Senate Committee Chairman on Communications, Senator Gilbert Nnaji
By Emma Okonji
Senate Committee Chairman on Communications, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, is seeking public inputs on the alleged sale of the 450 MHz frequency band allegedly belonging to the police by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Nnaji who made the appeal in Enugu at the weekend during the Exporter Enlightenment Forum 2012 organised by the Nigerian Export-Import Bank, said relevant information from the public could help the committee get to the roots of the controversial sale.
According to him, the committee would commence sitting this week, adding that it had since directed the Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, the Inspector-General of Police and the Managing Director of OpenSky Limited, to appear before it to state their involvements in the purported frequency sale.
Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, while reacting to the allegation, told THISDAY that frequency allocation at the commission was strictly carried out on due process and that the commission had maintained that stand since its inception.
Ojobo who admitted that the NCC sold the 450MHz frequency to OpenSkys Limited, said the sale was not only in compliance with the Nigerian Communications Act, but also in full implementation of a presidential directive of July 5, 2007.
“The directive was fully deliberated upon by the board of the commission during its 62nd, 63rd and 64th sittings and other subsequent meetings,” Ojobo said.
He added that the presidential directive to the commission was for allocation of a portion in the 450 MHz to NigComSat, an agency of government, but that the board gave considerations regarding issuance of such license to a government agency, and thereafter gave NigComSat a pre-condition to seek private partnership to qualify for such allocation.
“Upon confirmation of partnership with Openskys by NigComSat, NCC’s management began the process of the assignment from 2008. On October 2, 2009, the commission made a provisional offer of frequency to Openskys. As at this period, the Nigerian Police was still occupying some of the frequencies in the 450MHz Band.”
The then Ministry of Communications had on October 5, 2005, conveyed to the police, the decision of the National Frequency Management Board Council (NFMBC), for it to be relocated by the commission,” Ojobo said, insisting that the use of 450 MHz for commercial telecommunications was approved by the NFMC on November 5, 2004, and that after the approval, occupants in the band like the police, NITEL, Shell, Chevron, and some others, were relocated to specific portions of the band suited for their types of service and usage.
Nnaji however restated the resolve and determination of the committee to ensure that Nigerians continue to get values for their monies in the area of telecommunications, stressing that the wrong signals being sent out by the accusations and counter-accusations, were capable of undermining every effort of government to stem the rising tide of insecurity in the country and also raise the revenue profile of Nigeria.
Nnaji who is also the senator representing Enugu-East senatorial district described the intervention of the legislative committee as very essential and timely.
Ministry of Police Affairs had alleged in the media that NCC re-sold the 450MHz spectrum licence originally allocated to the police to a private firm known as OpenSkys Limited. Police authorities claimed that the sale of the frequency which was meant to support police security communications gadgets had made it extremely difficult for the police to roll out its security-based services on the frequency.