Thursday, November 01, 2007

Expert flays FG over NigComSat, Galaxy

The setting up of the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSAT) Limited and Galaxy Backbone (GBB) Plc have been flayed by a telecommunications expert and President of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi.

He also said that their emergence in the first place was an aberration to liberalisation of the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector and competition, because it creates undue monopoly.

Champion Infotel recalled that the unfortunately aspect of the set up has been that both companies emanated from the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST), who he said should concentrate on research for development and desist from establishing controversial entities to compete with the private sector, such as the NigComSAT and Galaxy Backbone Plc.

President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi in an exclusive chat with Champion Infotel, over the confusion that has bedevilled the ministry, even as these entities have duplicated functions, lamented the situation.

For instance, NigComSAT claims to be a company under the Federal Ministry of Science Technology with a mission to assuming the leading communication satellite operator and service provider position in Africa, through its C, Ku, Ka and L bands offering.

NIGCOMSAT also claims to be a public private partnership with the private sector envisaged to have a controlling share with the initial contract to build the satellite signed in 2004.

While Galaxy Backbone Plc, which acquisition of the Galaxy Information Technology & Telecommunications Limited (GITT) owned by the Jigawa State government is yet incomplete, prides itself as a Nigerian company committed to building a nation-wide Internet Protocol (IP) communication backbone that would support voice, data and video connectivity for government at all levels and to the private sector in general.

Just as GBB Plc plans to operate a single nation-wide platform to provide network services to all Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), as well as manage all national databases and transversal applications and services for all MDAs.

Champion Infotel investigations revealed that both public-owned companies were set up at the time liberalisation and commercialisation of public entities had commenced in the country, which resulted in the privatisation of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) and its subsidiary Mobile Telecommunications Limited (M-Tel).

Reacting to the confusion in the FMST as inherited by Mrs Grace Ekpiwhre as the current Minister, Federal Ministry of Science & Technology, NIG president lamented the situation and said that the wrong steps could be retraced by focusing on research and development (R&D).

He pointed out that over the years, Nigerians have indicated preference for a private sector driven economy, and for government to set up Galaxy and Nigcomsat as public-owned businesses is inconsistent with this notion.

Without loosing sight of commendable efforts of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) in launching the NigComSAT satellite, he decried the setting up of a public company to run it, saying, “it may be going too far.”

According to Mr. Ajayi, public funds are generally used to conduct research and he considered the launch of the communication satellite as one of those experiments.

“After launching the satellite the government ought to have left the operation of the satellite, which is purely business to business men,” he advised.

Similarly, Mr. Ajayi who equally is the chief executive of a leading Internet Service Provider (ISP), PiNet Informatics Limited, condemned the setting up of Galaxy Backbone, saying it should not be a private sector company.

“Setting up a government company where all ministries, department and agencies of government buy bandwidth and other Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) services is creating an undue monopoly,” he declared, stressing that these reminds one of the NITEL of old.

He pointed out that such companies are never known to be efficient, since they do not have to be creative, innovative and aggressive to get customers.

“Government will end up paying for their inherent inefficiency,” he predicted.

Mr. Ajayi further said that government should promote competition to encourage innovations.

He stressed that the argument that government will save money if they buy their bandwidth from the same source run by government does not really hold water.

“Who says government cannot aggregate their bandwidth and ask the existing providers to bid for it and give the job to the lowest bidder. Why do we have to create a government company for this purpose?” he wondered.

Mr. Ajayi, insisted that FMST should focus on research and development and not be burdened with operational activities like overseeing Galaxy, NigComSat, rural telephony and other stuffs that are even better suited under the Ministry of Information and Communication.

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