Digital TV Switch Over: Abuja Bar Lawyer Dragged NTA Sister Company Before ICPC over N1.7bn Deal

The controversy surrounding the procurement and installation of over N1.7 billion equipment by the Integration Television Service Limited, a sister company of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), has taken a new dimension with an Abuja-based rights lawyer petitioning the Independent, Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to conduct thorough investigation into allegations of corruption in the deal.

The petition dated October 20, 2017 and signed by Ugochukwu Ezeikel, Principal Partner of E.H.Ugochukwu Chambers, alleged that the use of out-dated equipment in the execution of the ongoing Digital Switch Over (DSO) of terrestrial equipment broadcasting by the company amounted to abuse of office.

Predicating his petition on the widely-publicised allegations by Mr. Tony Dara, Broadcast Engineer and Consultant to House Ad-Hoc Committee on DSO, the petition, which was also copied to the Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives and Director General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), raised issues on whether the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) was informed to confirm the integrity of the equipment or not.

The petitioners added that the silence by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the regulator of the project and the Ministry of Information and Culture, seemed to have given tacit approval to the very damaging effects of the actions of the officials of ITS.

“We write as lawyers and activists interested in ensuring that due process in award and execution of contracts are followed and that best equipment is deployed for optimum value for citizens of the federal republic of Nigeria,’’ the petitioner stated.

“In the statements of Dara, the broadcast engineer alleged as follows: “That he carried out a discreet investigation and discovered that the equipment being used by Integrated Television Services Limited are equipment that have been discontinued by the original producer shows that the equipment with model number NV8602DE have been discontinued and no longer in use.

“We are disturbed that an equipment that gulped a whopping sum of N1,700,000,000 is one that have already been discontinued since 2013 and officials of Integrated Television Service Limited are importing it almost five years after for use in Nigeria.

“We are afraid that the clearance was not sought and obtained from SON. We believe that if such clearance was sought, the SON would have noted and directed that the equipment is out-dated, its production having been discontinued by the producing company.”

Dara, a broadcast engineer, had said the quality of equipment provided by signal distributors is critical to the success of the DSO, wondering why the federal government commenced the implementation of the DSO by deploying equipment that are in obsolescence.

According to him, “As a Nigerian and stakeholder of ITS, a public company, I am inclined to speak up for the sake of posterity. If you see something, say something; this is one of the public awareness jingles of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.

“It is not my intention to name and shame, but my wish to express missed opportunities: how effective change can occur when public trust and responsibility is applied diligently; how public authority can influence development and process in the society.’’

Dara said he had the privilege of conducting fact-finding visits to the ITS DSO sites in Ilorin, Kwara State and Jos, Plateau State  and Ilorin-to ascertain the level of standards of ITS to switch on digital signal distribution in Kwara State via Digital Terrestrial Transmission (DTT) and Jos- to obtain the necessary information and data in order to assess the level of performance and quality of service of the digital switch on in Plateau State.

He added that the Jos DSO provided by ITS was christened as the pilot project for the switch on process, saying he was dismayed that for a pilot project of this nature, ITS installed transmitters that have been discontinued by the original equipment manufacturer.

“Data available via the manufacturer’s Rohde and Schwarz website clearly states that these equipment models/series (NV8602DE) have been discontinued. This fact has also been confirmed by Rohde and Schwarz product specialists,’’ he further stated.

“The operational environment of both DTT transmission stations in Jos and Ilorin built by ITS, are in the same vein below par. They are installed in old buildings that are clearly neither fit for purpose nor appropriate for digital broadcasting workflow. A visit to both sites will leave no one in doubt of my conclusion based on professional observations.’’

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