The attempt to hand over a critical government communication frequency to
The deal was characterised by controversy lasting years, with the police refusing to surrender the lucrative medium which
A government advisory panel named by Mr. Sambo himself, which includes two ministers -
The committee, which also includes a permanent secretary and other officials, also asked the government to reject an alternative offer from
That security project is the National Public Security Communications Systems, NPSCS, the largely failed closed circuit television infrastructure installed around the federal capital,
The two recommendations by the committee were rejected by Mr. Sambo in April, senior government officials well briefed about the workings of the committee said.
PREMIUM TIMES has obtained the committee's report sent to the vice president, containing unambiguous recommendations bordering chiefly on national security and public safety.
But the officials who spoke to us point at the vice president's defiance as part of a decade-old plot by three administrations- Olusegun Obasanjo,
Ownership of the high-end 450 Megahertz has been steeped in controversy since 2004 when the Obasanjo administration ordered original users of the frequency, to be allotted a new channel.
Measured in hertz, frequencies show the unique speed of waves when transmitting electronic signals and data. Megahertz measures very high speed transmissions.
The 450 Megahertz was originally used by the
That transfer lasted years.
But under a so-called government's liberalization of the communication sector, the presidential directive required that NigComSat partner with a private firm before taking up the new slot.
That partner turned out to be
Officials in the presidency, the police affairs ministry and the communication ministry, who have monitored the events for years said the NigComSat arrangement was to merely provide a sham vehicle to transfer ownership of the channel to
A pointer to that fact is reflected in how Openskys suddenly emerged the majority shareholder of the partnership shortly after takeover.
By 2010 when the federal government launched the security communication programme, NPSCS, in response to Boko Haram's increasing violence, the police received permission to install the project on the 450Megahertz, given the urgency of the security situation in the country.
The security systems was administered for the police by NigComSat, the government-owned satellite company.
While that happens, the company will deploy part of the frequency for commercial purposes, including high speed Internet and communication.
The mandate of the inter-ministerial committee, named by the vice president, was to review that proposal and make recommendations as the nation faces renewed threats in
In its 11-page report, the panel warned of national security risk if the deal is allowed to go through, and urged that NigComSat be allowed to run the programme for the police alone.
"In the light of the foregoing, and in consideration of the technical and strategic intelligence nature of the NPSCS project, the adoption of a commercial entity for the commercialization of the network would compromise the confidentiality of communications operations," the committee said.
The committee advised that NigComSat, "being a wholly indigenous company with representation of government, is regarded as the appropriate entity to assist the government in the project implementation and commercialization of the network excess capacity".
The recommendations, delivered on
The panel criticized the offer as not only a security risk but also unethical given that Openskys evidently has foreign partnership-a violation of the National Telecommunications and Industrial Policy; and second, that the police had already spent substantially on the NPSCS.
Should the government insist on accommodating Openskys on the 450Megahertz since the firm already obtained the rights for it since 2009, then it should be migrated to Band "L", while the police retains Band "A", the panel said.
That suggestion too, has been turned down by the Vice president who enjoys the support of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, our sources say.
A spokesperson for the vice president,
In an emailed response, he said the report was yet to be submitted to the plenary for discussions.
"... the report is yet to be submitted to the plenary and no position has been officially taken on the matter yet ,so I wonder how you came to the conclusion that the Vice President is opposed to any recommendation as regards to the 450 megahertz thank you for the inquiry," he said.
The officials who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES said the plenary discussion, if ever held on the matter, would be a formality as the VP communicated his preference once the report was presented to him.
It remains unclear why the 450MegaHertz has drawn so much attention since a separate frequency could be assigned to
But operators point at the huge commercial potential of the frequency for internet and smartphone data transmission- communications needing very high frequencies.
For a start, the government and the firm understand that even where police retains the network, the force can barely exhaust its bandwidth.
A strategic option in that circumstance would be to commercialise the remaining bandwidth, a venture so promising the government slated it for generating revenue for the repayment of the
Also to highlight the goldmine that the frequency is, Openskys said it was building the 4G LTE technology on the frequency, the latest high-speed communication platform for data, on the frequency.
The 4G LTE is said to be 10 times faster than the 3G currently used for Internet by some Nigerian telephone operators.
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