Last week, the news of the approval granted by the federal government to invest over N16 billion on broadband infrastructures projects in 18 Institutions of higher learning across the six geopolitical zones of the country was received with great joy.
The news which was broken by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, was celebrated nationwide especially by the institutions and students that would be benefiting from the government largess.
According to the minister, three universities from each geopolitical zones, starting with the University of Abuja, University of Ilorin and Federal University of Technology, Minna , all from North Central .
In Southeast, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. South South, we have the University of Port Harcourt, University of Benin and the University of Calabar.
In Southwest, University of Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and the Federal College of Education (Technical) Oyo. In Northwest, we have Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Bayero University Kano, Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua University Katsina.
In Northeast, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Borno State University and Gombe State University.
The development will ensure that our students have access to real time internet and become tech-savvy as well as be in the position in no distance time to compete with their counterparts from other countries on the utilization of the internet.
But while we are celebrating the approval, it is giving me some sleepless nights especially on why government prefer purchase to utilizing available resources.
In December 2011, the Nigerian communications satellite was launched into orbit by China in Xichang. The satellite according to former President Goodluck Jonathan would have a positive impact on national development in various sectors such as communications, internet services, health, agriculture, environmental protection and national security.
A recent check shows the satellite is providing vital services to more than 79 federal and state universities while over 56 Colleges of Education are also hooked on NigComSat-1R. This is by no means a small feat, considering the huge amount of foreign exchange spent on bandwidth and Internet connections by the schools and educational institutes before now.
Surprisingly, the satellite which is being sought after by other countries and companies from outside Nigeria is not recognize at home. Reminding us of the biblical John de Baptist who was making exploit everywhere except his hometown.
The new approval by government is enough to serve as a solid investment for NigComSat knowing that the satellite will not last forever and has an expiry date. If am not mistaking, N16 billion can assist the country in designing and launching another satellite.
I recall in 2017, the federal government said it will compel ministries, departments, and agencies to acquire bandwidth services from the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited.
That decision was communicated by then Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, when he said that for the country to achieve self-sufficiency and attract the confidence of customers in the services provided by NigComSat, there was a need for more satellite backups for the NigComSat-1R to meet up with the current bandwidth requirements of the nation.
Five years after that laudable policy pronouncement, the federal government itself is investing N16 billion in broadband penetration outside the NigComsatand this for us amount to policy summersault and a deceit.
Today, most government organisations are going abroad to acquire or negotiate for satellite broadband, bandwidth, images, data or services without recourse to NigComSat-1R.
Do we value the satellite and its contribution to the ICT breakthrough in the country as well as its contribution to national development?
Not long ago, NigComSat-1R was selected from among other satellites across the globe to provide In-Orbit Test and Carrier Spectrum Monitoring Services for Belintersat-1 Satellite. Belintersat-1 is a communication satellite owned by the Government of Belarus. NigComSat-1R is also expected to provide CSM services to monitor the performance of Belintersat-1 and transmit the data in real-time to Belarus for the life of the satellite.
Unfortunately, since 2011, when our scientists design and launched the satellite in partnership with foreign engineers and scientists, came back after making us proud, they have been redundant.
In the last eleven years, NigcomSat has proven to be a reliable global infrastructure for communication that is not recognize in Nigeria.
The time has come for the federal government to go back to the drawing board and re-evaluate why Nigcomsat established and what has been its contributions to national development. This will ensure that it enforce a deliberate policy that compelMDAs to patronize the satellite and try to kill this purchasing habit that is the responsible for capital flight from Nigeria to fund other economies.