20 January 2013

Nigeria: Aso Television - Endless Wait for Take-Off

On March 28, 2008, the former President, late Umaru Musa Yar'adua approved the constitution of a seven-man board of directors for Aso Television Services in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. By this, it was expected that the broadcasting outfit would begin transmission services that year but five years after uncertainty still shrouds its take-off.

The former FCT minister, Dr. Aliyu Modibbo Umar while in office was said to have made efforts to ensure the take-off of the television station. One of the steps he took to realize this was the constitution of a new board of directors his administration expected would help it actualize the dreams and visions of the TV station.

Unfortunately, his hope and expectations on the TV station till today did not seem to materialize. Some years after he left office, it has almost become impossible for the broadcasting station to begin transmission as envisaged by the FCT administrator and majority of it's would be viewers in Abuja and environs.

In October 2003, the Management of the MFCT under the Chairmanship of Malam Nasir El-Rufai, then Minister of Federal Capital Territory decided to incorporate Aso Radio 93.5 into a limited liability company with the Ministry and Abuja Investment & Property Development Company as major shareholders. With its incorporation, the station became a limited liability company with the name Aso Radio & Television Services Plc. The idea was to incorporate a television Station into the services of the company and it was as well expected to commence operations by the first quarter of year 2008. Unfortunately, this did not work out as expected till this present time.

Since the period of its past leaderships, the take- off of Aso Television has been marred by one form of crisis or the other bordering on financial recklessness of some of those saddled with the responsibility of its affairs. The Association of Radio, Television and Art Workers of Nigeria, [RATTAWU] sometime ago petitioned the EFCC over this.

Also, the then EFCC spokesman, Mr. Femi Babafemi while confirming the rots in the management of Aso TV specifically mentioned some of its top officials whom he said had conspired to obtain credit facilities totaling about N25million and also dishonestly siphoned about N130 million meant for its establishment and procurement of broadcasting equipment.

Last year, there were expectations that the present administration under president Goodluck Jonathan was determined to help the station to fulfill its broadcasting dreams and as well put it on a sound footing as its board members were said to have through the FCT Minister received the nod of Mr. president on the proposals they made concerning the take-off of Aso-TV.

An inside source, who spoke to Sunday Trust under condition of anonymity said the governing board of the television station had finalized arrangements about its full operations as a television station. He said part of the arrangement was the procurement of the necessary broadcasting equipment and the employment of qualified staff in order to achieve its objectives and vision. But the necessary funds needed for the take-off had not been approved since it's deliberation last year. "I can assure you that something is being done about its take-off. I will not want to preempt the board on what it's doing right now to actualize the objectives and purpose of Aso TV. All I can tell you is that the TV station will begin transmission soon."

He added that there were some things which needed to be put in place first. These things, he said, have posed some challenges to the management of the company in the past few years of its establishment and were responsible for the delay in its take-off but they were almost at the verge of being completed. "Once this is over, we will begin full transmission," he said

This was not the first time speculations were being made about the take-off of the TV station. Last year, during Sunday Trust's visit to its Katampe Hill-Top premises along Kubwa Express Way in Abuja, we gathered that the governing board of the company was meeting to ensure its smooth take-off. He said he could not disclose what they had done so far to us but by the beginning of this year, [2013] full broadcasting operations would begin. Almost eight months after this, no remarkable thing was seen to have been done about the take-off.

When our reporter visited the TV station again last Friday, the situation was as it were last year. Its buildings are becoming more dilapidated. Staff were seen in the buildings which serve as offices for both TV and Radio. Though no serious operation has commenced there in the past five years since it was inaugurated as a broadcasting company, people were seen trooping in and out of its premises as if normal transmission operations had started.

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