N34bn MTN spectrum sale to fund digital switchover – Minister
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on Thursday that the Federal Government was funding its Digital Switchover from analogue transmission with the N34bn realised from the sale of 2.6GHz bandwidth spectrum to MTN Nigeria.
The telecommunications service provider had secured the bandwidth in June last year.
The deadline for the DSO has been shifted two times previously.
Mohammed, who appeared before an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives in Abuja again, said the new June 2017 deadline was not guaranteed.
The committee, which is headed by Mr. Sunday Katung, on Thursday, conducted a public hearing on the Process of DSO by June 2017.
He explained that the government first proposed N60bn for the project, but added that there were fresh challenges, including inflationary trend and exchange rate fluctuations.
The minister told the committee that the Federal Government could no longer afford to install Set Top Boxes for each household.
Mohammed stated that the government would have to turn to state and local governments for a joint effort to provide the boxes.
The boxes are vital components of the DSO, which must first be installed in households.
Mohammed also disclosed that only four out of the 13 licences issued to manufacturers to produce the boxes had been activated.
He added that there were efforts to discuss with the governments in Niger Republic, Cameroon, Benin Republic and Chad on areas to harmonise mutual interests on the project.
However, Katung observed that the majority of Nigerians were in the dark over the project.
He noted that outside the inauguration of the pilot phase in Abuja and Jos, people did not really have information on the project and what they stood to gain from it.
He called for massive public awareness and sensitisation programme on the DSO.
“A 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 view our current economic realities,” he added.
The Speaker of the House, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, also warned against using the DSO as an opportunity to turn the country into a dumping ground for all forms of digital equipment.
Dogara, who was represented by the Chief Whip of the House, Mr. Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, added, “I have heard from different quarters that the digital switch-over will reposition 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 modernisation.
“We will strive to avoid a situation where the country becomes a dumping ground for all forms of digital equipment.