All is not well with Nigeria’s broadcast and telecommunication-controlling bodies over the sales of spectrum frequency in the 700MHz bands to a leading telecommunication industry, MTN, by the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, NBC, the country’s broadcasting regulatory body.
The Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, has claimed ignorance of the deal stressing that the value at which the spectrum was sold was far below what it ought to have been sold.
Nigerian Pilot Sunday learnt that the NBC is allegedly awash with reports sharp practices, especially following the sale of the frequency spectrum for broadcast to the MTN.
The spectrum in dispute is also essential for telecommunications operators, especially in the provision of broadband wireless services and has capacity that allows signals travel longer distances than the higher frequencies used by many other wireless systems.
Networks that use the spectrum require fewer cell towers to reach the same geographical areas. What is more, like television broadcasting signals, this spectrum penetrates walls easily.
The NBC is being accused of failing to follow due process in the sale of the high valued spectrum to MTN Nigeria, as well as selling the band far below its true market value.
According to industry watchers, the N34 billion, which the spectrum was sold to MTN is considered a paltry amount as its true value is said to be in excess of N200 billion, even as it was alleged that Nigeria may have lost N162 billion because of the gross undervaluing of the spectrum.
The industry watchers further revealed that by law, the NBC as the only regulator for broadcasting companies is also responsible for assigning broadcast frequencies it receives from National Frequency Management Board, NFMB, for private and TV stations.
The only authority mandated under the Nigerian constitution to allocate spectrum to telephone carriers is the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, which is claiming not to be aware of the controversial N34 billion deals.
Reacting to the development, Emeka Mba, Director General of the NBC said the corporation actually got permission from the right authority before embarking on the transactions.
Mba, who said the 700MHz is for broadcast added that NBC does not advertise and the issue in contention” was given to the highest bidder after due process was taken.”
According to NBC DG,”700MHZ is not telecoms spectrum. It’s still broadcast spectrum until after Digital Switch Over,” he said adding that approval was sought and received to raise revenue to pursue DSO by licensing commercially a portion of the digital dividend spectrum for converged broadcast services.
In his comment, MTN Nigeria’s Corporate Services Executive, Akinwale Goodluck, said the GSM outfit followed due process in acquiring the new spectrum for its services.
Meanwhile, even as the dust over the sale of the spectrum is yet to settle, a communication company, Pinnacle Communications Limited, has dragged the NBC and five other defendants before a Federal High Court in Abuja for issuing the same license it claimed to have won to a foreign competitor.
The firm’s counsel, Joseph Daudu (SAN) complained that after the plaintiff won the sole bid for the distribution of broadcast signals, the NBC allegedly issued licences to other companies in that regard.
According to Daudu, “Pinnacle had been given a licenses and the license has been compromised by the NBC who issued multiple licenses, thereby making the licence to Pinnacle unprofitable.
“The court is to decide whether the action of the NBC is right or wrong. We have an injunction to stop the NBC from going forward with issuing licenses to other companies.”
The matter, which is before Justice Abdu Kafarati, and could not be heard last week due to the judge’s absence, has been adjourned till October 20, 2015 for hearing.
In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/2014 the plaintiff named the NBC, its director general, Emeka Mba, Attorney General of the Federation, AGF; MTS Communications; Details Nigeria Limited and NTA-Star Network Ltd as first to sixth defendants.

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