With the game of blame pervading in the broadcast industry, there is a deJa vu feeling that the current June 20, 2017 deadline for digital migration in Nigerian broadcasting may not be achieved.
This current situation is borne out of the disagreement between the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Set-Top Box Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (STBMAN) over availability of Set-Top boxes (STBs).
An estimated 30 million Set Top Boxes are needed to cover the nation. The federal government is meant to subsidize the cost of 10 million boxes for distribution to remote areas and underprivileged households.
The Commission had last year issued licenses to 13 indigenous firms for the manufacturing and supply of the boxes as a way of promoting local content and empowering SMEs in the country. The firms, now under the aegis of STBMAN is imploring the government to pay the mobilization fees as agreed, to be able to configure the boxes and get them ready before the target date.
According to STBMAN president, Sir Godfrey Ohuabunwa, manufacturing of STB Electronics requires several components and parts that are made by different vendors and OEMs. Some of these parts, especially the Chipset, which is the core of the STB, needs a lead timeline of about 16 weeks from different vendors, from order to delivery. Then the manufacturer would need to still integrate and test before shipping out. They have petitioned the federal government, listing out reasons why the federal government should act fast to avoid missing out on the set deadline.
According to him: “Considering how important set top boxes are to the whole process and the commitment the manufacturers have shown all through, the government ought to have paid us before now, to ensure a smooth transition. Even the signal carriers by now should have set up their networks across the country; we are talking about barely five months away.”
The migration timetable had on two occasions been shifted due to the federal government’sunpreparedness to facilitate the process.
However, last year pilot projects were tested in Jos and Abuja.
Meanwhile, the Director General of the NBC, Mr Modibo Kawu, dismissed all fears and insisted that Nigeria would surely meet the new deadline of June 20, 2017. According to him: “It is true that we have not paid the manufacturers. We have to be sure there was adequate delivery of the boxes to Nigerians before payment can be made. They are many, so we could not begin to pay the manufacturers without ascertaining the level of compliance in the distribution of the boxes. We have to make sure that they have brought in the boxes and get them distributed. For us, payment is not a problem at all. The money has been given to us by government. There are procedures to follow before payment can be made”.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, confirmed that over N34bn had been earmarked for procurement of digital spectrum necessary for the migration policy.
While noting that digital migration was essential to enable Nigerians continue to receive television signals after the deadline, he cautioned that the country might be cut off from the world, if it failed to meet up with the deadline by next year, adding that the project held the prospect of totally eliminating piracy from the system.