Why CT Minister, Omobola Johnson, is Bent on Privatizing NigComSat

With the spate of incessant insecurity bedevilling the Nigeria, especially the threats of the extremist Boko Haram sect and a new twist to its operations recently linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-ISIS, the idea of privatising such a sensitive agency of government like NigComSat and the probable security implications has left many wondering about the real motive behind the government’s desire to sell the agency.

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The world over, space and satellite agencies, owing to their sensitive preoccupation with national security are usually under the direct purview and coordination of the state, and at best, seek collaboration towards achieving its mandate.
In the United States of America, NASA is committed to moving technologies and innovations into the mainstream of the U.S. economy. NASA actively seeks partnerships with U.S. companies that can license NASA innovations and create “Spinoff” in areas such as health and medicine, consumer goods, transportation, renewable energy, and manufacturing. When businesses leverage NASA technologies to develop new products, it not only benefits both thenational and regional economy, but also significantly strengthens the nation’s competitiveness in the global marketplace. In contrast, this isn’t the case in Nigeria.

For example, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was established in 1969 and is currently under the Department of Space. Despite its limited resources, India has and is continuing to develop a broad-based space programme with indigenous launch vehicles, satellites, control facilities, and data processing. Since its first satellite was orbited by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1975 and its first domestic space launch was conducted in 1980, India has become a true space-faring nation and an example to other Eurasian countries wishing to move into the space age. Today’s Indian remote sensing, communications, and meteorological satellites are comparable to many similar space systems operated by more affluent countries, and by the end of the decade India may be one of only a half dozen countries/organisations with a geostationary launch capability.

Cyber Africa’s recent findings revealed advanced moves by the Minister of Communication Technology, Dr. (Mrs.) Omobola Johnson,towards ensuringthat NIGCOMSAT is fully privatised within the shortest possible time for reasons many have considered unjustifiable. Though,Johnson’s moves to that effect, purportedly, have already received the backing ofthe Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr. Benjamin Ezra Dikki, who said that privatising the Nigeria Communication Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), would make it more commercially viable.
Dikki, who spoke when the Management Team of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), led by its Director-General, Prof. Seidu Mohammed, paid him a courtesy visit noted that Information and Communication

Technology that encompasses satellite systems and telecommunications is key to the growth of any nation.
According to Mohammed, in privatising NIGCOMSAT, the security of the nation would not be compromised. He yet, did not give details as to how that would be carried out without a breach of security.Prof. Mohammed said that the Bureau would plan a strategy and evaluate how much private sector participation would be required in the company to drive growth.

The NASDRA Director-General stressed that the BPE would rely on informed guidance from key industry stakeholders to determine the model of privatisation to be recommended to the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) for adoption in the privatisation of NIGCOMSAT.

He added that in executing the transaction, a Joint Project Delivery Team (PDT), comprising the BPE, the Ministry of Communication Technology, NASRDA and other key stakeholders would be empanelled for the purpose.
However, some industry watchers believe that the visit of the Director-General of NASRDA, Prof. Mohammed and his team to the BPE was another open expression of some concern which he often has expressed over the activities of NIGCOMSAT rather than his supposed intentionto intimate the BPE with the activities of his agency, and/or to seek more clarification on the planned privatisation of the NIGCOMSAT…

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