Again, Nigeria says June digital switch over unrealistic

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

After spending the N34billion the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) collected from MTN Nigeria for the acquisition of 700 megahertz (MHz) broadcasting spectrum, the Federal Government for the third time shifted the goal post for the actualization of analogue switch off in the country. It said the June 2017 deadline it set for itself was no longer feasible. This is the third shift since 2015.

The government also reneged on the promise of financing the provision of set-top-boxes (STBs) for  households in the country in line with what has happened in other member countries of the International of Telecommunications Union (ITU) that have achieved analogue switch off.

Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who dropped the bombshell during his appearance at the House of Representatives ad hoc committee on the process of Digital Switch Over (DSO) by June 2017,  said the process was being funded with N34billion realised from the sale of 700MHz bandwidth spectrum to MTN last year by the NBC.

He lamented that the initial N60billion budget set aside for the project has since been rubbished by forex scarcity, ever falling naira value and inflation, adding that out of the 13 licences issued for manufacturers of STBs, only four are operational.

He said the Federal Government will now collaborate with the other tiers of government to ensure that the ITU mission was not scuttled again.

Also, Nigeria will soon be meeting with her neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Niger Republic, Benin Republic and Chad.

Committee Chairman Sunday Katung lamented the dismally low awareness about the DSO despite the launch of the pilot project in Jos and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“Yet, the success story of most countries that have successfully digitised, is hinged on effective public awareness. 

“The June 2017 deadline seems aggressive and unachievable, caution is required here to avoid being victim of our own exaggerated competence.

“Having missed the deadlines twice, it is important that the DSO transition in Nigeria should not be a political expediency as it is currently viewed, but should be thoroughly reviewed and implemented, taking into the view our current economic realities,” Katung said.

While declaring open the session, the Chief Whip of the Lower House, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, who represented Speaker Yakubu Dogara lamented that DSO has been mired in the gyre of allegations about its being characterised by procedural irregularities, inconsistencies, and embezzlement.

 “I have heard from different quarters that the digital switch over will re-position the broadcast landscape architecture in Nigeria.

“We should use all legislative tools at our disposal to ensure its success. Our aim is to ensure that Nigerians benefit maximally from this novel modernization.

“We will strive to avoid a situation where the country becomes a dumping ground for all forms of digital equipment,” Doguwa said.

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