By Onochie Anibeze
At the end of his FebruÂ ary inspection of venues for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner, addressed the media at the Sheraton Hotel in Lagos where he expressed huge disappointment on the facilities Nigeria presentedÂ and warned that FIFA would not hesitate to award the hosting rights to another country if Nigeria was not ready to host the world.
But his disappointment ended with stadium facilities and not broadcast facilities for he showered encomiums on the High Definition OB Vans Africa Independent Television had just acquired.
Warner said on air that the AIT facilities could match the best in the world. However, this did not earn AIT automatic Broadcast Rights to produce the matches for global audience as such rights rest with HBS, the French company which won the rights since 1998. But HBS, with FIFA, later inspected facilities of NTA and AIT and opted for AIT as they already have the digitalised High Definition (HD) facilities while NTA presented Standard Definition (SD). What followed was a protest to FIFA to initiate another inspection.
They did but still opted for AIT. Government officials kept on lobbying FIFA but theÂ world football governing body would not lower their standards. It was after wasting long time lobbying and failing that top ministry officials convinced and scurried the Federal Government into awarding N8.2 billion contract to upgrade NTA facilities to meet FIFA requirements barely four months to the championship. We gathered that it is almost technically impossible to upgrade Standard Definition to High Definition.
Again, the value of the contract was enormous for â€œupgradingâ€ and could purchase some High Definition facilities but it would, technically, be almost impossible to produce eight such OB vans in three months. In convincing the government, officials had given the impression that no television station in Nigeria had digital system and that to ensure that the hosting rights stayed with Nigeria the need to award the contract was absolutely necessary.
It was all lies as developments have shown. FIFA had for long chosen AIT as shown in their requirements for even the broadcast of the draws meant for Conference Centre, August 7.
Two days ago, FIFA wrote to Local Organising Committee directing them to liaise with Daar Communications who will produce the draws for live telecast. Daar Communications are the owners of AIT.
It follows, therefore, that the hurry to award the N8.2 billion contract to upgrade the facilities was uncalled for as HBS and FIFA have already chosen their Nigerian partners. It also follows that government has been misled into a contract that would create good platform for huge sleaze in these times of recession and agitations following poor governance.
We publish the unedited letter of FIFA to Nigeriaâ€™s LOC below and an official graphic illustration of their technical requirements for production of feeds from the Conference Centre. Note the illustration for OB Van and Daar Communication OB Van written there. On our back page is the picture of what FIFA wants the Hall to look like when the draws are made August 7. It also follows that the Conference Hall will be further illuminated to meet FIFA standards.
Weâ€™ll keep you posted on the N8.2 billion contract that is another scam in Nigeria. Read, belowt he letter from FIFA to Mr. Mungadi who is project manager for the draws:
Dear Mr. Mungadi,
It was a pleasure to meet you earlier this month during our visit to the international convention center.
For the draw on 7 August,Â DAAR Communications will collaborate with us to cover the show and produce the television signal of the draw.
As the draw date is closing by, DAARâ€™s representatives are willing to communicate with you on details of the draw production and requirements for the TV production.
Mr. Tony Uyah from DAAR/AIT will start contacting you for such details, and I would appreciate your collaboration on this matter by start liaising with DAAR.Â Â I have copied him and other DAAR representatives, as well as Isaac Wakombo, the TV project head at the LOC.
FÃ©dÃ©ration Internationale de Football Association
FIFA_Strasse 20Â Â Â P.O. BoxÂ Â Â 8044 ZurichÂ Â Â Switzerland