Construction of the first phase of the rural telephone project was awarded to three Chinese companies namely ZTE Corporation, China Machinery Import and Export Corporation and Alcatel Shanghai Bell Ltd. in July 2002 following a $200 million loan from China.
Though work on the project is almost completed, the memo circulated to the Senate by the Ministry of Information and Communication, however, lamented that the “network is yet to be interconnected with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) – NITEL’’.
Senate officials and other stakeholders, Sunday Vanguard learnt, are concerned that NITEL is not in a hurry to connect the new exchanges as it is insisting on a purely commercial relationship with the new exchanges built by the Chinese.
“Due to the historical relationship that had existed between the Ministry and NITEL, the NRTP network, from the inception was conceived and designed to leverage on the existing NITEL infrastructure. However, due to the privatization of NITEL, the company’s policies have changed. The company has therefore insisted that the ministry should pay fully for all the services required.’’
“Due to the delay encountered in accessing the funds for these services, it has become difficult for NITEL to cooperate or oblige interconnection with the NRTP which is critical to the functionality of the whole network,’’ the memo stated.
With the first phase yet to come on stream, the Obasanjo administration in March 2006 signed another agreement with the Chinese government for the implementation of the second phase of the rural telephony project.
$300 million was provided as loan by the Chinese government for the implementation of the project with the Nigerian government providing 15% of the counterpart funds.
“The counterpart funds (down payments) of 15% of the contract values are being paid to the contractors,’’ the memo revealed even though work on the second phase is yet to commence and with Nigeria already servicing the loans obtained for the Chinese companies to work on the second phase.
“The immediate past president had verbally granted approval for the contract of the 3rd phase to be processed within the tenure of his administration in order to ensure that all the local government areas (LGAs) in the country are covered,’’ the memo stated.