A very reliable insider cum stakeholder who worked closely with the NBC during its innovative licensing of MTN that led to the historic raising of N34 billion for the federal government towards the actualisation of her digital switch over (DSO) has come out to deny and debunk recent media reports in Vanguard, The Punch, Nation, Communications Week, and a few other online platforms alleging that the EFCC has “recovered” the sum of N34bn paid by MTN for Spectrum” which was allegedly stolen or mismanaged.
While stating the facts and figures of the transacti,ons, this angry insider strongly condemned the media reports.
He maintained that the clear objective of the reports were to tarnish the image and reputation of the immediate past management of the NBC under Mr. Emeka Mba and other individuals and companies mentioned in the one sided publications, which he further described as “false and without foundation.”
In a chat with our reporter, this insider who spoke with us on the condition of anonymity stated that the publications were grossly misleading and a total misrepresentation of facts.
“It is important to set the records straight for Nigerians to understand the true story which is very different from the concocted lies of mischief-makers. Here are the facts:
For years, Nigeria’s international obligation to transition from analogue to digital broadcasting, known as Digital Switch Over (DSO), was stalled due to lack of funds. Successive governments failed to appropriate necessary funding for this very crucial national development programme. Following the huge burden on the economy emanating from the 2015 elections which was around the corner at the time, and pressures of the war against Boko Haram, it became clear towards the end of 2014 that the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan was also going to miss the June 2015 DSO deadline. Based on a timely and ingenious proposal from Technology Advisors, a leading ICT Law Firm in the country, a dedicated DSO Funding Project was developed which was presented to the former President for approval. The specific approval granted by the former President covered not only the utilization of the proceeds realized for DSO, but also the format of the special auction to be conducted for the license, as well as provisioning of set-top-boxes (STBs), providing STB rebates, DSO publicity and other critical aspects of the DSO.
Continuing, he said: “The industry was without doubt elated and applauded the innovation and wisdom of the NBC under the leadership of Emeka Mba. The Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) stated that this should be the way to go for other countries who were yet to transit to digital broadcasting. MTN Communications Limited, who made the highest bid offer in the special auction process, was later licensed by the NBC and the proceeds was immediately put to use as was directed by the former President in order to meet the new regional DSO deadline set by the West African States.”
Speaking further, this privileged insider added that Nigeria was about to create the largest digital free television network in the world with a known 26million television households.
“The government also approved a household set top box rebate assistance scheme, for the most vulnerable families across the country, in other to ensure that economically disadvantaged families are not cut off from watching television when the analogue switch off occurs, as this would further deepen the gulf between the informed and uninformed, and this could be dangerous given the current national security challenges confronting the country. Rebate is a form of subsidy to enable indigent Nigerians to acquire the STBs at an affordable rate and also encourage an accelerated establishment of local STB manufacturing plants in the country which would create jobs and exponentially grow our economy.”
He made it clear that it was based on this approval that the NBC in consultation with all relevant stakeholders involved in the DSO, including the licensed set top box manufacturers agreed on the STB rebate scheme financing, with the NBC providing the necessary “off taker guarantees” to all the STB manufacturers through Zenith bank for the off-shore manufacture and delivery of STBs for the pilot DSO launch in Plateau State.
“Also, the major reason the guaranty was instituted was to ensure that the STB manufactures were assured that their investment in importing STBs for the Jos DSO pilot and establishing manufacturing plants locally in Nigeria would be safe; and furthermore that governments funds were not paid upfront to anyone who may end up receiving the funds and frittering it away. So it was a win win situation that guaranties the availability of the product and the security of the government funds. The off taker guarantees also covers the cost of the provision of the digital content access fee (DCAF) for all the STBs by the authorized middleware provider (Inview Limited). The DCAF was to be used for activation of each STB and would be ploughed into a broadcasting fund for maintenance of the digital infrastructure, provide training for professionals in the industry, creation of digital content, and provide support to owners of some thematic channels such as children’s programming.”
While further debunking the allegation of diversion or stolen funds by NBC under Mba, this insider argued that it is preposterous for anyone to allege that the NBC defied the Federal Government’s directive on the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by diverting funds from the proceeds of the licence fee.
“The NBC had with appropriate approvals entered necessary agreements with Zenith bank and the authorized STB manufacturers for the bank guarantees on manufacture of the STBs, without which it would be impossible to achieve the digital switchover. A portion of the DSO fund was already encumbered through the bank guarantees provided for authorized STB manufacturers before the TSA directive took effect. It is a known fact that the rest of the funds was swept into the TSA by the bank.”
