Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives Ad-hoc, yesterday, grilled the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed over N35 billion allegedly spent on the Digital Switch Over (DSO) project of the Federal Government.
The House Ad-hoc Committee investigating the Non-implementation of Pay-As-You-Go Tarrif (PAYG) by Broadcast Satellite Service Providers in Nigeria mandated the minister to furnish it with details of the expenditure by Tuesday next week.
This is coming as the committee mandated the government to compel Broadcast Satellite Service providers, particularly DSTV to reverse the recent June 1, 2020 price hike, and revert to the old price, immediately.
It also charged government to come up with a strategy to break the monopoly and open up the industry for larger participation and implement PAYG regime for the digital TV broadcasting in Nigeria with particular reference to DSTV, GOTV, Startimes and Kwese TV.
The panel also requested him to avail it of the lists of equipments purchased for the DSO, the framework and the serial numbers of the set up boxes among others.
Responding to questions from lawmakers, Mohammed said he could not provide details of the expenditure at the investigative hearing as he did not have the figures as it relates to funds released to the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) before he became minister.
“When you deal with facts and figures you must do so correctly. What I don’t have at my fingertips is what was released to NBC before I became a minister. I am not avoiding any questions.
The minister, who explained that when he assumed office, the the entire DSO project was moribund with many litigations, stated that the DSO, if funded, has the capacity of creating at least 1.3 million jobs.
“On the issue of monopoly, when I became minister some years ago, I was concerned about the issue of monopoly. We did include in the amended new broadcasting code, which I just signed, and we followed due process in doing this, a draft was submitted to me, all stakeholders went through it, went to Lagos and it was approved. We said in the broad national interest exclusivity of sporting rights in Nigeria is prohibited, we went further to say that if a strong player goes to take the content right from another provider, you must share it with those who are not as strong as you. This way, we are going to encourage local participants who don’t have that kind of financial muscle or technology, amongst other inclusions.’’