Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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    DSO: No money Stolen, Diverted Under Emeka Mba At NBC…Approvals for spending were obtained

    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….read

    While stating the facts and figures of the transactions,
    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
    In a chat with Daylight Reporter, an insider spoke 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

    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.”

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