ABU FM reporters Photocredit: Daily Trust Newspaper

How lack of funds is crippling ABU radio station

NEWS DIGEST – Samaru FM is a radio station owned by the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria that was established about seven years ago. Despite the importance of the station to the training of students and entertainment of the members of the university and neighbouring communities, paucity of fund is threatening to lead the FM station to extinction.

An agreement among the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service Trust and Department for International Development (DFID) gave birth to the Samaru FM, known as ABU FM station.

The said agreement allowed the BBC World Service and the DFID to come to ABU and establish a radio studio for the training of students of the Department of Mass Communication who have interest in radio journalism. The lecturers of the Mass Communication and those of Theatre and Performing Arts were also to benefit from this training, according to the agreement.

It was on that ground that the two international agencies in earnest set up a befitting radio studio at ABU and transmission started officially in May 2012. The agreement was for five years, therefore at the expiration, ABU fully took over all the equipment and continued sponsoring the activities of the FM station.

However, in an interview with the General Manager of the Samaru FM, Nasiru Abdul, he lamented the National Broadcasting Commission’s (NBC’s) regulation that limited the reach of the station to only 20 kilowatts.

He said the university is using the media house to train both students and teachers, which boost the confidence and competence of the students when they eventually graduate and enroll to practice radio journalism.

Abdul added: “When BBC World Service left, the university management sought the permission of NBC and was granted license. This made ABU to acquire transmitters for Frequency Modulation (FM) radio station. Because of that development, ABU employed qualified staff for the operation of the FM station. We have engineers that work on the transmitters and other equipment.

“Therefore, Samaru FM has two objectives. To train students and to air programmes. Our programmes are like what can be found in any radio station. When you listen to our programmes, if you don’t know, you will not think that it is radio station that is based in the university. The programmes are of standard because of the competent staff that we have.”

He said the capacity of the station’s transmitter is 1,500 kilowatts. This made their programmes to have a reach of about 90 kilometers before the NBC hit its hammer on the station.

Abdul said: “NBC wrote to tell us that our programmes are not supposed to go beyond the university and immediate neighbouring communities. Therefore, we are not to go beyond 20 kilowatts. We have written to the NBC, because we felt that ABU supposed to be given a special consideration because of its vastness. It has divisions and institutes that are about 80 to 90 kilometres away from the main campus.

“For example, the School of Basic and Remedial Studies, Funtua is about 70 kilometres away from the main campus. We have Division of Agricultural Colleges (DAC) in Mando, Kaduna. Even here in Zaria, we have the Kongo campus, which is about 20 kilometres away from the main campus.”

NBC, according to Abdul, insisted that its laws have no exception. They however provided option in another law where ABU can buy transmitters and mount in all its campuses and divisions. ABU however cannot afford this and therefore maintains the 20 kilowatts reach where the programmes of the Samaru FM do not go beyond the main campus and immediate communities.

Abdul explained: “Our priority now is what is happening in the university’s main campus and the immediate communities. Similarly, because of the diversity of the university, we source for news from different parts of the country for the benefit of those from other parts of Nigeria living on the campus.

“In the aspect of drama, we work with the Department of Theatre Arts to produce dramas for the entertainment of our listeners. We have a special interview programme where we interview only professors to know about their lives, especially how they climbed through the ladder to become professors. We give our audience opportunity to directly air their views on certain issues through phone-in programmes. We have other programmes for the entertainment of our audience.”

He added: “…BBC World Service was part of the formation of this station; therefore our programmes are of BBC standard, because of the training we received from them. This usually impact on the students we graduate. The report we are receiving from the field shows that our students are doing very well.

“We air our programmes for free, because NBC law did not allow radio stations like ours to seek for adverts or air sponsored programmes. We are not allowed by law to air political programmes. This is why we don’t even interview politicians. What we are only allowed to do is announcements of weddings, conferences, birthdays and other similar events, and we do that for a token,” he pointed out.

By and large, it is the university authority that has been sponsoring the Samaru FM with a quarterly allocation of N450, 000. The management has been doing that up to December 2017, Abdul said.

However, the quarterly allocation has been stopped due to paucity of funds that is grimly biting the university, Abdul said.

He added: “We have written to the Vice Chancellor, because he is somebody that holds this station dearly. We hope he would consider reinstating that allocation for the continuous smooth running of the station. It is in this regards that I and the head of the Mass Communication Department met the Bursar of the university. He has also promised to look into our request.

“What is running us now is our savings. When the allocation was coming, we usually save and it is this savings that we are using to run our station. Previously, we were using the allocation to pay our artistes. When it stopped coming, we had meeting with these artistes and explained our predicament. Some of them left, while others are still assisting us. If things continue like this, we would reach to a point where we may not afford even ordinary CD plates not to talk of maintaining any of our equipment.”

Observers are keeping their fingers crossed to see what the fate of the Samaru FM would be and its 17 permanent staff, as well as the investment made by ABU, BBC World Service and the DFID in the equipment that the station is presently using.

Source: Daily Trust