Waiting for Pantami’s rescue directives on NigComSat’s under-utilisation
In the last few months of his secondment from National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to the plum position of the substantive Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isah Pantami had clearly demonstrated serious leadership trajectory in the sector with strategic directives on reforming the industry.
However, he seems to have remained silent on the disturbing concerns over Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT) under-utilisation since its creation upon the number of nearly redundant satellites procured with taxpayers’ money.
Analysts were worried on the number of administrative reform directives to NCC on telecoms reforms since coming to office with little or no directive to the leadership of NigComSat which is another agency under his watch.
Before now, there had been mixed public opinions on whether the agency should be privatized or allowed to remain a public institution considering its near uselessness over time upon yearly budgetary allocation.
Only last week, the House of Representatives expressed concern over poor patronage and under-utilisation of the services of the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited.
The House Committee on Information and Communication Technology, which paid a familiarisation visit to the company, also noted that facilities at NIGCOMSAT were becoming dilapidated.
Business Hilights recalls that NIGCOMSAT was incorporated in 2006, under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, to provide fixed satellite services, and the company currently runs two satellites – NigComSat-1 and NigComSat-1R.
In his remarks at a recent media briefing, the Chairman of the House Committee on ICT, Abubakar Suleija, told journalists shortly after the lawmakers inspected facilities at the company’s complex that he was disappointed at what he described as ‘negligence’ on the ‘board’s side’.
He averred that “This is a dilapidating structure which if it is properly put in place, Nigeria could generate trillions of naira and do away with the dependence on oil.”
The lawmaker further observed that the establishment was in need of ‘aggressive’ interventions, particularly in the areas of policy and funding from the ministry and Federal Government in particular.
Even while responding to the remarks of the visiting House Committee, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NigComSat, Abimbola Alale, made it clear that ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government were not patronising the company.
Suleija said the lawmakers intended to come up with the right policy framework to ensure that the MDAs patronised the company even as the lawmakers expressed support for full commercialisation of the activities of the company.
Considering the challenges so expressed by NigComSat’s DG, analysts say it has become pertinent for the supervising Minister to issue matching directive that will at least, compel MDAs to patronize the agency rather than encouraging capital flight by making use of foreign satellite services.
Though Alale assured to deliver on the Key Performance Indicators set for the company by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, indications are clear that without a matching order powered by the supervising minister, the current discouraging narrative of the agency would not change for the better after all.