Digitisation train moves to Abuja as firm withdraws suit against NBC
Seven months after the Jos pilot scheme of the Digital Switch-Over, plans are being perfected to flag off the Abuja phase of the project in November 2016.
This followed the withdrawal of the N1 trillion suit filed by one the Licensed Signal distributors for the Digital Switch- Over from analogue to Digital Terrestial Broadcasting , Pinnacle Communications Ltd against the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) for allegedly changing the license conditions contravening the government’s White Paper on Digitisation.
To this end, Pinnacle Communications Limited would now serve as the signal distributors for the next phase of the DSO, the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja
The firm, on July 7, 2014, won the bid as the second digital signal distributor under a terrestrial platform and paid the sum of N618,750,000 for the licence. The Integrated Television Services (ITS) Ltd., an outlet that emerged from the partnership between the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and StarTimes got the licence as first digital signal carrier.
However, Pinnacles communications in 2015 dragged NBC to court, accusing the commission of changing the rules and introducing new dimensions to the digital transition process including the appointment of a single content aggregator for Nigeria to capture all free to air channels on satellite and terrestrial platform in contravention to the White Paper and the draft license which form part of the Request for Proposal (RFP).
Speaking at a reconciliatory meeting in Abuja, Director General of NBC, Is’haq Moddibo Kawu said that the commission met with the officials of the Federal Ministry of Finance on Thursday adding that he is hopeful that Nigeria will meet the June 2017 DSO deadline.
He observed that when Pinnacle Communications Limited became the preferred bidders and winners of the Second National License as the Second signal distributor for the Nigerian Digital Switch Over (DSO), it looked like a consolidation of a process that was going to help the commission speed up the process.
Kawu observed that unfortunately, it was soon after that process, that the relationship between the two parties became strained leading to the institution of a legal action by Pinnacle Communications Limited.
He pointed out that for as long as the litigation by Pinnacle Communication was not resolved, one way or the other, the DSO was going to remain tainted and mired in some form of controversy adding that Pinnacle Communications Limited is fully back into the DSO process.
He said, “So finding a resolution to that problem was an important issue for me, from the moment that I was appointed Director General of the NBC. We held several meetings with representatives of Pinnacle Communications Limited on the sore points, that led to their seeking legal redress. And our Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed also played a major role in seeking a resolution of the impasse as well as giving the reassurances, that led us to a point where the two parties agreed that we needed to move on from distrust, to a re-affirmation of commitment to finding success, collectively, for the Nigerian DSO”. I am happy to report that we have reached substantial agreement in the interest of Nigeria’s DSO..
According to him, “It is also a vote of confidence in the ability of a Nigerian company, to be part of a historic process, that of the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting in our country. The irony could not have been lost to all the parties involved in the Nigerian digital transition process, that the ONLY company that has strongly shown commitment to that process, by paying a huge sum of money to become the Second National Signal Distributor, is now the one that has gone to court. So while other stakeholders were brought into the process, and business went on, there was an elephant in the room, which everyone seemed to pretend was not consequential. And that was the legal action taken by Pinnacle Communications Limited”.
He explained that Pinnacle Communication was chosen to as the signal distributor for the Abuja phase of the project because the company has the technical parameters and tremendous ability to deploy with the shortest possible time and can work successfully within the short time frame the commission have.
Kawu noted that President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to the digitization process and his inspired leadership has been behind the drive to ensure that Nigeria does not miss the DSO deadline of June 2017.
Responding, the Executive Director of the company, Dipo Onifade said that the company is happy that NBC has decided to follow government policy adding that there would have been no need to go to court if the matter was well handled.
He said, “ All matters have been resolved and resolution is total. NBC is doing everything the right way now. We had series of meeting with the Minister of Information and Culture, the new Director General. Our relationship with the NBC spanned over 15years, if the matter was well-handled, there wouldn’t have been need to go to court. You have our full support and commitment to ensuring that government meets the aspiration of Nigerians by meeting the June 2017 deadline for the digital saitch-over.