By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja

Even as it battles to end the current economic recession, Nigeria still has to grapple with the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) deadline of switching from analogue to digital transmission by June 2017. We missed two previous deadlines set by the ITU in 2012 and 2015.
With the Federal Government making efforts to develop various sectors of the economy to begin to contribute significantly to the National Gross Domestic Product, stakeholders in those sectors are harping on the need to reduce massive importation and concentrate on developing the economy via indigenous technology.
It is no secret that the economy is driven by 90 percent of foreign technologies even when there are indigenous technologies capable of handling some of these technological needs. The government has shown commitment in the development and patronage of local technologies and this has materialised in strategic partnerships to reduce foreign technology importation.
Speaking recently during a facility tour of the Nigeria Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited by members of the National Assembly and the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), the chairman, adhoc committee on digital switchover, Hon. Sunday Marshal Katung, stressed the need for strategic collaboration between NIGCOMSAT and NBC for the actualisation of the June 2017 digital switchover deadline.
Katung said the members of the committee were there to see what the company had on ground and midwife collaboration between the two organisations for a smooth transition from analogue to digital transmission.
He said: “For us at the National Assembly, the reason why we insisted on coming here with NBC is to enable them see and appreciate the facilities available at NIGCOMSAT, see how they can collaborate because we want to promote local content. We cannot be patronising other people when we have the capacity over here. Having seen what we saw here today, we are impressed and we will continue to promote NBC and other government agencies to patronise NIGCOMSAT, we can’t be promoting other foreign enterprises when we have the capacity. If we neglect NIGCOMSAT they will die naturally and the reason why they were set up was to provide services for this country as opposed to going and spending the scarce foreign exchange that we have.
“So, my belief is that we will be able to partner NIGCOMSAT to ensure this process is seamless and achieve the set objectives come June 2017. The digital switchover also is just one phase, June 2017 is so sacrosanct to ensure that Nigeria switches over from analogue to digital. The process will continue thereafter; so for those who don’t have access now we will ensure that eventually do so when the digital switchover is complete.”
Earlier, while conducting members of the National Assembly and the NBC through their facilities, the managing director of NIGCOMSAT, Ms Abimbola Alele, said the company has the capacity to handle the digital switchover processes.
“It is about having the capacity and it’s been in existence since so we have been ready. We back up all our services which we use bandwidth to do, and bandwidth is available on NIGCOMSAT 1R, so we’ve always been ready,” she declared.
The head of broadcasting at NIGCOMSAT, Mr Orjinta Anthony, collaborated Alele’s assertion, saying the company looked forward to offering Nigeria very high television services in the near future via its Direct to Home Television Services (DTH) Centre.
Speaking to journalists during a press conference at the facility, the director-general of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, said the federal government was totally committed to meeting the June 2017 deadline.
“We are working assiduously to see that the digital switchover will take place in our country. The federal government of Nigeria is committed to this process. It is part of an international commitment as a matter of fact and we will get it done. At the moment we are installing capacity for the switchover in different parts of the country. If you have the opportunity to travel maybe to Kaduna on Raba Road you will see that our installations are almost ready.
“The mast is about 135 metres tall at the moment, the transmitters are ready and work is being done in other locations around the country so the government’s commitment is very total, the NBC will drive the process and deliver to Nigeria the digital switchover,” he said.
He reiterated the commission’s readiness to partner NIGCOMSAT, saying it is currently reviewing and reordering its processes to cut cost and conserve foreign exchange by patronising local technologies.
“We will look at, analyse and take decisions, especially because there is something very fundamental, this is a Nigerian driven process and their costs will be local cost, we’re not going to have to pay NIGCOMSAT in dollars as we have to do with foreign companies so that’s the difference and the fact that if we can find purpose together then we can also assist them to accelerate the process of development of their own facilities. It’s going to be a win win situation for all of us and the country and that is very central to the digital switchover,” he added.