The Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) Limited, a company under the federal ministry of communications technology, incorporated for the provision of fixed satellite services has been under severe pressure in the last few years and has been rendered useless and unprofitable, however the federal government is still holding on to it with no plans yet to privatise the company and allow it to adequately revolutionise ICT in Nigeria.
Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Nigeria’s minister of communications and digital economy, has said that due to security factors, the government is reluctant to privatise the company.
“NigComSat was playing a significant role in the security strategies of battling threats to the country including the war against terrorists,” Pantami said.
NigComSat’s efforts to be the leading satellite operator and service provider in Africa by exploiting the commercial viability of the country’s communication satellite(s) for its socio-economic benefits has been futile, as it hasn’t generated expected revenues and telcos operating in Nigeria still spend billions of dollars on satellite services from foreign companies.
The minister while speaking to the media in Abuja last week, however admitted that NigComSat is not very viable and is currently being probed by the House of Representatives Committee on Insurance and Actuarial Matters.
“The failed $300 million launch of the NigComSat-1, as well the N180.9 million insurance premium allegedly paid for the failed NigComSat-1 project which was launched in 2007 is being investigated.”
NigComSat 1-R is a replacement satellite launched by the Chinese in 2011 for the initial NigComSat-1 satellite which failed in orbit in 2008 not long after it was launched.
While official cost for the original Nigcomsat-1 is usually put at $200 million, other authoritative sources usually put the figure at between $300 million and $340 million to cover construction, launch and insurance for the satellite in its first year in orbit.
Since the investigation commenced recently, it has awaken the urge for privatisation with calls from industry stakeholders, that the company be sold to make it profitable.
However, the minister said the Nigerian government is not going back on its suspension of privatisation of the company .
“There have been improvements in NigComSat and there are already moves to commercialise services of the company,” he said.