Opening Remarks by The HMIC, Alh. Lai Mohammed, At The Digiteam Meeting In Abuja On Tuesday, 25 Aug. 2020

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PROTOCOL

I welcome you all to this meeting, which we have called to foster dialogue among the various stakeholders in the Digital Switch Over (DSO) architecture as a prelude to re-launching the DSO rollout, which has been stalled since the last rollout in Osogbo, Osun State, on Feb. 23rd 2018.

2. There is no doubt that the enthusiasm that greeted the launch of the DSO in Jos, Plateau State, on April 30th 2016, has waned. Many factors could be blamed for this, but the lack of much-needed funds stands out.

3. After the launch of the pilot phase in Jos, the launch train moved fairly quickly to Abuja on Dec. 22nd 2016, then to Ilorin, Kwara State, on Dec. 20th 2017, Kaduna two days later on Dec. 22nd 2017, then Enugu on Feb. 12th 2018 and finally to Osogbo, Osun State, on Feb. 23rd 2018. Over two years later, we have not launched the DSO in any state, even when we have 31 more states to cover!

4. With the stalling of the launch, our goal of successfully launching the FreeTV Рthe brand name under which DSO is being delivered in Nigeria Рacross the country and commencing the process of Analogue Switch Off, freeing up spectrum for resale, delivering the benefits of Digital Television and stimulating Nigeria’s digital economy has yet to be realized.

5. But if indeed there is a good time to resume the DSO rollout, it is now. Why? Because moving ahead with the DSO is critical to the post-Covid prosperity of the Creative Industry, hence it is being taken as a priority of this Ministry.

6. At this meeting, we will listen to all stakeholders on their challenges and prospects, and together come up with a realistic timeline for the resumption of the rollout.

7. On our part, we have made tremendous progress in our efforts to get the much-needed funds for the DSO process, in particular to pay outstanding debts that will ginger stakeholders to resume the rollout and bring the massive benefits of the DSO to Nigerians.

8. As I speak, we are putting finishing touches to a memo we plan to send to the Federal Executive Council as part of our relentless efforts to secure the funds to re-start the process, and we are very optimistic that our efforts will pay off soon.

9. While looking for funds to pay outstanding debts and re-start the process, I want to put it on record here that we will be pursuing a full private-sector driven DSO and there will be no more subsidies, either of set top boxes or of Signal carriage. This process must be self-sustaining.

10. May I also note that we have started the process of implementing Audience Measurement, which will go a long way in driving advertising spend to the DSO platform and especially the channels. This will help them to fulfil their obligations to the Signal Distributors.

11. In the meantime, this meeting must come up with a strategic plan for a resumed rollout, with an expressed commitment to continue with the process until every state has been covered. Ladies and gentlemen, going forward, the bottom line is that we need to think out of the box if we are to complete this process. Nigerians have waited far too long to enjoy the benefits of digital television. The Analogue to Digital Switch Over must not be delayed any longer than absolutely necessary.

12. Once again, I welcome you all to this meeting and I thank you all for honouring our invitation