...We’re Not Illegal; Demand Justice
The Association of Cable Operators of Nigeria (ACON) has condemned the weekend raid by Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on premises of three cable operators in Port-Harcourt saying it needs justice.
Chairman of ACON, Sir Kunle Osisanya Afolabi, said at a press conference in Port-Harcourt on Tuesday that the raid was carried out by officials of EFCC, Port-Harcourt Zone who claimed the ACON members were illegal satellite operators.
He said equipment belonging to the cable operators were damaged and nine staff were arrested as officials of the anti-corruption agency allegedly acted on a petition by Multichoice/DSTV Nigeria.
Afolabi said: “By the prompting of Multichoice/DSTV Nigeria, a subscription collecting firm of South Africa's DSTV, the EFCC raided three operators of the Multipoint Microwave Distribution Systems operators in Port-Harcourt last Saturday.
“In a commando-style, they simultaneously attacked the headends of our members: CANTV, MetroTv and CTL ordering the staff on duty to lie down, seized their phones, forcibly dismantled transmission equipment and carted them away along with the staff of the three stations”.
He said DSTV, a digital satellite television outfit allegedly plotted the raid so they could have monopoly over transmission of live English Premier League matches which he said “has been Multichoice/DSTV's business model and strategy”.
According to him, Multichoice/DSTV Nigeria gave the government wrong information which led EFCC to carry out the raid.
He explained that they are not satellite operators as their transmission is terrestrial which harnesses “signals from satellite into a local area” to broadcast saying the transmission does not go beyond Port-Harcourt area unlike Satellite operators which get direct to home signals from satellite and can cover countries or continents.
The chairman of ACON said they were not illegal satellite operators as claimed by EFCC, saying they were licensed cable operators.
He said the raid by EFCC was trespass, adding the agency allowed itself to be misled by Multichoice/DSTV Nigeria.
He said the nine employees arrested during the raid were detained beyond 24 hours, saying EFCC should observe the laws of the country.
Afolabi alleged that Multichoice/DSTV Nigeria has chased away some cable operators from the market and has destroyed Nigeria's culture through importation of foreign products adding that Multichoice/DSTV charges Nigerians more exorbitantly than their South African compatriots.
He said by the raid and damage done to equipment of the cable operators, their provision of service to low and middle-class income earners has been denied them saying that the disruption has cost the three operators loss of money in millions of naira.
He said the EFCC should not have acted on the petition by Multichoice/DSTV Nigeria since there was a matter in court over transmission of live English Premier League matches.
The ACON chief said: “Nigerian broadcast code requires that one company cannot control major sports content across all the TV platforms. The Nigeria law also allows any party interested to show live contents in a delayed mode. Where the parties cannot agree on the price, the court will determine the price to be paid. We have made this request to Multichoice and as usual they refused. We went to court as required by law to determine the price to pay to them.
“While the court is deliberating on the issues, they went ahead and vandalized all the local cable companies in Port-Harcourt with the sole purpose of making sure no Nigerian company survives in this industry. They damaged and carted away FM radio and TV transmitters, FM radio transmitters that have nothing to do with Multichoice/DSTV's petition”.
Meanwhile, Afolabi said the organization will go to court to enforce their rights saying that they have already contacted their lawyers on the issue.