A pro-democracy and non-governmental organization, the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA) has raised alarm over an alleged grand conspiracy by National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the House of Representative Ad-hoc Committee on Digital Switchover (DSO) to engender monopoly in the digital broadcasting sub-sector.
The group made this known in Abuja at a press conference by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, on Sunday.
According to Mr. Onwubiko, the NBC has perfected plans to retrieve the operational license it granted to Integrated Television Services (ITS), a publicly-owned digital communication enterprise, in order to pave way for a privately owned digital signal operator to dominate the sub-sector to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
HURIWA also condemned the role played by one Tony Dara, a former staff of NTA, to discredit, in the public domain, the government-owned digital communication enterprise in order to drum support and sympathy for the privately-owned privately owned digital signal operator.
It further said it would file a protest against the Ad-hoc Committee to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
Onwubiko said: “We are obliged to alert Nigerians of the grand conspiracy to retrieve the operational license granted by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to the Integrated Television Services – a digital communication enterprise established by the publicly owned Nigerian Television Authority.
“Let us also express our strong condemnation for the ignominious and ignoble role being played by one Mr. Tony Dara, an erstwhile staff of NTA who has of recent being noticed signing series of advertorials targeting the corporate integrity of the Integrated Television Services (ITS) with some allegations that the transmitters this government enterprise uses for the Digital Switchover are out of fashion.
“This signatory to the numerous commercial advertorials in the person of Mr. Tony Dara has also been referred to as an authority in broadcast engineering.
“But our research shows that his employment with NTA was terminated for purportedly absconding from duty.
“All these campaigns of calumny are obviously targeted at forcing the hand of the broadcast regulator to retrieve the DSO license it gave to the publicly owned ITS,” Onwubiko said.
“Our duty as human rights defenders is to intervene when it has become so obvious that there is a grand design and conspiracy to edge out a player such as ITS for the selfish reason of gaining monopolistic control over a sub-sector of the media communication/digitization of broadcasting environment basically because of the monumental financial potentials that there are whenever Digitization of Broadcasting in Nigeria is completely actualized especially if a profitable business model is adopted to enable digital signal distributors to recoup their huge investments.”
He further said: “May I inform you that the grand conspiracy against ITS has surpassed the mere project of sponsorship of advertorials by Mr. Tony Dara and has even been taken over by the Federal House of Representatives AD-HOC committee to investigate the process of digital (broadcast) switchover (DSO) in Nigeria headed by Mr. Sunday Marshall Katung.
“It would appear that the agenda to demonize ITS received official blessing of this sub-committee because of the heavily compromised and biased, conclusions reportedly made targeting ITS. The damaging corporate profiling of ITS by this committee of the FHR is at best jaundiced and amounted to a hogwash and should not be allowed to stand.
“The sub-committee appeared to be doing the bidding of the privately owned digital signal operator and went all out to pass a vote of no confidence on ITS. This is dubiously ridiculous.”
He added that “this sub-committee overlooked the reported disbursement of N2.5 Billion by NBC to a privately owned Digital Signal Operator even when it had queried the NBC for the illegal use of N34 Billion it generated from auctioning of spectrum license to MTN.
“Even when this sub-committee reached a determination of impropriety or otherwise by NBC in the use of the self-generated revenue, they made no recommendation as per any administrative measure to uncover how these humongous amounts were spent. This shows that the primary target is ITS.
“We will file a protest to the speaker of the Federal House. In the protest we will task the speaker to find out whether the allegation that the sub-committee chairman purportedly travelled to Quincy Illinois, USA about same time that the owner of the private Digital Signal Operator allegedly travelled to USA is true.
“If indeed it was a holiday, we will want to know why the coincidence in travel plan happened, if the allegations are factually corroborated in the coming days.
“On our request to NBC for information on the disbursement of N2.5 Billion, we want to express our shock that till date, the DG of NBC has failed to respond thereby leaving us with one of the two options: go to court to compel the enforcement of our FOI request or proceed to EFCC. We have put our legal team on notice on what action to take tomorrow.
“We write in our capacity as one of the key players and indeed change agents in the organized civil society community.”