The Federal Executive Council has approved over N650 million for the purchase of hi-tech equipment to monitor broadcast frequencies in the country.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, made the disclosure while addressing State House Correspondent shortly after Wednesday’s FEC meeting presided by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, sort the approval of council for deploying hybrid spectrum monitoring system, most importantly to focus on the south eastern zone of the country,” he said.
“From January to August 2020, within the period of eight months, we discovered 320 frequencies being used all over the country and of this 320, one hundred and six were illegal.”
Pantami said the need to buy the monitoring equipment was also informed by security considerations.
“This is very worrisome because the usage of this illegal spectrum or frequencies will compromise our security and safety in the country.
“It is because of the agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari, on promoting security that we came up with this initiative of monitoring the usage of frequencies and uncover the legal and the illegal ones.
“For the legal ones, it is to ensure they renew their licenses annually and for the illegal ones, necessary actions are being taken according to the gravity of the offense.”
Pantami said the focus on the Southeast was because it is the least monitored part of the country.
“We discovered that our monitoring did not cover Southeast part of the country. It covered five zones – Northeast, Northwest, Northcentral, Southwest and Southsouth. However, Southeast has not been covered.
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“It is because of this that we presented our memo, seeking for council’s approval of N653,886,584 to procure and deploy hybrid spectrum monitoring system that will cover the southern part of the country, most importantly the south east.
“So council approved for the deployment and this project will go along way in promoting safety and security and secondly, identify the usage of illegal spectrum and thirdly, enhance revenue for the federal government and fourthly, in the long run it will create many jobs for the citizens.”
The minister also provided more information on institutions allowed to deploy or license spectrum use.
“Like I said it will go along way in promoting safety and security. In the National Frequencies Management Council of which I am the chair, it has been established by law under NCA 2003 Section 31, security institutions are presented in that council in addition to other institutions that deploy spectrum like ministries of transportation and aviation (they use frequency in the aircraft), Office of the National Security Adviser, and Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as a regulator of broadcasting are also a member of the council.
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“It is in the council that each sector that feels that the council will add value to its activities, they will come up with measures on how to use the council to promote what they need. So, it is because of this that we deploy this and security institutions are represented and whatever we do is in agreement with the law.
“So if there is any question with regards to security, it is important to reach out to the security institutions. For your information, they have never requested anything from us that will promote security through intelligence that we have not provided. But I am not in the position to answer question on security particularly outside the mandate given to me.
“For those we have investigated so far, there is a process. When we discover the usage of illegal frequency, a letter will be written to that institution to draw their attention to it. When they admit, if it is a government institution, there is a process of investigation, there is also a process if it is a private one. Sometimes it will take up to litigation and we are in the process right now.
“I had a meeting with the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice on how to facilitate the process, so we are in the process of doing that.”