Minister of Information Lai Mohammed is battling a “corrupt cabal” at the National Broadcasting Commission(NBC), it emerged yesterday.
It was also learnt that the same cartel is being backed by some external forces, including contractors who have been used to inflated projects in NBC.
Mohammed has been the butt of smear campaign over a request for a loan of N13.1million from NBC for a five-man official delegation to China.
In spite of the fact that the trip was officially approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, a deputy director, who is a member of the cabal, allegedly snapped the memo and leaked it to the media.
It was gathered that the said deputy director was one of the corrupt members of the cabal in the system who could not come to terms with Mohammed’s reforms.
According to investigation by our correspondent, Mohammed has been targeted by the cabal for allegedly stopping “curious requests of more than N200million.
Some of the issues in NBC which had made Mohammed the target of the cabal include:
The uncovering of duplication of payment vouchers of about N109million
Non-approval of N66million for accommodation at a hotel in Lagos for a Commonwealth meeting
Inflated invoice for the purchase of diesel at N195 per litre instead of N125 per litre
Stoppage of business class travels for all directors and top officials
* Putting the names of those who have left NBC on payment schedule for some huge allowances
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Since the Minister came on board, he has been fighting a corruption cabal in NBC and some of the 19 parastatals under his ministry.
“So, the leakage of the loan memo to NBC was a case of corruption fighting back.I think the Minister and his team are also underestimating the danger of what they are doing.
“The change they are bringing to the ministry and NBC, the workers are not used to it and they are resisting it.
“For instance, upon assumption of office, a director came went to the Minister and asked for approval for payment for SURE-P projects worth about N100m. The director even listed what the Minister and the Permanent Secretary will benefit.
“But the Minister instead told the director and other officials, ‘If you don’t want to go to jail, go and do the projects.’
“The leakage of memo might be a minor thing but a symptom of a deeper disease.
“There has been a culture of impunity in the parastatals which the Minister has been opposing.”
Responding to a question, the source said the minister incurred the wrath of the corrupt elements in NBC because he rejected some curious requests for payment of some funds.
The source added: “Members of the corruption cabal in NBC hide under the guise of unnecessary travels to make money from the system. The Minister has been receiving requests for frequent travels, mostly in business class He has wielded the big stick by reducing these travels and after consultations with the Head of Service asked the NBC officials to use Economy class.
“Some NBC officials have vowed to deal with the Minister for taking such a drastic action. Yet this was just a tip of the iceberg.
“For instance, there was a day some payment vouchers of about N84million were presented to the minister for approval. Later in the afternoon of the same day, another voucher which included already approved items in the N84million was forwarded again which the Minister rejected. The strange voucher was in respect of a seminar in Akwa Ibom.
“In another instance a payment schedule was brought to the Minister for approval and the names of three key officers who have left the commission were included.When the Minister raised an observation, the commission apologized that the names were mistakenly not removed from the list.
” The NBC was supposed to host a Commonwealth meeting at an estimate of N41m but N25m alone was voted for accommodation in Eko Hotel and Suites. This was pruned down. Yet another voucher of N25million was again separately smuggled for accommodation again in the same Eko Hotel and Suites.
“The case of purchase of diesel for NBC is another corruption means. While diesel was bring sold at N125 per litre, the agency quoted N195 per litre. The Minister queried it and the cabal went haywire.
“Contrary to insinuations, when the pressure for request for diesel was much, there was a day the Minister asked his aides to bring relevant file to Kaduna for him to sign to enable NBC buy at the approved rate.”
Another source said Mohammed also had it rough with NBC officials on the launch of Digital Set-Top -Boxes in Jos.
The source said: “These corrupt elements did not want the launch of the digitization to hold at all in Jos. A bill of about N100million was brought for publicity of the launch and it was turned down by the Minister. Then sabotage set in.
“There were 200,000 boxes available for distribution but when the Minister asked NBC how far it had gone, it said only 300 people have responded.
“The Minister then decided that best way to get things done was to give people free of charge. The Ministry engaged 500 young men for one month and paid them N15,000 each to market the set top boxes. The Ministry was able to distribute over 50,000 boxes before the launch date.
“One thing is sure, this fight is going to be dirty. What they will do is to try to frustrate the Minister And they are doing it in connivance with outsiders, especially some contractors who have been getting jobs without doing them.”
On the N13.1million budgeted for a trip to China, the source said: “The President approved the trip but there was no funds. The approval was passed to the Permanent Secretary and her team. They said the ministry had no money but it can borrow from some parastatals.
“On their own, the civil servants recommended NTA, FRCN and NBC. They later settled for NBC for the loan pending when budgetary allocation will be accessed.
“Those raising dust are making it to look as if the Minister will be spending the N13.1million alone.”
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Man United/Bournemouth match called off over suspect device
Manchester United’s final Premier League game against Bournemouth on Sunday was abandoned after a suspect package was found in one of the stands at Old Trafford, Soccernet reports.
The bomb disposal squad was called in and a controlled explosion carried out within the stadium. Greater Manchester Police described it as an “incredibly lifelike explosive device” but added that the “device wasn’t viable.”
Before the controlled explosion took place, Greater Manchester Police assistant chief constable John O’Hare justified the abandonment by saying in a statement, “We don’t make these decisions lightly and we have done this today to ensure the safety of all those attending.’’
The Stretford End and Sir Alex Ferguson Stand were evacuated at around 2.40 p.m. after an announcement was made for security personnel to invoke “operation red code.”