The Minister of communication and digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim pantami
The Minister of communication and digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim pantami

The Needless Attacks on Pantami over NITDA Bill

By Zeenat Sambo

TECHDIGEST – The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has suffered more than a fair share of abuses from ignorant folks for no other reason other than his determination to leave the digital space in Nigeria far better than he met it.

Since his foray into public service under this administration, Pantami has no doubt exceeded expectations by consistently working round the clock to come up with innovative ideas to expand the digital space to accommodate more young Nigerians who would have been left jobless.

In better climes, people like Pantami are referred to as and treated as national treasures. They are serenaded with awards and commendations for their commitment to the common good. The Minister has however been the butt of tasteless jokes on social media by the same lazy youths he is working day and night to make their lives better.

Professor Pantami has recently become the victim of mercenary writers and paid social media influencers over the widely held misconception that the NITDA Bill 2021 is his idea and his intention is to pocket the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and take away its regulatory function.

It would be recalled that the National Assembly called for a public hearing of ICT Stakeholders on the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Amendment Bill, which was later put on hold because a quorum was not formed. Afterwards, coordinated attacks have been unleashed on the Minister over the provisions of the Bill which clearly aim to repeal past laws which do not empower NITDA to deal with certain developments in the modern digital era.

It is easy to decipher the sources of the attacks and their malicious and destructive intent. Using the cover of NITDA Bill 2021 to launch the needless attacks on the Minister, the attack dogs try to pretend to defend the NCC as part of the phantom superiority clash between the NCC and the Ministry.

READ ALSO: A Case for NITDA Bill 2021 Towards Economic Renewal

Unfortunately, while their actions might create an impression that they were sponsored by the Chief Executive Officer of NCC, Professor Umar Garba Dambatta, simple background checks provide clues to their relations with the agency.

I can vouch for the integrity of Prof Dambatta, who I strongly believe would never stoop so low and give in to the antics of overzealous merchants and mischief makers. Danbatta is a respected, jovial and unassuming personality who has contributed immensely to the telecommunication sector just like Kashifu Inuwa of NITDA in Information Technology under the supervision of the same Minister!

As a focused public officer, Dambatta will not even hurt a fly let alone assign people to attack his supervising minister. It’s most unfortunate that the name of his Commission is being used to create bad blood between the agencies.

One of the most scornful and irrational attacks argued that Pantami seeks to curtail the freedom of Nigerians through this bill and according to the writer: “Before he leaves, Pantami seeks to give Nigerians a bill to curtail their freedoms and finally put the ICT industry under his grip and pocket.” Imagine the most puerile thinking of a writer!

I find it personally perplexing that Pantami’s sterling performance as Minister does not irk the conscience of the traducers enough to immunise him from their venom. As long as his vision of a digital economy for the country threatens their own selfish interests, all they desire is to see him under the bus.

Since becoming minister, the cybersecurity Professor has selflessly dedicated himself to providing an enabling environment for creativity and innovation to thrive in an alternative economy from the oil-based to a digitally driven one. This is no mean feat which Pantami has achieved in just about four years. No Nigerian Ministry has ever achieved such accelerated reform since Independence and I stand to be corrected! ICT is now the fastest growing non-oil sector as latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that its contribution to the Nigerian economy grew by 18.44 percent in 2022.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics,NBS, the Digital Economy sector continued its contribution trajectory in the quarter under review by playing a key part in the growth on Nigeria’s economy.

This is the highest contribution of ICT to the GDP and is truland marks the third time that the sector has achieved an unprecedented contribution to Nigeria’s GDP during the tenure of the Minister- in Q1 2020, Q2 2021 and now Q2 2022.

In comparison, the oil sector – Nigeria’s economic mainstay contributed 6.33% to the total real GDP in Q2 2022, which was lower that the contribution in Q2 ‘2021 and Q1 ‘2022, where it contributed 7.42% and 6.63% respectively.

Under the supervision of Professor Pantami as a minister, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Nigeria Startup Bill into law much to the delight of industry stakeholders. The new act, which seeks to provide an enabling environment for technology-enabled businesses in Nigeria, has been described as a game-changer for the burgeoning startup ecosystem in the country.

Similarly, Pantami ensured the establishment of the National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, NCAIR through one of its agency, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) .

NCAIR will foster the development of emerging technologies in preparing Nigeria for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Also, the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau, NDPB was established following the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari after a request made by the Minister.

NDPB was established in line with global best practice and will focus on data protection and privacy for the country, among others.

The Minister signed the Artemis Accords on behalf of Nigeria even as he announced partnership with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to provide broadband access across the whole of Nigeria.

As part of the partnership, “Space X is to provide broadband access across the whole of Nigeria, enabling nation-wide access to broadband connectivity way ahead of the December 2025 schedule, as outlined in our National Broadband Plan. With this collaboration with SpaceX’s Starlink, Nigeria is set to be the 1st African country to introduce the service.

Under the supervision of the minister, NITDA, partnered with numerous global tech giants like Google, Coursera, Domenium Blockchain Technologies among others to train millions of Nigerian Citizens on digital skills and emerging technologies which in turn creates millions of jobs for unemployed graduates.

These are the few of the countless achievements of the Minister. So, it is unfair to accuse a man who wants to position Nigeria to tap into the about $24trn ICT market of trying to ‘curtail your freedom,” what freedom exactly?

Pantami doesn’t need to bother about the antics of sadists and cynics. All he has to do is to keep up the good work he is doing and posterity will vindicate him.

Zeenat Sambo, a co-author of a book on digital economy, is a staff writer with Tech Digest, Abuja.

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