While the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami was holding a virtual meeting with Chief Executive Officers under his Ministry, including with Dr. Abimbola Alale, the Managing Director of NIGCOMSAT, members of the House of Representatives were setting in motion forensic probe of activities of the operators of the Nigerian Communications Satellite systems.
TheNewsGuru.com (TNG) reports the House of Representatives on Tuesday mandated the Committees on Information Technology (ICT) and Finance to carry out a forensic audit of the activities of the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited from inception to date and report back within four (4) weeks for further legislative action.
The mandate followed a motion moved by Rep. Ndudi Elumelu on the need to investigate the alleged sleaze, misappropriation and non-profitability of the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited, which was voted on and adopted, after it was seconded by Rep. Idem Unyime.
It could be recalled that in 2006 the federal government incorporated the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited with the aim of revolutionizing the information and communications technology system in Nigeria as well as to improve national security, broadcasting, internet access, e-governance, health and the educational sectors of the country.
Because the vision of NIGCOMSAT was for it to be the leading satellite operator and service provider in Africa, the company in 2007 launched the first geostationary Communications Satellite in Sub-Saharan Africa to exploit the commercial viability of the country’s communications satellite for its socio-economic benefits.
According to the House, it took the Nigerian government the sum of $340 million of tax payers money to build the NIGCOMSAT-l and a further N43 billion from the federal allocation as running cost and another $127 million as debt servicing to the Chinese Government, but that there is little or nothing to show for these huge investments.
The House raised concern that while the fixed-satellite service business has proven lucrative in so many countries with a worth estimate of the global space as high as N160.26 trillion and 75% of this coming from commercial revenues, NIGCOMSAT is yet to get a slice of the pie and has generated zero revenue.
Members of the House were disturbed that even though the company has not been able to make contributions to the nation’s revenue, it has been riddled with series of allegations ranging from contract scam to the tune of N8 billion, to bribery of government agents and withholding of vital documents to ensure the cover-up of the massive irregularities against the management of the company.
The House was also disturbed that, at a time, a Managing Director of the Company was alleged to have wrongfully declared her assets and signed off the company’s Direct-to-Home (DTH) facility to NIGUS International Investment Ltd (a company owned by the father in law of the Head of DTH) after she acquired shares in NIGUS through proxies.
The House was worried by the allegations that the management of the company breached government policy on procurement by ensuring that procurement matters are handled strictly between the offices of the Managing Director and that of the Legal Adviser, which is a breach of the country’s financial regulations.
The House also expressed worry that between September and December 2011, the management of NIGCOMSAT paid Fasaha Intercontinental Insurance Brokers Ltd the sum of N5 billion for insurance premium of the lunch of NIGCOMSAT-1R Satellite which is a non-consultant job that requires the approval of the Federal Executive Council, and according to the House, such unguarded expenditures have made the company unable to meet the financial obligations owed to the nation and if left unchecked, will result in further loss of the nation’s scarce revenue.
Meanwhile, the House has mandated the Committees on Information Technology (ICT) and Finance to carry out a forensic audit of the activities of the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited from inception to date and report back within four (4) weeks for further legislative action.
However, while the House was setting the mechanism for the probe in motion, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy was holding a virtual meeting with Chief Executive Officers under his Ministry, including with Dr. Abimbola Alale, the Managing Director of NIGCOMSAT.
The meeting discussed the successes recorded so far, which Pantami said have been vindicated by unprecedented contribution of ICT to GDP of 14.07% in the 1st Quarter of 2020; securing telecommunications infrastructure; resolving the challenges of right of way in certain States; free access to certain websites on COVID-19 update; providing digital platforms for MDAs; free text messages on COVID-19 updates to Nigerians.
Meanwhile, the House Committees on Information Technology (ICT) and Finance were yet to fix a date for the questioning of those involved in the alleged sleaze, misappropriation and non-profitability of the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Limited.