Tony John, Port Harcourt
Members of the Association of Cable Operators of Nigeria (ACON) have decried the loss of about N500 million following the closure of their businesses by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Operations Manager of Metro TV, Paul Osuji, told reporters in Port Harcourt that Cable TV operators affected in the raid have no less than N500 million since the raid.
He said Metro TV lost 22 of its staff, as well as vendors, subscribers and other business partners, including those who acted as middlemen between the company and the public.
Osuji says the company lost millions of naira that would have come as revenue for workers’ salaries and for day to day operations, adding that it will spend huge sums of money to replace some of its equipment destroyed during the raid.
“From the report we are getting right now, there is a heavy traffic in the office of those that want to drive Nigerian Cable TV companies out of business. I think that is their game plan, to hold us down and take over our subscribers. That they have succeeded through their collaborators in Nigeria is surprising,” Osuji said.
“We did not commit any crime known in law to merit that kind of treatment. They did not even invite us to hear our own side of the story. Before that time, there was an industrial argument.
“The industrial broadcasting code that regulates broadcasting activities in Nigeria provides a window through which those of us on the Cable TV platform can approach Multichoice, the owner of the rights, on commercially agreeable terms and do business with them.
“We wrote several letters to this company, so that we can arrive at the commercially agreeable terms. In all the cases, they never replied or behaved as if they received those letters. We had to go to court. The law says that in an event that we cannot agree with the the rights owners, we can go to court. This matter has been in the High Court of Lagos since 2017.
“Even in defiance of that, the company still went and wrote a petition against us. We don’t know what they wrote in that petition to warrant the anti-graft agency to cart away our transmitting equipment. It is unfortunate.
“I came to the office on that fateful Saturday and noticed that there was no signal in my office monitoring television. I called our station engineers, three of them, no one responded. It was a neighbour who told me that EFCC had raided our transmitting station and carted away the equipment. Prior to that time, we were not invited,” he claimed.
Similarly, a member of Digital Cable Agents, Silas Ahiator, complained that the clampdown on Cable TV operators has reduced the revenue of agents who rely solely on Cable TV for revenue.
“Before now, customers used to troop into our offices for subscription, especially those that can’t afford high subscription rate. Now that those affordable Cable TV stations have been shut down, it is like we are no longer in business,” Ahiator complained.
He urged the Federal Government to treat Cable TV stations fairly so that customers will have different options and enjoy various programmes like it is done in other parts of the world.