By Onochie Anibeze
Before President Umar Yar’Adua agreed to approve N8.2 billion for the upgrading of broadcast facilities of Nigeria Television Authority, officials assured him that the OB Vans for which the contract was awarded would be ready for the FIFA Under 17 World Cup.
Experts, till date,Â maintain that producing OB vans in Europe or America, freighting and clearing them for use cannot be done in three or four months. Yet, ministry officials insisted that the OB Vans would be ready for Nigeria 2009. The Presidency then approved. That was deceit number one.
Number two: Experts, till today, insist that it is technically not possible to upgrade from analogue to digital and that there was something deceitful if not fraudulent about the contract. It simply also followed that N8.2 billion was bogus for any upgrading of six OB vans.
A consultant of the company that was awarded the contract later explained that digital facility would be installed into the NTA vans and the analogue ones removed, technically admitting that upgrading analogue to digital might not be possible. It also followed that if they were prudent, N8.2 billion could have bought, at least,Â four or five brand new High Definition OB Vans which will serve better than six upgraded ones.
All these are mere part of the prelude to the questions that arose in Abuja yesterday.
“Where are the upgraded OB Vans that officials swore would be ready for Nigeria 2009, five days after the competition kicked off?”
The best answers, in the circumstance, would be provided by the minister of information and communications, Dora Akunyili whose memo to the Presidency facilitated the award of the contract. Those who briefed her on the technicalities of the contract should also brief her for answers. So, where are the vans?
Our sources confirmed that NTA is still expecting them. And this has prompted more questions.
“Why did they lie to Mr. President that the vans will be ready for Nigeria 2009, a lie that warranted speeding the contract?
“Why did they have to fly six OB vans to Europe hoping to fix them before the eventÂ and spending more even as they knew that they would not be ready before time?
“Why did they give the impression that they needed to award the contract before NTA could televise the matches to their viewers knowing that as subscribers to Broadcast Organisations of Nigeria that bought the television rights, they had the right to broadcast the matches just as they are doing now?
“Why did they tell lies to justify the immediate award of the contract?”
In Nigeria, when an organization or government delivers services to the satisfaction of the people, the underlining factors are usually overlooked as people will usually celebrate the result and leave out other matters. This has given rise to the most important question: Where are the OB vans for which the contract winner even secured loans to execute?
“I don’t think NTA is to blame but those who sent wrong signals to the government,” one source said yesterday, adding “the President meant well only that he was not properly advised; they didn’t have to lie to him.”
“We understand that they are still working on the OB vans and that they will soon be here,” another source close to NTA said.
Government officials strongly lobbied FIFA to award them the rights for local television broadcasting. This eventually went to Daar Communications, the owners of AIT who already had the required digital facilities to produce required standard signals. Even after FIFA made their choice, the government still invited them to carry out another inspection, insisting that NTA be considered as local TV broadcasters.
The winners of local television rights usually works with FIFA’s host broadcast company to produce signals which other television stations can uplink and serve their viewers. And FIFA requires High Standard facilities to do this.
Federal Government knew that NTA did not have these facilities on ground three months to the competition but only gave words that they would deliver. They are yet to do so days after the competition began and the averted disappointment would have been among the catalogue of failures Nigeria 2009 has been noted.