Mr Jim Ovia, Chairman of mobile phone company, Visafone, may have tried to right the wrongs of the administration of ex-president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The Nigerian billionaire recently returned controversial telecoms frequency spectrum issued his company on the directive of Jonathan to the Nigerian government.
It was gathered that Ovia in an attempt not to make the return public quietly requested to return the 900MHz spectrum issued to Cyberspace, his fully-owned ISP business based in Lagos, after the controversy that trailed the ex-President’s generosity to him and Mike Adenuga Jnr. Chairman of Globacom. Ovia is expected to be refunded the spectrum fee earlier paid short of N30 million estimated to be usage surcharge for the period that Cybersapce occupied the frequency band.
Ovia’s request to return the key spectrum for mobile communication services has been granted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the nation’s telecoms regulator, which is responsible for issuance of frequency spectrum to telcos and other users of the scarce national resources.
Ex-President Jonathan had directed that Nigeria’s Digital Dividend spectrum gained by telcos with switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting be issued Dr Mike Adenuga Jnr and Mr. Jim Ovia, billionaire owners of Globacom Limited and Visafone Communications Limited respectively.
The Digital Dividend spectrum, which are some of the most coveted frequency spectrum band by telcos worldwide will enable operators launch faster mobile broadband services became available after ITU, the UN specialized agency that coordinates the global ICT sector directed the broadcast industry to switch from analogue to digital by June this year.
An official of Visafone confirmed that the disputed spectrum in question is not the 800MHz but rather the 900MHz, citing that the former was owned by the mobile phone company.
However, in quick response to the controversy that has trailed the spectrum sale without a competitive bid, Ovia was said to have requested to return the 900MHz spectrum back to the nation’s spectrum administrators, and get a refund of an estimated N3 billion paid for the resource.
Barring any change, Ovia is to be refunded the spectrum fee earlier paid short of N30 million estimated to be usage surcharge for the period that Cybersapce occupied the frequency band.
On the other hand, as at the time of publishing this report, Adenuga, the owner of Globacom, who was issued the 700MHz spectrum remains a beneficiary of the former President’s generosity as he retains the licence for the next two years on an exclusive trial basis.
It was gathered that the Globacom spectrum was pegged at a pro-rated price based on a similar reserve price as the one issued Cyberspace but for only a two-year non-renewable tenor that allows the company use the licence “for a pilot operation” that cannot be renewed at expiration.
By Pita Ochai