FG to pay outstanding debts, rollout DSO to Nigerians

By Oluwaseun Sonde

The Federal Government of Nigeria has made tremendous progress in its efforts to get the much-needed funds for the Digital Switch Over (DSO) process, in particular to pay outstanding debts that will ginger stakeholders to resume the rollout and bring the massive benefits of the DSO to Nigerians.

The Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed made this known at the Digiteam meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, he said it’s necessary to foster dialogue among the various stakeholders in DSO architecture as a prelude to re-launching its rollout, which has been stalled since the last rollout in Osogbo, Osun State, on Feb. 23rd 2018.

According to him, “After the launch of the pilot phase in Jos, the launch train moved fairly quickly to Abuja on Dec. 22nd 2016, then to Ilorin, Kwara State, on Dec. 20th 2017, Kaduna two days later on Dec. 22nd 2017, then Enugu on Feb. 12th 2018 and finally to Osogbo, Osun State, on Feb. 23rd 2018. Over two years later, we have not launched the DSO in any state, even when we have 31 more states to cover!

“With the stalling of the launch, our goal of successfully launching the FreeTV – the brand name under which DSO is being delivered in Nigeria – across the country and commencing the process of Analogue Switch Off, freeing up spectrum for resale, delivering the benefits of Digital Television and stimulating Nigeria’s digital economy has yet to be realized”, he said.

He added that if indeed there is a good time to resume the DSO rollout, it is now. Why? “Because moving ahead with the DSO is critical to the post-Covid prosperity of the Creative Industry, hence it is being taken as a priority of this Ministry. At this meeting, we will listen to all stakeholders on their challenges and prospects, and together come up with a realistic timeline for the resumption of the rollout”.

He further said that his ministry is putting finishing touches to a memo they plan to send to the Federal Executive Council as part of their relentless efforts to secure the funds to re-start the process, while they are very optimistic that their efforts will pay off soon. “While looking for funds to pay outstanding debts and re-start the process, I want to put it on record here that we will be pursuing a full private-sector driven DSO and there will be no more subsidies, either of set top boxes or of Signal carriage. This process must be self-sustaining”, he added.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed noted that the ministry have started the process of implementing Audience Measurement, which will go a long way in driving advertising spend to the DSO platform and especially the channels. “This will help them to fulfil their obligations to the Signal Distributors. In the meantime, this meeting must come up with a strategic plan for a resumed rollout, with an expressed commitment to continue with the process until every state has been covered.

“Ladies and gentlemen, going forward, the bottom line is that we need to think out of the box if we are to complete this process. Nigerians have waited far too long to enjoy the benefits of digital television. The Analogue to Digital Switch Over must not be delayed any longer than absolutely necessary”, he said.

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