The Media Trust Group (MTG) has begun a frantic search for a radio tower meant for its newly established radio station in Abuja, which was decommissioned in a village in Niger State, but curiously disappeared with the suspected connivance of some officials of a government security organisation.
The MTG, a Nigerian media conglomerate that owns Daily Trust, Trust Television, Aminiya, and Teen Trust, has recently established Trust Radio which has started streaming online and is set to go on the terrestrial platform on 92.7FM band to serve radio listeners in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
However, the formal take-off of Trust Radio on the terrestrial platform has stalled due to the delayed delivery of a radio tower that has been acquired on its behalf by a company called Dynamic Kautal Hore Engineering Company Limited.
The CEO of the contracted company, Engr Bello Magaji, had, since July this year, notified the MTG of the acquisition of the radio tower on its behalf in Maikujeri Village in Kagara Local Government Area of Niger State.
And based on this, Media Trust entered into a formal contractual agreement with Dynamic Kautal Hore and equally advanced to the contractor, the sum of N6.25 million out of the total cost of N12.5 million for the acquisition, decommissioning, transportation, and installation of the tower on its premises in Abuja.
But more than two months after the formal signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two companies and weeks after the expiration of the deadline for delivering on the deal, the tower has yet to be delivered to MTG.
On the 30th of October this year, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Trust Radio, Muhammad Kabir Muhammad, notified the management of MTG of credible information he got that the decommissioned radio tower had been “snatched away” from the contractor by persons suspected to be officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
When contacted, Engr Magaji confirmed that some persons had swooped on the equipment and loaded its decommissioned parts into a vehicle, and moved same to Minna, the Niger State capital. He said he had travelled from Maikujeri Village to Minna to withdraw some money and arrange for a vehicle to convey the tower to Abuja, only for him to be told on the phone, while he was away, that some persons in NSCDC uniform had moved the tower to Minna.
The contractor explained further that he immediately returned to Kagara where he reported the matter to the police, after which he returned to Minna to engage with the Niger State Commandant of the NSCDC, Mr Elijah Etim Willie.
He said he also laid a complaint to the Niger State NSCDC commandant, who informed him that the command would investigate the incident.
However, more than two weeks after the report by Engr Magaji to Mr Willie, the whereabouts of the tower have remained elusive.
But by earlier last week, the identities of the NSCDC officials who allegedly ‘snatched’ the tower were made known to Mr Muhammad Kabir. They were listed as Ibrahim Abubakar Tanimu, an official of the Niger State Command of the Corps, and Kabiru Abdullahi Haruna, also of the NSCDC, but attached to its Kaduna State Command. Mr Haruna allegedly got involved because he was within the vicinity of Kagara town (being a native) while the tower was being decommissioned.
Mr Haruna, according to the COO of Trust Radio, confirmed writing an undertaking as proof that he was directed by the Commandant of the NSCDC in Niger State to move the tower to Minna, after members of a vigilante group who were hired by Engr Magaji to guard the tower, tried to stop him and Tanimu from taking the tower away. Mr Muhammad showed Daily Trust a photocopy of the undertaking allegedly written by Mr Haruna.
According to the COO, Mr Haruna said he wrote the undertaking based on the brief he got from Mr Tanimu that he was acting on the instruction of Mr Willie, the Niger State NSCDC Commandant.
Meanwhile, Daily Trust noted in the undertaking allegedly written by Mr Haruna that the missing tower had been sold to a Lagos-based businessman, Alhaji Quadri Bobo, who is said to be a dealer in scrap metals.
A series of efforts to get the national headquarters of the NSCDC to intervene in the matter have failed.
The Acting Group Chief Executive Officer of the Media Trust Group, Ahmed I. Shekarau, told our reporter that the management of the company wrote an official letter to the Commandant-General of the corps, Mr Abubakar Ahmed Audi, seeking an audience with him on the matter, but up to press time, he has not agreed to meet with them.
“On Monday, 13th November 2023, when our management realised that this matter appeared to be complicated, and its handling by the Niger State Command of the NSCDC seemed clumsy, I wrote on behalf of the chairman of our Board of Directors, Malam Kabiru A. Yusuf, seeking an audience with the Commandant-General of the service”, Mr Shekarau said, adding that, “I equally approached the national PRO of the Civil Defence, Mr Babawale Afolabi, seeking his intervention to facilitate the meeting.”
The MTG acting GCEO said further that: “When by Friday, the 17th, the PRO did not facilitate our meeting with the CG, our board chairman led the COO of Trust Radio and myself to the NSCDC headquarters where we requested to see the CG or any other senior official of the organisation to formally table our complaint on this matter.
“That effort was yet again unsuccessful, as we were only led to the PRO (Mr Afolabi), who said none of the top officials was available as of that time, but he made a call to someone he said is the ‘ACG in charge of Critical National Assets and Infrastructure’, and the person advised that we give them more time to investigate the matter.”
Asked what will be the next line of action by the MTG, Mr Shekarau said: “We want to make efforts to see the Minister of Interior, Hon. Olubunmi Olatunji Ojo, and lay our complaint to him because we have lost confidence in the neutrality of officers and men of the service, including its highest command.”
Earlier, our reporters in Abuja and Minna had contacted the national PRO and his counterpart in the Niger State Command, Mr Nasiru Abdullahi, for their reactions on this matter. Both simply pleaded that the corps be “allowed time to investigate the matter”.
Daily Trust reliably learnt that the Media Trust Group had executed an insurance bond with Sterling Assurance Nigeria Limited at the point of signing the contract for the acquisition, decommissioning, and installation of the tower with Dynamic Kutal Hore Engineering Company. This insurance bond was to guarantee the safety of the N6.25 million it advanced to the contracted firm, even in the event of a default or breach of contract by the engineering company.