June digital switch over unrealistic, says Fed Govt

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• MTN’s N34b spent

The Federal Government yesterday said the June 2017 digital switch over (DSO) date is no longer feasible. This shift marks the third time the date is shifted since 2015.

The government also said it would no longer provide set-top-boxes (STBs) for individual households in the country.

The box is at the centre of any successful transition to DSO.

Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, who appeared  before House of Representatives  ad hoc committee on the process of DSO said the process was being funded with N34billion realised from the sale of spectrum  to MTN Nigeria in June last year.

According to Mohammed, of the 13 licences issued for manufacturers of STBs, only four are operational, the initial monetary proposal of N60 billion for the project has been affected by foreign exchange and inflation.

It was in veiw of this that the Federal Government is planning to collaborate with states and local governments in ensuring that the project is not stalled again.

He also said efforts aimed at accelerating the harmonisation of the  process has commenced as meetings with the governments of Cameroon, Niger Republic, Chad and Benin Republic are underway.

Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who was represented by the Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, while declaring open the hearing, said there have been allegations that the DSO process was characterised by procedural irregularities, inconsistencies, and misappropriation of funds.

He said: “I have heard from different quarters that the DSO 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 modernisation.

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

On his part, Committee Chairman Sunday Katung regretted that majority of Nigerians are unaware of the switch over despite the launch of the pilot project in Abuja and Jos.

“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.

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