By Chris Alu
The Association of Rural Telephony Operators of Nigeria (ARTON) expressed worry at the weekend over the continued delay in the handover of the National Rural Telephony Projects (NRTP) five years after they emerged preferred bidders.
Engr. Gerry Ekesiani, Chief Executive Officer, Voicewares Networks Limited, one of the operators of ARTON project that won the contract to operate South- East and Benue exchange, said that their members are frustrated by the delay in the process of handing over the projects to them.
He also said that the actions of ministry of communications technology have not shown commitment to conclusion of the transaction.
He cited agreement reached between the ministry and ARTON members at a meeting two years ago, where it was agreed that 2.3 Ghz spectrum would be reversed for them during the auctioning by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which did not happen.
“NCC is an agency under the ministry and seeks approval from the ministry before taking action; for NCC not to have reserve the spectrum for us means that the ministry did not give them such directive.
“The 800MGH frequency allocated to us is no longer suitable for delivery of broadband, hence we demanded 2.3Ghz spectrum. How can the ministry be talking about broadband master plan without national rural telephony projects which provides a better access platform for most Nigerians?,” he stated.
He noted that President Goodluck Jonathan gave directive to ministers to ensure that all abandon projects are completed, and wondered why NRTP case is different.
It would be recalled that the ministry had last year attributed the delay in National Assembly approval and president’s signing of 2014 Budget as being responsible for the frustration Ministry of Communications Technology is facing in its efforts to conclude the transaction of handing over national rural telephony projects (NRTP) to operators that emerged preferred bidders to operate the networks in the country.
Engr. John Ayodele, Director of Posts and Telecommunications in the ministry of Communications Technology, had some times in June last year said that the ministry has not seen the budget to determine if the money it appropriated to the conclusion of NRTP transaction was approved by the National Assembly before it can commence the next stage in the process.
“As I’m speaking with you, we, at the ministry, have not seen the Budget as signed by the president, to know if the allocation the ministry appropriated to the conclusion of NRTP transactions was approved before we can go to the next stage. The Budget is the fundamental stage, without which we cannot go to the next stage in the process”, he said.
Among the companies that emerged preferred bidders in the various zones are, Suburban Limited (now Telefund Ltd) emerging for Abuja and Kaduna zones respectively; Gicel Wireless emerging for Bauchi Zone; Voicewares Networks Limited for Enugu Zone; Key Communications for Ibadan Zone and Hezonic for Port Harcourt Zone.