Stakeholders In Broadcast Digitisation Clarify ‘missing’ N17bn Nbc Funds
BEVERLY HILLS, January 16, (THEWILL) – The Association of the Licensed Set Top Box Manufacturers of Nigeria, STBMAN, has stated that last week's arrest of the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, Mr. Emeka Mba by the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, over an alleged financial impropriety to the tune of about N34bn casts doubts on genuine and well thought-out programmes of government and other stakeholders in the broadcast industry.
The group, which expressed its strong support of the federal government's fight against corruption, said it feels duty bound to tell members of the public the truth about reports claiming that the sum of N17bn was being kept in a secret Account in an un- named bank and used to pay for some “special projects” in defiance of the recently introduced Single Treasury Account (TSA) and in a veiled manner, reference was made to the issue of Set Top Boxes thus insinuating some wrongful actions on the part of the NBC and members of the Association in the report.
The association in a statement issued by its spokesman, Godfrey Ohuabunwa admitted that it is not in the position to comment on the issue of N34bn as reported in many media outlets but said it feels compelled to bring out the facts as it concerns the N17bn (part of the alleged N34bn) it is privy to by the simple fact that the amount (N15bn) is the total sum posted by the NBC as take- off guarantee for the various loans taken by the Licensed manufacturers of the STBs for the Launch of the Digital Switch Over and not N17bn.
The statement reads …
In the interest of transparency and for the benefit of the public, these are the facts within the Association's knowledge.
a. It will be recalled that the FGN in line with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) had approved the migration from Analogue transmission to Digital with the tag “Digital Switch Over” (DSO) and earmarked November 2015 as the Launch Date with Jos, Plateau State as the Pilot Scheme for Nigeria.
b. In NBC's bid to promote local industry and conserve foreign exchange as well as create job opportunities for our youths, it issued licenses to some 13 indigenous companies to manufacture the Set Top Boxes that will be needed for the successful implementation of the phased transition.
c. However, owing to the very short period available for the transition, i.e from the time of licensing, setting up of manufacturing plants and the Launch date, the manufacturers were allowed to import the first set that will be used for the pilot scheme and thereafter to manufacture the rest locally and to this end, they were allocated different lots to manufacture.
d. Considering the fact that the business is a novel one in this part of the world and the fact also that bureaucratic bottle-necks normally hamper the smooth processing of Applications, the various companies came together under the auspices of STBMAN to work in unison to achieve timely and better negotiation results both with the financing institutions and manufacturing companies outside the country.
e. Considering also the challenges associated with payments from government and the fact that the funds were to be sourced by way of bank Loan and the imperative of the Launch particularly at this time and for it to key into the “CHANGE MANTRA” thus emphasising the shift from the OLD to the NEW, and in order to meet the timelines and serve as incentive for investment, members requested for an OFF-TAKE GUARANTEE from NBC as to enable for borrowing and this was granted in the form of Guarantee thus paving the way for the securing and ware-housing of the N15 Billion long before the FGN's pronouncement and directive on the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
f. As earlier indicated, each company submitted its Application as an entity but negotiated with the banks under the banner of the Association and even at that, it took quite some time for the Applications to be processed but so far, members have been able to achieve tangible results and some are set to deliver at designated points once the Receiving counterpart confirms its readiness.
Gleaning through the Newspaper reports, a person that is not properly seized of the facts will assume that the NBC secretly kept funds for some illegal use when in actual fact, this particular sum had long been encumbered and no more within the control of NBC and its role now was to ensure that deliveries were made for the funds released.
while we support the FGN in its fight against corruption and are prepared to offer any assistance in that regard it is our firm view that the DSO project is not only a priority but “a must do “for the country considering our standing in the African continent. It is not an overstatement to say that Nigeria should set the pace for others to follow but in this instance we are playing “catch up” and it is our sincere belief that time is not on our side as a country to be lacking behind in things of this nature.
In conclusion, we state without any doubt that the process leading to the grant of Licenses and indeed the various slots given to the various companies were done with the best interest of the nation at heart and was done in a transparent, fair manner.
It is on record that critical stake-holders like the Broadcasters Organization of Nigeria (BON), Association of Cable Operators of Nigeria, Licensed manufacturers and members of the Nigeria Union of Journalists were involved at one stage or the other, thus it is our strong belief that with the current state of affairs, not only will jobs be created for our teaming youths, the scarce Foreign Exchange will be conserved and local industry and content will be promoted if momentum is sustained.