Dr Alkali, NITDA Bill 2021: Beyond the Perspectives of Stray Intellectualism by Hannatu Sulaiman Abba
TECHDIGEST – When I first read a piece by a certain Dr Abubakar Alkali, rediculing the entire contents of a 2021 bill that seeks to repeal and re-enact the National Information Technology Develpment (NITDA) in order to realign its mandate with matching evolutions of current realities in cyber and technology space, what was immediately painful was not just that the unpopular writer attempted to gull unsuspecting public with rumuours and flat out lies.
In his disjointed argument, one could suspect that he might have allowed himself to be used as a launching pad for a series of malicious media assaults targeted at clogging the wheels of the Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for Nigeria.
Without mentioning names, the writer refers to the mandates of the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof Ali Pantami, the Chief Executive Officer of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta and the Director General of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa
While there is nothing wrong for a son of the north to criticise his northern brethren constructively, Alkali merely and shamelessly sacrifices academic finesse and intellectualism on the alter of crumbs to attack others with his reckless insinuations and childish innuendos.
Alkali’s piece in its entirety seeks to portray NITDA, despite its tremendous impacts with meagre resources in the last five to eight years, as undeserving of a mandate upgrade simply because it was cast in a 2001 cum 2007 act. But that’s not what is laughable. Alkali sought to – albeit unsuccessfully – deceive the general public into believing that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), a regulatory organ of government responsible for telecommunications industry in Nigeria (just one of many ICT driven sector), is better suited to drive Digital Economic visions and mandates than NITDA, an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy implementing arm of the Federal Government which is responsible for but not limited to computer programming and software engineering, IT support, IT security, systems analysis and design, networks, database administration and web and multimedia.
If not for stray intellectualism, how reasonable is Alkali’s folly considering the enormous responsibilities on the shoulders of NITDA vis a vis NCC?
In fact, it may surprise to note that in the article, Alkali mentioned NITDA 49 times, NCC 28 times and ICT 21 times.
Surprisingly, he only mentioned Tech/Technology 3 times and Business once. Probably, he might have been ignorant of the thrust of the NITDA bill but he couldn’t even mention Digital Cybercrime, Cybersecurity, Startup, Economy even for once. Yet, while blindly defending NCC he couldn’t even mention ‘Telecom’ for once. Is that not ridiculous?
For context, the crux of Alkalis article or rather grievance is that the 2021 Bill seeks to “chop off the powers of the NCC and other MDAs and transfer such powers to NITDA in dodgy, spiny and controversial manner?” an allegation completely devoid of facts but fraught with balderdash and flat out lies.
What Alkali failed to reckon with is that the existence of NITDA precedes the mandates of the Ministry of Digital Economy as redesignated and so if the ministry figured out that it needs to empower its policy implementing arm to enable it achieve its digital economic policy to place Nigeria on the path of growth and development, what is wrong with that?
For the sake of clarity, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) was established in April 2001, following the Federal Executive Council’s approval of the Nigerian National Policy on Information Technology. Consequently, NITDA Act, 2007 established NITDA with the mandate of regulating and developing Information Technology in Nigeria (a mandate Alkali falsely reduced to “research”).
NITDA has since its establishment, provided the legal framework for Information Technology and pioneered development projects in areas of capacity building, provision of access to Information Technology goods and services, as well as job creation and national security.
However, on 23rd October 2019, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, approved the re-designation of the Federal Ministry of Communications as the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. The primary purpose of the re-designation was to create a policy organ that would oversee the development of the digital economy for Nigeria.
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The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has developed the Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for Nigeria, which focuses on the development of the digital aspects of Nigeria’s economy thus creating the need for a review of the regulatory framework.
In other words, the Nigerian National Policy on Information Technology was approved 2001 with the vision of making Nigeria an IT capable country by 2005. However, we have long gone pass that vision as Nigeria is now more than an IT capable country.
Going by Alkali’s logic, a supervising ministry upgrades in mission, vision and mandate, but its implementing arm must remain in the woods?
The National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) has a new vision of making Nigeria a leading global digital economy. The current mandate of NITDA was focused on the vision of the initial IT policy. NITDA needs a new mandate to refocus its regulatory and developmental mandate for competiveness in the 12 trillion-dollar global digital economy and this is what Alkali and his ilks are up in arms against – and opportunity for Nigeria to tap into a global muli-trillion dollar globa sector driven by the only agency whose job it naturally should be.
Alkali’s school of thought is certainly nothing but a lughaghbale case of stray intellectualism that should naturally lack vacancy in our institutions citadel of learning especially places like Baze University, a higher institute of repute, where he domiciles. So much for the sense of vision of an ex presidential candidate.
Alkali argued that section 1 the NITDA bill 2021 are in conflict with the regulatory powers of the NCC, that is false.
If not for stray intellectualism, mere reading section 1 of the proposed bill, Alkali should fathom section 1 emphasised Digital Economy, ICT, Systems and Practices which is consistent with NITDA and not Telecommunications which is just a sector in ICT and is consistent with NCC.
For the avoidance of doubt, section 1 clearly states that its aims, “to create and provide a regulatory framework for Information Technology, systems and practices of Digital Economy in Nigeria and all matters related thereto…”
According to Alkali again, “In a nutshell, NCC is the regulator while NITDA is for research and implementation,” wrong and false! NCC is a regulator only for telecoms it has absolutely nothing to do with other aspects of technology in the country.
So the question now is, besides sacrificing his intellectualism for crumbs, why must Alkali lie to drive a point?
In the real sense of realism, it is not the NCC that is doing NITDA a favour but NITDA that is even doing NCC a favour by allowing a continuous decentralisation of a function it (NITDA) can and should perform if not for Nigeria’s notoriety for bogus arms and agencies.
I challenge Alkali to undertake a survey between NITDA and NCC to find out which has been directly impactful and helpful to the Nigerian populace in terms of capacity building, provision of access to Information Technology, goods and services, bridging digital divide, ICT infrastructure as well as job creation and the result will shock him to the marrows.
As a Northern girl and budding journalist, i can testify that before this dispensation NITDA was an abstract agency across the North and surely in some parts of the country. But since 2016 till date, NITDA has not only further contributed in the south as is normal but has permeated the North entirely and their interventions are everywhere. But where is that of NCC despite the billions it generates in Telecoms? If it’s nowhere to be found, something must either be fundamentally wrong with NCC, or Dr Alkali or both. Therefore, this brings me to the question, and so what if the NCC is shut down?
In conlusion, I would like to re-awaken Alkali to a major contradiction in his artice. He attempted to hold brief for the NCC on one hand, but ridiculed them in one fell swoop on the other hand when he said, “sponsors of the NITDA bill 2021 have failed to implement a simple NIN-SIM policy for our dear country. Kidnappers have been given a free space to use mobile phones to negotiate ransom payments.”
Alkali stated this with the aim of ridiculing NITDA by blaming it for the failures of NCC. Perhaps if he stops confusing the role of NITDA for that of NCC, he would do a great job holding necessary organs of government to account. But for now, this is nothing but a further confirmation of his stray intellectualism.
Nobody should deceive us, the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy requires a more robust approach to regulations, standards setting, and guidelines development for the country, with a focus on digital and emerging technologies, and NITDA is best suited to implement this mandate. People like Dr Alkali will argue that it is the NCC’s, no wonder no one gave a damn about his epistle, a clear case of stray intellecualism indeed.
Hannatu, a member of Arewa Agenda for sustainable development writes from Kano.