‘Nigeria lacks political will to drive digital migration’

Digital switchoverTODAY is the deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for countries to switchover from analogue broadcasting to digital and like many other sub-Saharan African countries, Nigeria has failed to meet the deadline.

Nigeria is now looking at the next 18 months, precisely December 2017 to eventually migrate.

However, experts believe the target may not eventually materialize, as the country currently lacks the political will to drive the transition, even in another five years.

Head of the DigiTeam, a Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC), set up to drive the migration process, Edward Amana, in an interview with The Guardian in China, said though all necessary background planning, including licensing of manufacturers for the production of Set-Top-Boxes (STB); transmission carriers; Signal Distributors, among others have all been appointed, “but the political will, which is about the funding is not there yet.”

Amana, who said it was government funding that actually stalled the entire process and didn’t allow the country to migrate as planned, noted that the December 2017 new target by Nigeria may not materialize.

“The purported December 2017 extension by Nigeria was never an ITU idea. This is because when you don’t have funds at hand, you don’t have any plan. The new date is mere speculation. You can only set a deadline when you are sure of funding. When the fund is at hand, then you can fix a date. As at now, there is no single penny released by the Federal Government towards the transition. The last government didn’t even consider it, so funding stalled all the processes. Government didn’t release fund, not even a penny to do the crucial campaign and public awareness that will drive the project”, he stated.

The DigiTeam Head posited that there should have been no a case of asking for an extension by Nigeria, stressing that the world won’t wait for her.

According to him, there are consequences for not keeping to the deadline, which include that Nigeria’s analogue transmitters must not cause interference to any digital transmitter across the country’s border and conversely, the country cannot ask for protection from transmission coming into Nigeria because it failed to migrate as at when due.

Amana said ITU sanctions are imminent on countries that failed to transit, “for example, if Cameroun is able to transit to digital and there is analogue transmitter in Nigeria interfering with their signals from here, that transmitter must be shut down, those are the implications. We should not complain, as we shall continue with our analogue transmitter.”

On the possibility of the President Buhari led-admistration offering assistance, Amana said the new government in power is a little bit premature, stressing that the National Assembly is just settling down, “it is only when those ones are in place that we can say we have somebody to approach and sell the vision to them, then we can proceed.”
Also reacting, a former commissioner with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Bashir Gwandu, said the delayed transition has affected the possibilities of citizens getting many more TV program-channels on a single 8MHz frequency channel as against only one program per 8MHz frequency channel.

Gwandu said the issue has delayed the possibility of release of spectrum that would have been spared after the digitization, for use of broadband services.

“The delay in getting more people on broadband means some productivity losses for the Nigerian economy. It also means less growth for the country’s economy.

“Nigeria has lost so much revenue that could have been generated by auctioning of the digital-dividend spectrum which could have resulted from the transition if done earlier than now; it has also lost an opportunity to put people in more jobs and a better managed economy amongst other losses.

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