Why is no one buying time on Nigeria’s satellites?


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Despite having four working communications and Earth observation satellites in orbit, Nigeria officials complain there is a lack of interest in using them by both private companies and international governments.

The reasons? Well, two Nigerian officials said this:

[The Director, Centre for Satellite Technology Development (CSTD), Dr Spencer Onuh, told Daily Trust in an exclusive interview. “What do you want them to do when there is a failure? Let me tell you, NigComSat 1R is not enough for this country; it is not sufficient. There must be a backup. Many TV stations and even the national TV network will be very careful to transfer their services fully to NigComSat 1R because it is just one. The stations are set up for business, and they would not want anything to disrupt their services,” Dr Onu said.

He said it was not an issue of redundancy, adding that there was a need for market expansion…. He said: “Even private companies that own satellites don’t have only one. Some of them have five to six satellites, but mostly communication satellites which spin money. The return on investment is very fast but what happens in most advanced satellite countries is that these things are given out to the private sector to manage; they are not under government management and you can see the results.”

But a NIGCOMSAT official, Abdulraheem Isah Adajah, disagreed. Adajah who is the NIGCOMSAT’s General Manager, Satellite Applications, told Daily Trust that it was not entirely true that Nigcomsat1-R was recording low patronage due to lack of backup. According to him, inferiority complex and the mentality that ‘if it is Nigerian it can’t be good’ is the main reason. He called on the Federal Executive Council to come up with a policy which would make it compulsory for government agencies to patronise Nigeria’s satellites. [emphasis mine]

Typical thinking from government types. One government official lobbies for the government to build more satellites, while the other says the law should require their use. Neither seems very interested in discussing the actual lack of market demand that might be making these satellites unprofitable.

The article quotes a number of other government officials, most of whom remind me of the two above. Only one hints at the major source of the problem (the government), by noting that bickering between different Nigerian government agencies has been a factor. For example, the government agency that provides satellite television to Nigeria no longer buys time on these satellites, claiming that they have no backup should something go wrong.

It is a good thing that Nigeria is doing this. The problem is that it is their government doing it, instead of a private industry looking for profit.

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