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  • January 31, 2017
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The House Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values led by its Chairman, Hon. Olusegun Odebunmi, has visited Jos, Plateau state.

The visit, which took place Monday 30th, January, 2017, was to inspect the Digital Switch Over (DSO) facilities provided by the Integrated Television Services (ITS), one of the signal distributors licensed for the DSO.

The Chairman, while speaking, noted that the Committee was on an oversight visit, which is one of the key functions of the National Assembly. While expressing the Committee’s appreciation on the warm reception accorded them, he noted that Jos, Plateau State, was key to the DSO rollout as it was the pilot-city.

“For Nigeria to be able to get the dividends of democracy that they deserve, all the arms of Government must work together. On a yearly basis, we do appropriate. The question is, how do we see that what is appropriated is duly utilized, accordingly? And, how do we move forward from where we stopped last year?”

That, he noted, was the key reason for the visit. He emphasised that the visit to Jos was not to witch-hunt anybody or group, but essentially, the Committee was in Jos as an extension of the House of Assembly’s duty.

Hon. Odebunmi stated that he was delighted that the National Assembly was carried along in the process and by their involvement, the legal aspect of the DSO would be effectively legislated upon and adequate appropriation will be made.

In his remarks, the DG, NBC, Mall. Is’haq Modibbo Kawu stated that, “Nigeria has made a commitment to this transition process; it’s a huge logistic process for Nigeria and one that will help us to change forever the face of television broadcasting in our country.”

The DG added that the Abuja roll out was actually the commencement of the Digital Switch Over in Nigeria.

“Nigeria paid to import the very first sets of set top boxes, six hundred and fifty thousand boxes (650, 000). And the total for that was $26 million, and these boxes were subsidized by Government. That is why we are selling them at N1,500. Now, moving forward, the question is: Can Nigeria continue, realistically, given the state of the economy, to subsidize the boxes around the Country? It’s a question we are asking ourselves. We all know that, honestly, it would be very difficult.”

“As of this morning, Nigeria’s population is about 189 million. And the whole idea of a digital switchover is that we must be able to cover 95% of the country. Imagine about 180million people, watching television. That would be the success. So we need about 30 million boxes for Nigeria if we assume that a television household is a Man, one wife, and four children. It’s a 6-person’s household. So if we look at 30 million boxes, and multiply that by $40 which is the cost for one box in the present ecosystem, maybe we would need the entire budget of Nigeria to achieve 30 million boxes.”

The DG also pointed out that the Commission also has to pay for the cost of putting the aggregated contents on the satellite; and also pay the transmission companies (ITS and Pinnacle Communications Ltd.) for carrying these programmes 24 hours, daily; and pay the call centres.  He added that it is a process that is very expensive, but in the long run, would be to the benefit of Nigeria because the system would help deepen democracy since it creates the platform for interaction between the people and the Government.

Mall. Kawu, noted that the National Assembly had a major role to play in helping to fast track the funding process by the Nigerian Government.

The Chairman Digiteam, Engr. Edward Amana briefed the Committee on ‘the journey so far’ on the DSO project in Nigeria. He recalled the Challenges that broadcasting faced in the Analogue era and the obvious benefits of going digital. This, he said, led to the treaty signed by Region1 of the ITU, where Africa and Europe belong; setting up of the Presidential Advisory Committee; inauguration of the Digiteam; the pilot scheme in Jos, and the Abuja Digital switch on.

Engr. Amana stated that 13 companies were licensed for the manufacturing of Set-Top-Boxes, a key component of the DSO. And quite a number of them have set up their factories: one in Abuja, two companies in Calabar, One each in Ogun State, Osun State, and Lagos state. Others are putting facilities together for eventual operation.

After extensive interactions, the Chairman and members of the Committee alongside the Directors-General of NBC and NTA were taken on a tour around the ITS DSO facilities by the MD, ITS, Engr. Rotimi Salami.

The visit was designed to give members the opportunity to see the progress so far made on the DSO, with special attention on the Jos pilot-city, and also to give the Committee firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by the NBC in actualizing the Digital Switch over project in Nigeria.

The visit also took the Committee members to the NBC, Jos Zonal office, where they met and interacted with the Zonal Director, Dr. Igomu Onoja, and his staff.

“We are satisfied with the NBC and would challenge the Commission to do more for the broadcasting industry. We need the NBC to carry the legislators along on every activity,’’ the Chairman concluded.

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