Group Opposes Sale Of NITEL

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A coalition of northern politicians and bureaucrats, under the aegis of Unity Forum, has opposed the planned sale or privatisation of NITEL Plc, saying the sale would be a great de-service to the nation.

Unity Forum is an association of former ministers, politicians, and bureaucrats from the north, with a former permanent secretary, M.M. Abdu, as chairman. Other members of the group include Muritala Aliyu, formerly of the Power and Steel Ministry; Umaru Dembo, minister under General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Mr. Buba Galadima, and Hon. Tanko Abari.

In a statement signed by Chairman of the Unity Forum, Abdu, the group said the privatisation or sale of NITEL will expose the nation's telecommunications to ridicule, as the services of the GSM operators cannot provide the needed social services which NITEL normally provides.

According to the group, the services of the GSM operators are "filled with excess charges and huge profits to the coffers of the operators. In spite of the huge profits garnered by these operators, there is less spending on infrastructural development and improvement in our country. "

"With this in mind, it is apt to advise the Federal Government not to privatise NITEL facilities. Rather, it should invest in building national optic fibre transmission grid that will serve as hub for all Mobile Phone Operators (MPO).”

"This will generate an annual income to the budget. The national grid is part of our national interest and security system. This cannot be operated by a private individual rather by a joint task force, representatives of all security agencies on the board." the statement said.

The Unity Forum further said, "As applicable worldwide, telephone lines for the Military, National Emergency Agency, Civil Defence, Hospital Emergency and Fire Brigade etc is free for the above mentioned. Through this means there will be free internet to facilitate Information Technology Education which is the key to modern know how and education."

The group accused GSM Operators of reckless planning, saying, "As at today, each mobile phone operator is digging holes with tiny optic fibres all over the country without planning and coordination which make any development effort more expensive and troublesome.

The statement further said, "In addition, it impacts negatively by cutting across farm lands and leaking of sensitive information that bothers on national interest through this means. Also, the mobile phone operators are hosting antennas, battling each other and spoiling the beautiful landscape of Nigerian cities and rural areas."

The statement from the Unity Forum called coordination in the works of the GSM operators to the extent that communication antennas should also be hung by the successor of NITEL who will compel all GSM operators to use one mast in each location instead of having one for each.

"This will reduce the running cost and health hazard created by the emission from the mast, as well as the noise pollution created by the several masts close to each other. In the developed world, communication is the best earner of income to the treasury. These masts can be used for radio transmitters and cable network operators."

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