By Onochie Anibeze
More facts are emerging on the N8.2 billion that the Federal Government approved to upgrade the facilities of Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, to enable them to broadcast the FIFA U-17 World Cup competition from October this year.
The facts are that lies have been told and the government misinformed on the need for such a contract.
Those who convinced the government to go ahead with the contract gave the impression that FIFA would withdraw Nigeriaâ€™s hosting rights if the facilities were not available.
Information and Communications Minister, Dora Akunyili, broke the news of the contract after the last Council of State Meeting. The government put the cost of upgrading eight NTAâ€™s OB vans from Standard Definition (SD) to High Definition (HD) to N8.2 billion.
We gathered that the government was misinformed over some technicalities bordering on broadcasting the matches and the difference between Television Rights and Host broadcast rights misconstrued.
Host Broadcast Services, HBS, a French company has had the Host Broadcast rights of FIFA from 1998 to 2014 World Cup. They have the Host Broadcast right for the U-17 event in Nigeria. It means that they will provide the feeds, the signals for all matches and uplink to all stations who have deal with owners of Television Rights. For the event in Nigeria, Broadcast Organisation of Nigeria, BON has the television or broadcast rights. NTA, AIT and other television and radio stations belong to this organisation and most have paid to broadcast the matches from signals that will be provided by HBS.
The practice is that HBS, together with FIFA, chooses who they would partner with in the countries hosting their events. Such partners are expected to provide broadcast facilities if they can. HBS augments where the local organisation cannot meet all their requirements.
And after about three inspections in Nigeria, the organisation chose their partners. Therefore, the alarm being raised that Host Broadcast rights may go to a foreign company if NTAâ€™s facilities are not upgraded is false. Documents forwarded to us from FIFA have made this clear.
There are also questions on the possibility of upgrading Standard Definition OB Vans to High Definition ones which experts say is not possible. The award of the contract to WTS, who are sales agents of Sonny instead of awarding it direct to Sonny is another development with undertones.
Purchasing High Standard Definition OB Vans was part of the costs that shut the budget proposal for the championship to N35 billion which many rightly condemned and Nigeria withdrew from hosting the championship before President Yarâ€™Adua rescinded the decision. But the government later insisted that the budget be slashed to N9.5 billion.
However, Federal Governmentâ€™s recent approval to upgrade NTA facilities and over N2billion grant to all the venues to upgrade their facilities have made observers question the initial outrage raised by same government.
â€œIt is clear that some people have not told the truth and this has created grounds for misappropriation,â€ said a source close to government.