A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed December 14, for ruling in a motion on notice challenging the freezing of an account belonging to Pinnacle Communications Ltd by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) over allegation of N2.5bn fraud.
Pinnacle Communications Limited is the only private licenced signal distributor for the Federal Government approved implementation of the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television broadcasting in Nigeria in accordance with the 2012 government White Paper section 11.2 (a) which approved that ‘more than one signal distributor be licenced in addition to NTA-the public licenced signal distributor. Another signal distributor should be licensed immediately.
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.
The plaintiff counsel, N. Ekanem SAN 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 coducting 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 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 jurisdiction of 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 investiagation and unfreeze the account have elapsed, yet the agency did not comply with the directive.
However, ICPC and 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 did was temporary seizure of the fund 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 the ICPC spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa last Thursday, had mentioned the company among those quizzed in connection with the alleged fraud.