While shedding more light, this insider vowed that the former Director General of NBC Emeka Mba is a known agent of positive change and a proactive person.
“Mba transformed the broadcast regulator NBC and opened up the industry for accelerated development. It was touted in some quarters that his innovative manner of taking up and sorting out challenges resulted in the loss of his job. He resorted to seeking for alternative means of raising funds for DSO when Government could not provide funding for DSO and Nigeria missed the deadline of June 17, 2015 set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Don’t also forget that this same Emeka Mba that is being harassed and vilified enabled the industry to participate in several international content markets such as MIPCOM, MIPTV, DISCOP, CABSAT and a host of others. These platforms created foreign partnerships and attracted foreign investments in the broadcasting industry. The NBC received several local and international awards while he was at the helm of affairs. It was his presence that provided confidence and attracted several foreign investors into the industry. He elevated several senior staff members to Directorship even when some of his predecessors refused to do the same. He changed the NBC website and also brought about more professionalism in broadcast regulatory practice through reformative regulations and industry research.”
Going further, this insider avowed that it is important to also state that the NBC was committed to its Legal Consultant (Technology Advisors) whose proposal led to the Presidential approval for utilizing a portion of the broadcast spectrum to raise funds for DSO.
Another reliable source in NBC also revealed that Basil Udotai, Esq., the Managing Partner of Technology Advisors, worked with NBC to prepare all memoranda and documentations required for all the approvals; developed the project framework; managed the special auction licensing process with the NBC; negotiated and drafted the DTT License Agreement, etc.
“For its ideas and services, the firm had asked for no upfront payment or any payment at all throughout the entire period of the project until the funding is realized, and to be paid 20% of the funds raised upon successful completion. The NBC Board however negotiated the rate downward to 10%, which was accepted by the firm. This proposal and the procedure adopted were approved by the then Board of the NBC and the former President. Now the question is whether a consultant contracted by the Federal Government to deliver a service approved by the President should be paid upon full delivery of such services or not? How such contracted payment can morph into a scam or fraud in anyone’s estimation is truly shocking!”
Hear this shocker from our inside source. “The news making the rounds failed to mention that more than HALF A BILLION NAIRA was paid by Technology Advisors to the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) as taxes on this transaction.”
While exonerating Mba and others mentioned in the report from any fraudulent act or wrong doing, this insider maintained that the purported recovery of N10billion was a total misrepresentation of facts.
“The truth of the matter was that the authorized STB manufacturers who were provided off-taker guarantees in the form of collateral for the manufacture and delivery of STBs for the DSO were meant to also open letters of credit for that purpose. However, it was agreed at a recent meeting between the Minister of Information, Zenith Bank and EFCC that the guarantees meant for those STB manufacturers who were yet to open letters of credit through Zenith Bank, but have completed necessary agreements with their foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) should be cancelled and the funds meant for them transferred to EFCC’s account, while those who have commenced theirs should complete the process. It should be noted that the funds for off-taker guaranty was in the NBC DSO Collateral account and never left Zenith Bank.”
“In light of the above analysis, it is important to state that no money was missing, lost or stolen by anyone at NBC. The NBC followed the necessary processes and acquired appropriate approvals from the then Minister of Information, former Minister of Communications Technology and President Goodluck Jonathan to accelerate or fast track the NBC to successfully transit Nigeria to digital broadcasting. The fact is that the NBC could not dole out monies to those authorized STB manufacturers who might abscond without doing anything, being the reason for the bank guarantees provided through Zenith bank for better protection and transparency of the process.”
He further revealed that the NBC have recently taken delivery of a quantity of the STBs manufactured by SMK Engineering Limited and Gospell Technology Limited.
“These companies were part of the authorized manufacturers who were provided with bank guarantees by the NBC. Some of the companies have also manufactured theirs and are about to bring them into the country.”
Our inside source concluded by warning that it would be sad for Nigeria to miss another digital switchover deadline with all these disruptions. “Everything must be done to achieve a successful digital switchover so that Nigeria can begin to reap the immense benefits of making this transition. It will be unwise to throw away the baby with the bath water. Completion of the DSO has the potential of generating billions of dollars revenue for Nigeria and creating as much as 60,000 skilled jobs in the industry thereby reducing our unemployment rate.”
Wednesday, March 09, 2016
DSO: No money was stolen, diverted under Emeka Mba at NBC…Approvals for spending were obtained
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