March 28, 2018
4 mins read

Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen, I welcome you most sincerely to this very important meeting. When the policy frame work of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) was being articulated, little did we all know that the STB manufacturers was going to be such a major stakeholder. Today you have emerged as a key component group in the DSO eco-structure. I must acknowledge your place as patriotic Nigerian entrepreneurs with the zeal to serve and contribute to the national growth, which the DSO process represents. I’m aware of the significant investments that you collectively made to this process. Many of you collateralized assets in order to make your contributions to the DSO work, we commend you.

When I came on board as Director General of the NBC in May 2016, your proposition was at a critical state; the DSO was embroiled in crisis of funds and many of you had monies and even goods tied down. In the hot emotions of the moment, some of your members launched all manners of attacks against my person on the pages of newspapers and on social media, while a petition was even sent to the National Assembly against me, for not releasing your funds in time. We eventually cleared the indebtedness to you all, and I am glad today, that we understand ourselves better, and to a very large extent, the initial animosity has disappeared.
But we face newer challenges; principally, they are the following: 1. How do we get your different factories working to be able to meet the production requirements of over 22 million TV homes?
2. How do we make the boxes affordable without compromising quality and also ensuring that your operations are reasonably profitable and on a long term, sustainable?
3. How do we maximize the opportunities for members of your association, as business people, and in the interest of the vast majority of Nigerians?
4. How can we deploy in rapid time to enable Analogue switch off, without which the entire eco-system remains unviable?
I am aware that your team has been holding series of meetings with the chair of Digiteam Nigeria to address some of these issues and to find the ways forward.
We have come to a stage of the transition that we must ask ourselves what is the real state of the manufacture of set top boxes. We can first of all accept that the opening of the first SMT production line in West Africa, last year in Calabar, was a major development, and an important contribution to the production process. However, when we are being honest with ourselves, we know that beyond subterfuge, and sentimental statements of intention, most of the STBms are not up to scratch, and you really don’t seem to have the technical and financial capability, to deliver the quantum of boxes that could help us accelerate the DSO process. Already questions are being asked. STBs are permanently in short supply or are unavailable, even in the cities where we have launched. I am inundated with daily enquiries from all over the country about the non-availability of boxes; these are boxes that we paid for, and which should have been supplied by you. Another issue is the unethical practice of STBms who refuse to supply the boxes that NBC paid for, but then bring them to locations of launches, and sell in a most unethical manner.
We cannot continue dual illumination or simulcast forever, because the cost is chocking. We must switch off Analogue; but the set top boxes have to be available to the Nigerian people. How ready are you to produce the boxes to meet the nation’s demand for boxes? I ask this, not rhetorically, but in trepidation, about the real capacity of the set top boxes manufacturers to really deliver. That is one of the many reasons why we are considering the authorization of more players to augment the apparent lack of capacity to fill demand. Besides, we have no power, to continue to protect a monopoly that you enjoy, as pioneers of the set top boxes manufacturing process, forever. There are pressures by other interests that also want to be part of the production process. Let us recall that we authorized 13 STBms, but only about 7 have set up plants of any description, thus far. We have not seen any meaningful roll out of boxes and this is worrisome. We realize that we have a duty to encourage you. We also accept that we have to set out clear guidelines about Analogue switch off in the various places where we have launched DSO, so you can plan your production appropriately. But we are convinced, that other Nigerians would eventually have to be given the authorization to enter the business. But two things would be the basis of such authorization. First, you would have the right of getting your production capacities up to a reasonable level within a mutually agreed timeline. And secondly, whoever is eventually authorized to produce boxes, would do so, on the condition that they must set up production plants within Nigeria, in line with our national objectives of jobs creation and technology transfer. There would not be any importation of boxes from abroad!
There are stories making the rounds, that some stakeholders are advocating and are even surreptitiously planning a DTH option.
We want to make it clear, that the NBC and Digiteam Nigeria, are the bodies that take the decision in respect of authorizations for the technical parameters for the DSO process, including the STBs. The main platform of conveyance of the DSO remains the DTT boxes; DTH boxes are to be used as gap-fillers in areas where topography makes it near impossible to deploy DTT boxes. All stakeholders are aware that it is the standard international practice; and it is the route that we have also chosen in Nigeria. We want to implore you all to please walk the straight and narrow path that we have chosen for the Nigerian process. Let us not be seen to be allowing a desperate desire for short-term gains, to derail a long-term national process. Our idea is to drive the DTT proposition with local transmission as a key component factor.
I am therefore very delighted to welcome you to this crucial meeting and also want to thank the Chair Digiteam who has been in between all of these issues, for coming to attend the meeting. Needless to add that the core objective of the meeting is to listen to you and to hear your challenges, so that we can collectively chart a future. We are interested in knowing how far you have gone with the plan to deploy a second conditional access system. Finally, we have also arranged here a session with the Bank of Industry (BoI), who will give hopeful insights on how we can finance our businesses, if we are truly committed to the production of Set Top Boxes for the Nigerian DSO. This is vital, since it has become clear to all stakeholders, that there might be no more funding for the supply of subsidized boxes.
I thank you all for your attention!

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