*Two years on the saddle as Communications Minister
From Tajudeen Kareem
He assumed office as a complete novice, literally, so to say. Just two years on the saddle, he has received accolades from home and abroad. Perhaps more poignant is the recognition of his sure-footed approach to his job by the Nigeria Computer Society, the umbrella body of all IT professionals in Nigeria.
At its July, 2017, international conference in Abuja, the Society proudly conferred the prestigious honorary fellowship, the highest cadre of NCS membership, on the Minister of Communications, Barrister Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu.
Deacon Orjinta Oji-Alala, the provost of the college, extolled the virtues of Shittu and his contribution to ICT development since becoming the Minister. Specifically, the computer professionals recognised the minister’s style of “running an open government with a listening ear and very accessible.”
Others qualities noted include his contribution towards harnessing the potentials of ICT for sustainable development; and seeking technological solutions to meet National aspirations for sustainable inclusive future by promoting digital liberation and Smart Governance; promoting ICT growth and innovations.
Just last week, Barrister Shittu bagged the Africa ICT Personality 2017 award by the Africa Information & Communication Technologies Alliance, AfICTA.
Chairman, board of Africa ICT Alliance, Jimson Olufuye listed dynamic captainship of the ICT sector, sustaining ICT’s contribution to Nigeria’s GDP at over 10%, Nigeria’s teledensity at over 100% and enlarged internet penetration in Nigeria and Africa as parts of the criteria for Shittu’s choice.
Although a trained lawyer, Shittu has made his mark propagating Islamic education as an author and he is perhaps better known as a political activist committed to accountable governance.
At age 26, he was elected into the Oyo State House of Assembly as a lawmaker and since then, Shittu has lived and played politics; aspiring to surpass himself in service to humanity.
As the Minister of Communications since November 2015, Shittu, from day one, shunned the toga of the man at the top; willing to learn.
Indeed, his first shot was the convocation of a Stakeholders Forum in Ibadan to draw a four-year roadmap for the sector, now approved by the Federal Executive Council, to address both public and private infrastructure deficit in the sector.
The plan seeks improved broadband penetration and internet coverage, boost for ICT education, enhanced satellite communication and coverage, curb cybercrime, ensure that ICT contributes bigger to the national revenue and acts as a catalyst to the economic diversification drive of the Buhari Administration.
Presently, full Implementation of the National Broadband Plan as the foundation for infrastructure development is ongoing; service providers are being encouraged to use renewable energy to power Base Transceiver Stations for improved Service Quality and Access.
Same way, the Federal Ministry of Education is being engaged to ensure mandatory ICT education at the Primary level and alignment of the ICT education curriculum to meet current global trends; while accelerating the bridging of the Knowledge Skills Gap in the Nigeria ICT Skills set ecosystem.
Implementers of e-services are encouraged to incentivise users to migrate from lower to higher technologies to promote ICT utilisation and exploitation across sectors as initiatives that will advance innovation and creativity are being promoted.
The Ministry is also creating a sustainable funding framework for the implementation of the e-government Master Plan and other ICT initiatives of government.
National Addressing Policy is being implemented to promote national security and support e-commerce while accelerating the passage of the Nigeria Postal Commission Bill.
The Nigerian Postal Service is presently kicking back to life in a massive turn-around anchored on information technology; thanks to Shittu’s ingenuity and passion for revamping passive agencies of government.
The Shaki-born politician has displayed high responsibility towards his national assignment by holding telecoms operators accountable to their operational lapses.
He is also pushing for an ICT Development Bank dedicated to funding broadband and data infrastructure development. The proposed bank is expected to serve as a special purpose vehicle to propel the growth of the sector under a PPP arrangement.
The National Economic Council has approved a policy to harmonize right of way charges payable by telecom companies and related public utility infrastructure on Local Governments, States and Federal Highways.
Subscription to telecommunications service in Nigeria has peaked at 145 million. Records from NCC indicate that there were no fewer than 91.6 million internet subscribers on the mobile GSM as at June, this year. Subscribers’ teledensity at the same time was placed at 102.19%. This is a phenomenal growth considering the fact that Nigeria embraced the GSM technology barely 16 years ago.
It has been a remarkable feat growing investment in the sector from $50 million to over $68 billion. Within this period, over =N=15 trillion has been raked into the Federation Account. Nigeria currently ranks among the top five fastest growing telecom markets in the world, placing our country on the same pedestal as China and India and other top economies.
For Shittu and his team at the Communications sector, it can only get better with so much work in progress!