By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
Apparently disturbed by the high number of illegal frequencies discovered in the South East, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its 18th virtual meeting presided over by President Muhammadu in Abuja on Wednesday approved the sum of N653,886,584 to procure and deploy hybrid spectrum monitoring system that will cover the southern part of the country, specifically the South East geo-political zone.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, made the disclosure while briefing State House Correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Said he, “investigations carried out in the five geo-political zones of Nigeria North East, North West, North Central, South West and South South, revealed that out of the 320 frequencies discovered, 106 were illegal”.
Pantami said that based on the advice of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the illegal frequencies will be prosecuted.
The Minister argued that the use of illegal frequencies in the country which has become very rampant is worrisome to the Federal Government.
According to him, “The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, sought the approval of council for deploying hybrid spectrum monitoring system, most importantly to focus on the south eastern zone of the country.
“From January to August 2020, within the period of eight months, we discovered 320 frequencies being used all over the country and of this 320, 106 were illegal. This is very worrisome because the usage of this illegal spectrum or frequencies will compromise our security and safety in the country.
“It is because of the agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari, on promoting security that we came up with this initiative of monitoring the usage of frequencies and uncover the legal and the illegal ones.
“For the legal ones, it is to ensure they renew their licenses annually and for the illegal ones, necessary actions are being taken according to the gravity of the offense.
“We discovered that our monitoring did not cover South East part of the country. It covered five zones – North East, North West, North Central, South West and South South, however, South East has not been covered.
“It is because of this that we presented our memo, seeking for council’s approval of N653,886,584 to procure and deploy hybrid spectrum monitoring system that will cover the southern part of the country, most importantly the south east.
“So council approved for the deployment and this project will go along way in promoting safety and security and secondly, identify the usage of illegal spectrum and thirdly, enhance revenue for the federal government and fourthly, in the long run it will create many jobs for the citizens”, the Minister explained.
On what the law says about the illegal frequencies and what will be punishment, Pantami replied thus: “Like I said it will go along way in promoting safety and security. In the National Frequencies Management Council of which I am the chair, it has been established by law under NCA 2003 Section 31, security institutions are presented in that council in addition to other institutions that deploy spectrum like ministries of transportation and aviation (they use frequency in the aircraft), Office of the National Security Adviser, and Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC), as a regulator of broadcasting are also a member of the council.
When they admit, if it is a government institution, there is a process of investigation, there is also a process if it is a private one. Sometimes it will take up to litigation and we are in the process right now.
“I had a meeting with the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice on how to facilitate the process, so we are in the process of doing that”, Pantami concluded.