Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The 18th virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presiding over by President Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the sum of N653,886,584 to procure and deploy a hybrid spectrum monitoring system that will cover the southern part of the country, particularly the South East.
Communications and Digital Economy Minister Dr Isa Pantami made the disclosure while briefing State House Correspondents in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, the investigation carried out in the five geo-political zones – five zones – North East, North West, North Central, South West and South South, revealed that out of the 320 frequencies discovered, 106 were illegal.
He said based on the advise of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the illegal frequencies will be prosecuted.
Pantami said the use of illegal frequencies in the country which has become very rampant is worrisome.
‘The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy sought the approval of council for deploying hybrid spectrum monitoring system, most importantly to focus on the south eastern zone of the country,’ the Minister said.
‘From January to August 2020, within the period of eight months, we discovered 320 frequencies being used all over the country and of this 320, 106 were illegal.
‘This is very worrisome because the usage of this illegal spectrum or frequencies will compromise our security and safety in the country.
‘It is because of the agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari, on promoting security that we came up with this initiative of monitoring the usage of frequencies and uncover the legal and the illegal ones.
‘For the legal ones, it is to ensure they renew their licenses annually and for the illegal ones, necessary actions are being taken according to the gravity of the offense.
‘We discovered that our monitoring did not cover south east part of the country. It covered five zones – North East, North West, North Central, South West and South South, however, South East has not been covered.
‘It is because of this that we presented our memo, seeking for council’s approval of N653,886,584 to procure and deploy hybrid spectrum monitoring system that will cover the southern part of the country, most importantly the South East.
‘So council approved for the deployment and this project will go along way in promoting safety and security and secondly, identify the usage of illegal spectrum and thirdly, enhance revenue for the federal government and fourthly, in the long run it will create many jobs for the citizens.’
On what the law says about the illegal frequencies and what will be punishment, Pantami said: ‘Like I said it will go along way in promoting safety and security. In the National Frequencies Management Council of which I am the chair, it has been established by law under NCA 2003 Section 31, security institutions are presented in that council in addition to other institutions that deploy spectrum like ministries of transportation and aviation (they use frequency in the aircraft), Office of the National Security Adviser, and Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as a regulator of broadcasting are also a member of the council.
‘It is in the council that each sector that feels that the council will add value to its activities, they will come up with measures on how to use the council to promote what they need. So, it is because of this that we deploy this and security institutions are represented and whatever we do is in agreement with the law.
‘So, if there is any question with regards to security, it is important to reach out to the security institutions. For your information, they have never requested anything from us that will promote security through intelligence that we have not provided. But I am not in the position to answer question on security particularly outside the mandate given to me.
‘For those we have investigated so far, there is a process. When we discover the usage of illegal frequency, a letter will be written to that institution to draw their attention to it. When they admit, if it is a government institution, there is a process of investigation, there is also a process if it is a private one. Sometimes it will take up to litigation and we are in the process right now.
‘I had a meeting with the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on how to facilitate the process, so we are in the process of doing that.’