After Backlash, FG Explains N654m Approval for Spectrum Monitoring

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The federal government has clarified that the N654 million the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved to procure and deploy hybrid spectrum monitoring system was not intended to monitor the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The Minister of Mines & Steel, Dr. Uche Ogah made the clarification in a telephone interview with THISDAY Friday, noting that the spectrum monitoring system was for the entire country, adding that other zones were approved last year.

The FEC had during the 18th virtual meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari last week approved the sum of N653, 886, 584 to procure and deploy a hybrid spectrum monitoring system that would cover the South-east.

The decision of the FEC was sequel to the discovery of 106 illegal spectrum frequencies in the Southeast, which allegedly compromised the security and safety of the country.
Ogah stated that there was “a report that the federal government approved N654 million for spectrum monitoring in the South-east. The way the message was captured, we are having a backlash.

“People are now thinking it is only for the purposes of IPOB, it is only South-east. The other zones were approved last year, it was only Southeast that was left.
“It should really be of encouragement that the federal government has remembered Southeast in line with what it has done for other zones than putting it in a way that the spectrum was approved for South-east and people are putting it in a way of monitoring Southeast telephone and all the rest of them.

“It is a thing that should be a joy that in fact, the issue of fake spectrum that they use in kidnapping and the rest of them will be a thing of the past, with the approval of this spectrum monitoring system to checkmate the wrong network within the region.

“Some of them established fake spectrum because they want to establish their own link, establish their own network. This will help to have some fake and illegal spectrum established managed. It is not that it is only for South-east, it is for the entire nation, the other zones were approved last year.”

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, had told State House Correspondents that the investigation carried out in the five geo-political zones, including North-east, North-west, North-central, South-west and South-south, revealed that out of the 320 frequencies discovered, 106 were illegal.

He said: “From January to August 2020, within the period of eight months, we discovered 320 frequencies being used all over the country and of this 320, 106 were illegal.

“This is very worrisome because the usage of this illegal spectrum or frequencies will compromise our security and safety in the country.”

He explained that it was because of the agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari on promoting security that the initiative of monitoring the usage of frequencies and uncovering the legal and the illegal ones was berthed.

Pantami added that for the legal ones, it was to ensure they renew their licenses annually, while for the illegal ones, necessary actions are being taken according to the gravity of the offence.

He said: “We discovered that our monitoring did not cover the Southeast part of the country. It covered five zones – Northeast, Northwest, North-central, Southwest and South-south, however, Southeast has not been covered.

“It is because of this that we presented our memo, seeking for council’s approval of N653, 886, 584 to procure and deploy a hybrid spectrum monitoring system that will cover the southern part of the country, most importantly the south east.

“So, the council approved the deployment and this project will go a long way in promoting safety and security and secondly, identify the usage of illegal spectrum and thirdly, enhance revenue for the federal government and fourthly, in the long run it will create many jobs for the citizens.”

The minister stressed that based on the advice of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, operators of illegal frequencies would be prosecuted.

Pantami described the use of illegal frequencies in the country which has become very rampant as worrisome.

On what the law says about the illegal frequencies and what will be the punishment, Pantami said, “Like I said it will go a long way in promoting safety and security.

In the National Frequencies Management Council of which I am the chair, it has been established by law under NCA 2003 Section 31, security institutions are presented in that council in addition to other institutions that deploy spectrum like the ministries of transportation and aviation (they use frequency in the aircraft), the Office of the National Security Adviser, and the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as a regulator of broadcasting are all member of the council.

“It is in the council that each sector that feels that the council will add value to its activities, they will come up with measures on how to use the council to promote what they need. So, it is because of this that we deploy this and security institutions are represented and whatever we do is in agreement with the law.

“So if there is any question with regard to security, it is important to reach out to the security institutions. For your information, they have never requested anything from us that will promote security through intelligence that we have not provided.

“But I am not in the position to answer questions on security particularly outside the mandate given to me. Those we have investigated so far, there is a process. When we discover the usage of illegal frequency, a letter will be written to that institution to draw their attention to it.

“When they admit, if it is a government institution, there is a process of investigation, there is also a process if it is a private one. Sometimes, it will take up to litigation and we are in the process right now,” he said.