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Pantami: Examplifying Professionalism

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Pantami: Examplifying Professionalism

 

 

By: Dr. Samuel Joseph

The Nigerian constitution clearly provided for the appointment of at least one federal minister from every state. However, the choice of who is appointment rests solely on the president. It won’t be uncharitable therefore, to state that many Nigerian presidents have preferred to rely on anything but the professional qualifications of appointees when assigning them portfolios.

This is really shocking considering virtually all of Nigeria’s ministries can be situated within a professional area. Evidentiary success of past ministers like Prof Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (now president of WTO) and a host of others should ordinarily have been enough to tilt the thinking of Nigerian presidents towards professionalism and industry experience as a guide to the appointment of ministers. Unfortunately, the sad commentary continues to light the stables of this decision trough.

In the midst of this dark corridor however, is the bright shining light of Nigeria’s Minister of Communication and Digital Economy – Dr. Isa Ali Pantami. Arguably the most stand out professional in the current administration, Pantami was poached from Saudi Arabia where he was employed as a Professor of Information Technology first, to head the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) as its CEO in 2006, before he was nominated and sworn in as the minister of Communication and Digital Economy in 2019.

From his days in NITDA, Pantami had midwifed aggressive reforms aimed at positioning Nigeria into a globally recognised digital hub. Using innovation and global best practices, Pantami sought, rather audaciously to not only position Nigeria’s digital value chain into another avenue for the reduction of nation’s scary unemployment numbers, but also as a money spinner for much needed IGR. On May 4th of this year, NITDA celebrated her 20th anniversary. The event which was understandably low-key because of Covid-19, was an opportunity for Pantami to recount the contributions of NITDA to Nigeria. Giving his address at the event, Pantami declared that “NITDA’s achievements contribute to the Nation’s GDP” and for once, no one including the fieriest of critics could raise an eyebrow.

Pantami was being very modest not have boldly declared that virtually all of the achievements of NITDA towards IGR collation has been down to his initiatives from his days as NITDA’s CEO; solid foundations for which the current head of NITDA has been building on. Between August of 2019 – 2020 alone, through her 7 strategic Pillars Mapped for National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy; one of which is IT Regulation, NITDA successfully created 272 users accounts to enable MDA’s submit their IT projects via the IT clearance portal. This was followed by the clearance of 154 unique IT projects of 73 MDAs, with an amount a little shy of N2 billion thereby saving the FG over N5 billion. One will be tempted to ask: to which end? That question will be best answered by looking at how JAMB has leveraged on Information Technology to transform from an all cash outlet where millions are either carted away by monkeys or are swallowed by snakes, into a parastatal that remits billions to the federation account annually.

Perhaps one of NITDA’s most iconic milestone is the introduction and implementation of the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation (NDPR). Anyone familiar with how internet-based service providers abuse user data with impunity, most time without their consent will value this initiative. The NDPR, a subsidiary legislation of the Federal Government enacted to ensure that the data and privacy of Nigerians citizens is protected has found favour among IT professional who have hailed it as a most necessary instrument. Consequently, NITDA had licensed 59 Data Protection Compliance Organisations, inaugurated the Data Breach Investigation Team. The Nigerian Data protection sector is now valued at N 2,295,240,00.00. This initiative which is the first of its kind in Africa has indubitably turned Nigeria into a point of reference for other African nations. As a consequence, NITDA has bagged the vice chair position of the African Union Policy and Regulatory Initiative for Digital Africa (PRIDA).

The Ministry has been gestating an IT ecosystem that has seen to the development of several IT hubs that have attracted lots of foreign exchange to Nigeria. This has culminated in the contribution of an unprecedented 14.7% to the nation’s GPD which could rise to 27 % according to the minister. Capacity building has been one of the mainstays of the ministry under Pantami. For instance, over 200 women were trained on ICT and Entrepreneurship and were provided with laptops that came installed with several productivity softwares and dongles. 30 people living with disabilities also benefitted from the ministry’s IT skills for all initiative. Aside from the 26,000 active participants in the NITDA Academy and the many ICT incubation hubs established in Nigerian tertiary Institutions, Pantami has also overseen the training of 145 farmers in a pilot Smart Agriculture Practice under the National Adopted Village for Agriculture (NAVSA) initiative. Several artisans across all the geographical zones where also imbued with IT capacity.

NCC, the sister parastatal under Pantami’s watch has made leaps and bounds towards ensuring a steady and sustained growth in service regulation and customer satisfaction. Beside resolving the agelong Right of Way (RoW) logjam that has prevented the penetration of communication infrastructure and connection of more Nigerians, the NCC has been more poised to deliver on its mandate as the regulator as well as protector of the right of Nigerian telecom subscribers. The beauty of all the ministry’s initiative is that it is not audio. Everyone can see and feel it. For instance, Pantami lamented the exorbitant cost of data and committed to 50% reduction in this year. That has been achieved. But it is not all business with Pantami who worried about the use SIMs to perpetrate heinous crimes against Nigerians introduced the NIN-SIM linkage.

Indeed, Pantami’s biggest legacy will be the codification of several Policy documents to support the vision of the Ministry. Starting from the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy to the Nigerian Government Enterprise/Nigeria e-GOV Interoperability Framework NGEA/NEGIF; and even the Nigerian ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Vision (NIIEV) among several others. The implementation of these instruments can be seen in the form of several start-up clinics and support for start-ups that NIMC has undertaken. etc. The President just approved a new salary structure for NIMC staff. This is a vote confidence that I am sure every Nigerian will agree with.news

 

Joseph writes from Lagos

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