By Gift Samuel, The Sight News
Abuja-Following an earlier request by the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to disclose all the information they have on the alleged payment of N2.5 Billion to a privately owned Digital Signal Operator-Pinnacle Communications, the pro-democracy group has said that it is ready to drag the NBC to Court for failure to produce the Freedom of Information(FOI) request.
HURIWA pointed to a grand conspiracy to retrieve the operational license granted by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to the Integrated Television Services – a digital communication enterprise established by the publicly owned Nigerian Television Authority.
Making the disclosure to Newsmen on Sunday in Abuja, the Coordinator HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko stressed that the NBC has no option than to tell Nigerians what happened, adding that they have an option of doing it quietly or through the law.
According to him, “Over 21 working days since we sent our request to NBC for information on the disbursement of N2.5 Billion, we want to express our shock that till date, the DG of NBC has failed to respond, thereby leaving us with one of the two options: go to court to compel the enforcement of our FOI request or proceed to EFCC. We have put our legal team on notice on what action to take tomorrow.
“As concerned civil society leaders, we have followed the trajectories of the digitization of broadcasting in Nigeria and we have meticulously observed the methodical approaches that the Nigerian State has adopted towards the realization of the digital switch over.
“Our specific area of interest is to request that your good offices furnish us with the official memorandum which okayed the alleged payment of N2.5 billion to the private digital signal operator” he noted.
he further expressed strong condemnation for the role being played by one Tony Dara, an erstwhile staff of NTA who he said has of recent been noticed signing series of advertorials targeting the corporate integrity of the Integrated Television Services (ITS) with some allegations that the transmitters the government enterprise uses for the Digital Switchover are out of fashion.
Onwubiko emphasized that with such advertorials emanating from Tony Dara who was sacked by the NTA for absconding from duty, it only goes to show that these campaigns of calumny are obviously targeted at forcing the hand of the broadcast regulator to retrieve the DSO license it gave to the publicly owned ITS.
“We are of the opinion that this originator of ostensibly false information about the quality of transmitters mounted by the government owned ITS may be doing all these corporate image demolition assignments for a formidable force which seeks to erect a monopoly in the DSO sector or he may be executing a choreographed enterprise to damage the trust the federal government” he said
While taking a critical look at a report turned in by a sub-committee of the Federal House of Representatives to investigate matters connected to the delayed total digitization of broadcasting in Nigeria, he asserted that the sub-committee appeared to be doing the bidding of the privately owned digital signal operator and went all out to pass a vote of no confidence on ITS, adding that it is dubiously ridiculous.
In his word, “This sub-committee overlooked the reported disbursement of N2.5 Billion by NBC to a privately owned Digital Signal Operator even when it had quarried the NBC for the illegal use of N34 Billion it generated from auctioning of spectrum license to MTN”
He stated that, “HURIWA is out to intervene as it has become so obvious that there is a grand design and conspiracy to edge out a player such as ITS for the selfish reason of gaining monopolistic control over a sub-sector of the media communication/digitization of broadcasting environment basically because of the monumental financial potentials that there are whenever Digitization of Broadcasting in Nigeria is completely actualized especially if a profitable business model is adopted to enable digital signal distributors to recoup their huge investments”.
The switchover process has begun with the licensing of a private DSO and the Public owned Integrated Television service-an outfit belonging to the largest television station in Africa – Nigerian Television Authority.