The Minister of Communication, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, on Wednesday updated President Muhammadu Buhari on the approved procurement of two new satellites from China at the cost of $550 million.
Speaking to State House correspondents after a closed door meeting with the President in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Shittu said the China EXIM Bank had agreed to pay the entire $550 million for the procurement of the satellites.
The minister explained that the initial agreement was that the China EXIM bank would provide 85 per cent of the total cost ($550 million), while Nigeria would pay the remaining 15 per cent as counterpart funding for the projects.
He, however, stated that as Nigeria could not meet her obligation in paying the counterpart funding, the agreement was renegotiated with the China EXIM bank and the manufacture of the satellites, the China Great Walls.
Shittu said: “I’m in the Presidency to see Mr. President and to brief him on three major issues.
“One, NICOMSAT, which is one of our agencies where we hope to procure two new satellites from China.
“Initially the agreement was that they will provide the cost of the two satellite $550 million minus 15 per cent, which is the counterpart funding.
“Because we could not afford this 15 per cent, we have renegotiated with the China EXIM Bank and the China Great Walls, who are the manufacturers, and they have happily agreed to pay the entire $550 million to procure two new satellites.”
The minister stated that the new satellites would ensure that the Nigerian satellite company (NICOMSAT) would conquer the entire African continent in regard to the provision of satellite communication services.
He said the Chinese had appreciated the potential market that existed in the satellite business in Nigeria and the African continent.
He added: “This is a very big business opportunity and I am sure that the Chinese appreciate the potential market, which is so vast, and that is why they have agreed that even without our ability to contribute 15 per cent they are prepared to pay the entire sum of $550 million for the procurement of the two new satellites for Nigeria.”
Shittu revealed that the production of the satellites would commence immediately the final agreements were signed.
He said: “It takes two years to produce because it is when we sign the papers they will start production.
“We hope that before the end of this month, we will sign the papers and then they will commence the production.
“It is the completion of the production that the two satellites will be launched.”
Shittu added that Nigeria had nothing to lose because the country would not put anything into the project in terms of financial resources.
He said: “The President was excited and was not surprised because the Chinese are not just going to market our satellite to the entire African continent, but also perhaps by legislation insist that all Nigerian entities must patronize the Nigerian satellite company rather than going to Israel, UK, US for satellite services.
“Now we can say by our local content policy we must patronize Nigeria.
“The major issue is not about employment, but by providing satellite services to all companies which require it.
“Currently, most Nigerian companies and even Nigerian Government establishments patronize foreign satellite companies.
“So the first thing is that we want to make profit, we want to capture the local market and we also want to capture the African market.”