Shittu: FG Awaiting EFCC Investigation on NITDA’s 2017 Budget

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By Ademola Babalola in Ibadan

The Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, at the weekend said the federal government would await the outcome of the investigation by the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the petition written against the management of the National Information Technology and Development Agency (NITDA) over its spending of the 2017 budget estimates.

A Kaduna-based civil organisation, Good Governance and Accountability Monitoring Group (GGAMG) had in September 27 this year wrote a petition to concerned federal government officials against the Director General of NITDA, Isa Pantami, alleging disobedience to Procurement Act and perceived grand plan to cede the entire NITDA budget for the year to a certain company (Galaxy Blackbone), a development they argued could affect the country’s economy as quantum of over 180million Nigerians who could benefit from the contract, may be sidelined in the process.

Fielding questions from journalists on a Fresh FM Ibadan ‘Political Circuit’ live interview programme last Saturday, Shittu said: “Before I received the letter, the case was with EFCC but merely copied me. Since that is done, it is not in my power to investigate alleged criminality. I think we should look up to EFCC on that matter.

 “Of course, NITDA has also responded and gave me a copy of its response but I don’t have the prerogative power to investigate. If the matter had not gone to EFCC, I would have set up a committee to look into it. But let me sound this note of warning-on matter of contracts, so many people get used when they are not succeeding in getting what they want in the processes.

“I am not saying people in NITDA or other government agencies are saint or angels but you have to look at the two ways deeply. At my level, I wish EFCC, to whom the original petition was addressed to, to take it up and make a decision and report appropriately.”

 The petitioners, Muhammad Yusuf and Rebecca Emeleogwu, National Coordinator and Convener of the GGAMG respectively, had alleged that the current Director General was a replica of the ousted DG Peter Jack especially on matters relating to contracts’ awards, secondment of staff and other sundry issues. 

With the title: ‘Like Jack, Like Pantami: NITDA Stinks’, the petitioners alleged that some contractors who were engaged in 2015 by the agency have been paid fully the balance of their contractual agreement. But like a double edged sword,  few others whose jobs were certified okay and issued with the letter to the effect, are still being owed while interest on the loans they sourced from banks to complete the job on schedule keep accumulating.

 The petition further read in parts: “Why the double standard because it is trite in law to say that what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander? And on this, tongues are wagging that those yet to be paid are the ‘recalcitrant ones’ who are yet to ‘shake bodies’ because findings reveal that the agency ought to have paid the concerned companies their entitlements having certified their jobs on completion.

“These projects were awarded by the immediate past DG, and government all over the world is a continuum. Or is the deafening silence among the management true that those already paid their money ‘played ball’ to receive them? 

“The shoddy job done by the contractors that handled NITDA’s hub in both Oyo and Katsina States is still a matter of concern to the industry stakeholders.

“Their performance was not only less satisfactory but equally burdensome to the agency as they could not pass rigorous scrutiny and test of time in terms of efficiency and durability. Curiously, those in this category are still retained and penciled down for more juicy contracts for reasons best known to the DG.

“Our last check at the agency’s main office is on how 2017 budget is going to be handled by the management. Instead of opting for a rigorous due process and stick with the global best practices in awarding contracts, the agency’s top shot is on his way to procure ‘Certificate of No Objection’ from the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) for a certain Galaxy Blackbone at the expense of other tested and reliable Contractors.”