the company and its officials and unbridled attempt to shut down its business.
“The action of ICPC further confirms that they have been on a witch-hunt mission from the beginning and are bent on victimizing Pinnacle Communications in direct contravention of a statement credited to the Chairman of ICPC at a speech delivered at the inauguration of the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit at the Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Osun State.
“This statement was reported online on 20 January 2020, admonishing the staff against victimising people when doing their job. We add that they should also not scandalize genuine and law-abiding enterprises such as Pinnacle Communications Limited.
“Pinnacles Communication, as a law-abiding entity, expresses concern on this show of shame undertaken by ICPC and brazing use of force.”
The firm urged the ICPC Chairman, Bolaji Owasanoye, to “rein in his officers” and ensure they comply with the rule of law and forestall actions that could further sink the image of the Commission.
Pinnacle Communications is among the defendants before a federal court in a N2.5 billion fraud suit involving the National Broadcasting Commission.
It said the invasion happened on January 15, at its office located on Charles De Gaulle Street, Asokoro, Abuja, with the ICPC officials allegedly citing an “order from above.”
Mr Oyelola said the company is a licensed Digital Switch-Over operator in Nigeria, describing the invasion as despicable and unwarranted.
According to the company, the ICPC operatives had reportedly stormed the office with fully armed policemen in four vehicles, three Hilux vans, and a car, dressed in ICPC jackets that authenticated their identities to arrest the chairman and to seal the company.
The company’s lawyer said during the encounter, it demanded the warrants of arrest and order of the court granting the sealing of the office that legally motivated their move.
“It is common sense in a civilized country like Nigeria that production of a warrant of arrest is the sine qua non to entering premises and attempt to arrest people and that without an order from a court of competent jurisdiction no agency of Government has the right to seal off any business premises. There are boundless legal authorities on this.
“We consider the futile attempted invasion, intimidation and threat as clear evidence of the desperation of ICPC. ICPC had filed charges relating to fraud against Pinnacle Communications and its directors. This case is still pending in court. Issues have been joined and witnesses called and cross-examined.
“We need not say more than that in order not to be contemptuous of the court handling the pending litigation. But can this be a sign that what they apparently cannot get through the court they want to get by force?”
He added that the operatives failed to produce any document but rather claimed that they were working with geographical coordinates.
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It further said that its officials, “could hear the conversation and the operative said: ‘we are here already’, ‘we have not entered’, ‘they claim he is not around’, ‘No pressmen, nobody’. Afterwards, the operative on the telephone suddenly said to his colleagues ‘let’s go, let’s go, let’s go’, and they left hurriedly, like a botched operation.
The Pinnacle officials heard the operatives lamenting on their way to their vehicles that they should have shot (gunshot) their way into the premises as soon as they arrived. This no doubt amounted to regulatory terrorism.
The company urged the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to help investigate the matter.
“We are also urging the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, to swiftly check the excesses of the ICPC and investigate this matter with a view to defeating the obvious display of prejudice in the agency’s dealings with Pinnacle Communication Ltd.
Efforts to reach the ICPC spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa, were not successful on Wednesday morning. She did not pick several calls made to
The ICPC in February 2019 filed a 12-count charge before Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa of the Federal High Court in Abuja, against the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Kawu, Lucky Omoluwa, and Dipo Onifade, the Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Pinnacle Communications Limited respectively, for allegedly misappropriating N2.5 billion.
Despite the ICPC failing to produce the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, to testify in court, a statement he made to the agency, tendered in court, indicated that he gave the approval for the release of N2.5 billion to the NBC, as seed grant for the Digital Switch Over project of the federal government.
Mr Mohammed was meant to explain his role in the alleged misapplication of the N2.5 billion funds for the federal government’s Digital Switch-Over (DSO) programme.