By Gift Samuel, The Sight News
Abuja-A pro-democracy and Non-Governmental Organization, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA) has on Monday asked the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to inform Nigerians on the whole truth regarding the alleged N2.5 billion it gave to one of the signal distributors which is a private-sector owned establishment.
This is as the civil society practitioners,expressed worry over what it termed, ‘the opaque nature of information dissemination’ from relevant government agencies with specific reference to the National Broadcasting Commission(NBC).
Speaking in Abuja on Monday at a media briefing, the National Coordinator, HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, noted that HURIWA have resolved to send a Freedom of Information request to the hierarchy of NBC to demand unambiguous response in writing to provide evidence – satisfactory reason regarding the alleged grant of such a humongous sum to a private enterprise and under what modality.
He further said that they will seek clarification to know the status of the grant if any and if not satisfied, will proceed to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to demand forensic investigation of the damaging allegation.
According to him, “We got the information from very senior insiders working for government, that indeed the sum of N2.5 Billion of public fund was gifted to a private signal distributor. Our worry stems from the missteps committed by the government in the power sector in which the DISCOS were gifted with billions of Naira of tax payers’ money but till date Nigerian electricity consumers are groaning under poor power supply. Recently NERC fined one of the DISCOS the sum of N50 million for failure to comply with operational standards.
“Allegations and counter-allegations of unpreparedness, favoritism, nepotism and embezzlement of taxpayers’ money by industry players have also flared up. Twice, Nigeria missed the digital switch-over (DSO) deadline.
“Stakeholders in the broadcast industry believe that Nigeria would have gone far by now, if some of the ripples had been avoided because the country has missed two deadlines for switch-over, which have been rationalized by the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) as normal teething problems whereas billions of taxpayers’ money to the tune of N2.5 billion is allegedly being used to fund a private company, which by contractual agreements should be paying the federal government” he stressed.
He further stated that HURIWA is also aware of an ongoing campaign of calumny targeted at the government owned Integrated Television Service (ITS) – one of the two signal distributors of the Digital Switch Over, adding that the campaign is bandied to discredit the credibility of the ITS by its sponsors so as to scoop more free government money for themselves at the detriment of the masses.
Onwubiko said; “Contrary to their claims that the NTA owned (ITS) installed transmitters have been discontinued by the original equipment manufacturers, we have extensively used our international network to verify that broadcast technology is very dynamic but there are opportunities for backward integration.
“DVB – T2 technology (which ITS uses) is reportedly commercialized in 2008. They were bought as DVB – T2 and not DVB – T as alleged by those who are waging a well-oiled campaign against this government owned ITS.
“We have learnt that the transmitters in use by ITS in Jos, Ilorin, Osogbo and Enugu are custom built DVB – T2 by Rhode & Schwarz. ITS have back up transmitters and signal processing equipment which can be deployed real time in case of failures” he added.
He therefore urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the pronouncements as encompassed in the government’s white paper are implemented to the letter so the broadcasting/communication rights of Nigerians are not undermined by fifth columnists.
Preamble from the government’s white paper states that the transition from Analogue to Digital Broadcasting in Nigeria is a part of a global initiative driven by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
According to the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Digital Switch Over (DSO) is the name given to the process of changing from analogue to digital TV broadcasting. The digital television transition or analogue switch-off (ASO) is also the process in which analogue television broadcasting is converted to and replaced by digital television.