Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai, CEO, NIGCOMSAT
By Emma Okonji
The Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited (NigComSat) has promised Nigerians of increased bandwidth availability, if its proposed bill is signed into law.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NigComSat, Timasaniyu Ahmed-Rufai gave the assurance in Abuja recently while allaying fears expressed in some quarters that the passage of the NigComSat Corporation Bill will create unhealthy competition between it and the private sector operators.
According Ahmed-Rufai, “The downstream sector will benefit immensely from the increased availability of bandwidth, and opportunities to partner with NigComSat for the delivery of services”.
He added that NigComSat has no domestic competitors, as there are no other indigenous communication satellite operators.
He said "NigComSat is rather in competition with foreign satellite operators such as YAHSAT, INTELSAT and SES NEW SKIES who also provide bandwidth for the Nigerian market. Rather than being called competitors, the private sector players are partners, “so such fears are indeed misplaced”.
He explained that the international equivalents of NigComSat include INTELSAT, EUTELSAT, China SATCOM among other satellite operators. “These are all commercial satellite operators that had legislation backing their creation in all their respective countries”.
According to him, “NigComSat is a commercial satellite operator; it is concerned with the management and operation of communication satellites on a commercial basis. To this end, NigComSat is mandated to procure communication satellites from any source for its business operations whereas National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) is a research agency mandated to implement the National Space Policy and develop indigenous capacity in basic space sciences”.
Ahmed-Rufai said there were no provisions within the bill or elsewhere that elevates NigComSat to the position of a regulator. NigComSat operates a Direct-to Home broadcasting centre, which is a transmission centre and subject to the regulation of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
NigComSat is also subject to the regulation of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) as a satellite operator and that is it, he said, emphasising that there is no duplication of functions with other government bodies, because NigComSat provides a medium to commercialise any of the research products derived from NASRDA.
"NigComSat and NASRDA are therefore complementary and provide a good synergy for the development of the domestic space industry and does not perform any regulatory functions in the area of broadcasting, satellite communications or frequency management; rather it remains subjected to the relevant regulators in each field," he said.
On whether the bill will not create another NITEL, Ahmed-Rufai said "NITEL is a telecoms operator, whilst NigComSat is a commercial satellite operator that provides critical infrastructure that NITEL and others can use to deliver telecoms services."
On a possible comatose status as with NITEL, Ahmed-Rufai said, “the accountability provided by legislation such as the NigComSat Corporation Bill acts as a check and balance for the management of government enterprise. The bill contains clear provisions on accounting and management”.
He listed the benefits of NigComSat to include a win-win platform for Nigeria, providing avenues for job and wealth creation in the downstream sector, generation of income for the federal government through the sale of bandwidth and satellite applications, provision of Internet Protocol (IP) cloud/broadband to support the cashless policy, and provision of a backbone for the migration of the broadcasting industry from analogue to digital systems.