A rural telephony project dubbed National Rural Telephony Project (NRTP) that started eleven years ago in Nigeria is yet to be completed.
The project that was meant to cover 218 local government areas was also to provide over 636,256 Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) lines in the 774 local government areas and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in order to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural areas.
The project saw the government borrow $200 milliob from China Export Import (EXIM) Bank which in turn gave out 15 percent counterpart funding of N5 billion ($31.5M) to execute the project.
ZTE Corporation, Huawei and Shangai Bell – were initially the companies awarded the NRTP project but ended up building only exchanges.
In 2009, the Federal government transferred the second phase of the project to G-cell Wireless Limited, Hezomic Limited, Key Communications Limited, Suburban Broadband Limited and Voicewares Network Limited, on claims that it was not properly managed.
The contract which was to be under the Lease, Operate and Own (LOO) framework, meant they would build, operate and maintain the project, this was to be done for ten years where they would be paying a certain amount of money to the government.
Four years after the contract was awarded nothing had taken place, an official of one of the awarded companies said the project was not abandoned only that it was being held back by lack of funds.
A chief executive officer from one of the companies that won the contract to operate South-east and Benue exchange said even with operating licenses and other authorization documents, they would not be able to embark on their plan because of some bureaucratic bottlenecks.
He further added that the ministry of Communications Technology had not yet received a certificate of no objection from Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
However, the Ministry of Communications Technology refuted the claims saying the project is still on- course adding that they are working to ensure the take off of the project.
An anonymous official from the ministry said the project was being delayed because of policy shift adding that they are awaiting an approval letter from ICRC.
The letter is said to be used to seek the approval of the president by Federal Executive Council.
She further added that the ministry had met with the operators to confirm their readiness to proceed with the project when the final approval is obtained.