Nigeria’s federal government has announced that it will no longer offer digital switchover (DSO) subsidies for either set-top boxes or signal carriage as it prepares to resume rolling out the switchover.
Information and culture minister Lai Mohammed revealed the news during a meeting with various DSO architecture stakeholders.
He noted that although the government was looking for money to pay outstanding debts and restart the DSO roll-out, the process would be fully private sector-driven and self-sustaining.
He said: “On our part, we have made tremendous progress in our efforts to get the much-needed funds for the DSO process, in particular to pay outstanding debts that will ginger stakeholders to resume the roll-out and bring the massive benefits of the DSO to Nigerians.
“As I speak, we are putting finishing touches to a memo we plan to send to the federal executive council as part of our relentless efforts to secure the funds to restart the process, and we are very optimistic that our efforts will pay off soon. The analogue to digital switchover must not be delayed any longer than absolutely necessary.”
Following the successful DSO in April 2016 in Jos, Plateau State, the government announced the reduction of the price of set-top boxes from the N10,000 to N1,500 in order to make them affordable to all Nigerians. In addition, around 200,000 boxes were given out free of charge, while the Plateau government announced subsidy plans for its citizens and promised to distribute 300,000 boxes to them.
Mohammed said that moving ahead with the DSO was critical to the post-Covid prosperity of the creative industry. He recalled the enthusiasm that greeted the DSO in Jos, noting that the process had been delayed by many factors, especially lack of funds.
“After the launch of the pilot phase in Jos, the launch train moved fairly quickly to Abuja on December 22, 2016, then to Ilorin, Kwara State, on December 20, 2017, and Kaduna two days later,” he said.
“We then proceeded to Enugu on February 12, 2018, and finally to Osogbo, Osun State, on February 23, 2018. Over two years later, we have not launched the DSO in any state, even when we have 31 more states to cover.
“The bottom line is that we need to think out of the box if we are to complete this process. Nigerians have waited far too long to enjoy the benefits of digital television,.”
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