DSO: FG approves N9.4bn, targets 1m jobs

From Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Abuja

After a three-year delay, the Federal Government is set to roll out the Digital Switch Over (DSO) for the broadcast industry in Nigeria; with payment of N9.4 billion already approved for the process.

The DSO, when fully operational, is expected to create, at least, one million jobs for Nigerians in the broadcast industry; within three years.

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed this at the inauguration of a Ministerial Task Force on DSO Rollout in Abuja, yesterday.

Last week, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved payment of N9.4 billion to several service providers; to kickstart the process.

The DSO members and the organisations they represent, as announced by the minister include Mohammed (Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Chairman); Armstrong Idachaba (National Broadcasting Commission); Edward Amana (Digiteam); Tunde Adegbola (Digiteam); Hajia Sa’a Ibrahim (Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria) and Sadeeq Musa (ITS).

Others are Godfrey Ohuabunwa (Set-Top-Box Manufacturers); who is also standing in for the BON chair; Lekan Fadolapo (APCON); Aisha Shehu Omar (Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning); J. O. Attah (Nigeria Customs Service); Nnanna Ibom (Federal Ministry of Information and Culture); Olusegun Yakubu (Pinnacle Communications); and Joe Mutah (Federal Ministry of Information and Culture), who will serve as secretary.

“The DSO,” said the minister, “is a complex process. Two FECs ago, council approved payment, which would now allow them roll out in other cities. We’ve rolled out in five cities and with the approval, we can roll out in as many states as possible. If we do not roll out very fast, you will start noticing interference in your radio and television.”

Asked whether ongoing litigation could be a setback for the DSO rollout, he replied: “Whatever legal issues might arise, I’m not even aware there’s any legal issue about the DSO. The only challenge we had was inability to pay our service providers. The process is going to be driven by commercial imperatives. The bulk of the job would be with the signal distributors. The DSO process will create jobs in states.”

“Today marks the third year that we last launched the DSO in any state, and that was in Osun State on February 23, 2018. You will recall we launched the pilot programme in Jos, Plateau State, on April 30, 2016, followed by Abuja on December 22, 2016, then Ilorin, Kwara State, on December 20, 2017; Kaduna two days later on December 22, 2017, Enugu on Februay 12, 2018 and finally, as I said earlier, Osogbo on Februay 23, 2018.

“With the payment approval by FEC, and with 31 states to cover, we have our work cut out for us. We have no more excuses for not rapidly rolling out the DSO across the country, hence my decision to set up a 13-member Ministerial Task Force, which I will personally chair, to take charge of the rollout.

“At a stakeholders’ meeting here on August 25, 2020, I said we will be pursuing a private-sector driven DSO, that there will be no more subsidies, either of Set-Top-Boxes or of Signal carriage, and that the process must be self-sustaining…

“As I have just mentioned, the DSO process is capable of delivering over 1 million jobs. These are not phantom jobs.”