TWG Lauds Pantami over National Broadband Plan in Boosting Nigeria’s Economy

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Following the unveiling of the National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 by President Muhammadu Buhari and the subsequent commissioning of the communications and digital economy complex, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Issa Pantami, has been commended by the
Telecommunications Watch Group (TWG) for the successful completion of the projects in boosting Nigeria’s economy.

In a statement by TWG’s convener, Paul Adefarati and Secretary, Christie Nwachukwu, on Monday, the group said the commissioning and unveiling of the broadband plan was timely as the country’s major income generation, oil, faces a global downturn due to the ravaging coronavirus pandemic.

Harping on President Buhari’s comments at the unveiling ceremony, where he said the minister was ‘a round peg in a round hole’, it said his appointment was justified because, “not even his worst enemy could accuse him of incompetence judging by his expertise to turn the sector to the economic hub of the nation”.

TWG, according to the statement, stated that the sector would in a couple of years, rival what the nation currently earns from the oil sector and even surpass same, given the relentless efforts of the minister to revolutionise the communications sector.

It also recalled that Pantami as director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), performed creditably, accounting for why there were high hopes that he was going to perform superlatively as minister.

Making reference to the minister’s innovations at NITDA that significantly helped the industry and the Nigeria to grow the IT sector, it said: “Pantami’s successor at NITDA, Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, is building on the successes recorded by the former Director General to help grow the nation’s IT sub sector.”

The group charged the minister to put in more efforts at repositioning and transforming the communications industry, which recently assisted in slashing the data rates to consumers, and not pander to the threats of dissidents and Boko Haram elements who are out to frustrate him.

Dispelling innuendos that Pantami was waging proxy war to undermine Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission, the group said the minister as an Islamic scholar and God-fearing man would want every agency or parastatals under him, as the supervising minister to succeed and deliver on the mandate of President Buhari’s administration.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had denied an online publication that it gave N300 million to NITDA.

A statement by NCC Director, Public Affairs, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, said no agency of the federal government gives subvention to another agency as by extant laws of the government, every agency makes its budget and gets approval for appropriation from the National Assembly and such budgets are spent according to the appropriation of the National Assembly.

He added that the NCC budget doesn’t contain any allocation for subvention to a sister agency saying: “We cannot create a provision in our budget for another agency to implement.”

According to Nkemadu, ”Subventions to all agencies are done by the federal government with resources domiciled in the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF). Even salaries to Ministries Department and Agencies (MDA) come from there.”

He had said that NITDA as an agency of government also draws its budget and spends same to execute its own programmes as they deem fit.

Since the advent of the new administration, the minister has always encouraged a working relationship and close synergy between all the parastatals under the purview of the ministry and not cross-funding of any of the parastatals.

According to him, the minister has also facilitated support at the highest levels of government to programmes and activities of the Commission especially in facilitating meetings with the Nigeria Governors Forum on issues of right of way for expanding the telecommunications infrastructure and declaring telecommunications infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI).

Nkemadu therefore posited that: “We did not receive any directive from the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy on funding any activity of NITDA and no approval was given in that regard.”

He said the NCC had not entered into any partnership with NITDA to warrant any subvention for capacity building let alone implementing one, so the aspect of creating a budget for subvention did not arise.