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Nigeria abandons satellite privatisation plan

Nigeria’s Federal government says it will not now privatise the nation’s satellite system. The decision affects Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd (NigSatCom), based in the country’s capital city, Abuja.

Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, says any plan to sell the company and its facilities would be an attempt to short-change Nigerians. Towards the end of the tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan, NigComSat was slated for sale, leading to a protest by workers of the organisation against the planned privatisation exercise.

Shittu said instead of selling NigComSat, the present administration would borrow money to increase the fleet of satellites available to the company so that its customers could be sure that they were supporting a solid satellite operator.

The news, reported in local publication ‘Punch’, quotes the minister saying: “We as Nigeria must have something we can collectively call our own; something that must remain our national pride. So, for anybody to want to sell this national pride is a mere attempt to short-change Nigeria and all Nigerians.”

Shittu reportedly added, “Nigeria is the only country in Africa that has a full-fledged satellite centre like this. No doubt, it is a pioneering effort, but I am convinced that because of the paucity of funds and because over the years, government has not provided the needed attention for Nigeria’s ICT revolution; we are still at the level we are.”

“We all know that all we find here is just to support one satellite in the orbit. Nigeria currently has only one communications satellite in the orbit. One satellite is certainly not enough. Having one satellite is like a transporter who plies Lagos to Abuja; he has four tyres but he does not have a spare tyre. If something happens on the way, all his passengers who have paid their fares will be stuck.

“That is why we need more than one satellite in the orbit so that all other countries and all other agencies and all other companies who are patronising us and paying money for satellite will be rest assured that their investments are secured.”

The minister said efforts had been made to secure funding from offshore sources to finance two additional satellites for NigComSat, adding that two international companies had indicated interest in the project, which might cost about $700 million.

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