Sudden availability of GSM, premium telecommunications service, government’s lack of interest and sabotage are the reasons for the monumental failure of rural telephony project; CommunicationsWeek investigation can now reveal.
The excitement of GSM services blinded Nigerians who overlooked other telecommunications initiatives that would have provided rounded telecommunications development.
But with the problems of poor quality service and high cost telephone services, the country is beginning to realize that mobile telephony is not the final solution.
The failure of the project also led to the inability of the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo to achieve the 12.20 million rural phones it pledged during his eight years watch.
Further investigations also revealed that the project intended to provide telecommunications services to the grassroots was dealt a cruel blow by government’s inability to access $2.5 billion from the EximBank of China simply because the agreement to that effect was not signed.
The $2.5 billion is an essential counterpart fund for the second phase of rural telephony and was to come from the Chinese bank.
also gathered that the Senate is perplexed by the attitude of the federal government which reportedly paid some N5billion to three Chinese companies without signing the required financial agreements for the rural telephony project.
It would be recalled that the federal government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government under which Chinese vendors: ZTE, Huawei and Alcatel Shanghai Bell will provide telephone services for the 774 local government areas.
The rural telephony project began since 1997 through the initiative of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) and later enshrined in the current telecommunications policy.
The first sign of lack of interest was shown during Dr. Haliru Bello’s tenure as minister of Communications, when he made lots of promises on how the rural telecommunications programme was going to be used to transform and accelerate telecommunications’ penetration but achieved little.