Nigeria’s communication satellite (NIGCOMSAT-I) slated for launch December 2006 may suffer delay. The reason is cash.

The Chinese are picking up 80% of the bill for the USD311 million satellite project as technical partners. But the Nigerians are not meeting their part of the bargain to release funding.

Nigeria’s financial commitment is 20%. But that is not coming as expected and is slowing down work with fears that the target date for next year may not be met.

The government has officially approved funding requested by the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), the organisation representing Nigeria’s interest in the project. But administrative procedures appear to be making quick release of the money impossible.

NIGCOMSAT-I may be suffering the same problem most other projects are suffering with budgetary allocations, though approved, yet to be paid by the country’s ministry of finance.

“The ministry is yet to release money,” a top government official said last week in Abuja. But this week, there are high hopes that for release of fund not only for NIGCOMSAT-I but for other projects waiting for cash.

NIGCOMSAT-I is expected to lower the cost of telecommunications in a country where millions of dollars are paid yearly to satellite companies for bandwidth. Nigeria pays more than USD95 million yearly to lease space for broadcasting services and trunking calls. In all, Africa pays over USD600 million to trunk traffic to Europe yearly.