By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
The first surface mount technology (SMT) digital set top box manufacturing plant in West Africa has commence production in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
The plant, operated by Gospell Digital Technology was commissioned today Thursday by Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade who said the state will partner the company to ensure it breaks the difficult terrain to ensure broadcasting is made easier and information delivered more efficiently.
“We have very difficult terrain in Cross River and it is very difficult to transmit,” Ayade said, adding that: “We will on proper negotiation, be placing an order today for 5,000 set top boxes.”
Mr. Ayade said the smart city project of the state which is nearing completion will provide a backbone for a smart technology integration and disclosed that the installation of hotspots for the 12 Kilometer Carnival Calabar route has been completed.
On local content, the Governor said that: “Most importantly we will like to see technology transfer,” and promised that the state aside given tax incentives will purchase 10 STBs for every Cross Riverian employed by the company.
He said that he hoped the country will be able to wholly own and operate a technology center and maintained that the breakthrough by Gospell technology starts “the journey towards decoupling the black man from depending on the white man.”
The Chairman of the company, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa in his remarks commended the federal government for it’s “thorough” planning and implementation of the digital switchover system and said it was the reason all were gathered there.
“We are here because at some point in the history of this country, the country decided to digitalize and move away from analogue practices especially in the area of communication,” he said.
He continued: “The government was thorough in planning the switchover ensuring that every stakeholder played a role.”
Mr. Ohuabunwa said the company decided to participate in the provision of set top boxes and disclosed that the company has set up two factories in Calabar.
“We have two factories here, a factory to assembly and a factory to produce as part of its backward integration,” said Mr. Samuel who also disclosed the company plans to go into everything electronic using indigenous technology.
The process of the digital switchover has the National Broadcasting Corporation as midwife and the Director General, Mallam Ishaq Kawu said that the commissioning of the SMT Line and STB factory was the best thing that had happened in the digitalization process.
“An initiative like this is the best thing that has happened to our efforts to digitalize the country,” he said and maintained that “Nigeria leads West Africa” in the process of digitalization.
“The NBC is delighted that all of us have taken this step with massive investment in this site,” he added.
And, Information and Orientation Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who joined the governor at the commissioning commended the efforts of the company and charged them to even work harder to give Nigerians the benefit of having their television, decoder, DVD players and computers in one device.
“Give us a TV with built in decoder with a remote control which can convert the TV to a computer,” Mr. Mohammed said, adding that: “It should not be for the rich only but for all.”
“We expect this to transform very quickly to smart television and tablet manufacturing,” Mr. Mohammed said.
Mr. Mohammed also said he hoped that one day he will see an application that will be used in teaching “in Calabar, Enugu or Damaturu with the touch of a button and without the internet.”
The plant is located in the Calabar Free Trade Zone and the Group Managing Director of the company, Godfrey Ohuabunwa said the plant will produce over 2.4 million STBs yearly.
The commissioning according to him meant the company’s objective of becoming the largest local manufacturers of home electronic appliances was on course as it is now gearing up for the next phase of the full objective of digitalizing the country.
He said so far, from inception to the event, over 150 jobs have been created.
Mr. Ayade, his deputy, Professor Ivara Esu, Mr. Mohammed and several other dignitaries were later conducted round the SMT line.
Mr. Ayade has since departed the state for Abuja on an Air Peace flight while Mr. Mohammed, Senator Shehu Sani and several others who came in on a chartered flight have since departed too.