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NITDA stinks to high heavens – Group alleges

*Demands enquiry into 2017 budget, others

*Evil men are at work – DG

By Debo Adeoye

Like a Yoruba proverb that says, the stick used in beating the senior wife is reserved in the ceiling for the junior wife, it is only a matter of time. The issue that led to unceremonious removal of former Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Peter Jack, is again threatening the survival of the incumbent Director General Isa Pantami as a group alleged the management of the agency of bye-passing due process in the awards of contracts for the 2017 budget.

Dr Isa Ali Pantami NITDA DG...in the eye of the storm
Dr Isa Ali Pantami NITDA DG…in the eye of the storm

In a petition dated 23rd September, 2017 forwarded by a group: Good Governance & Accountability Monitoring Group (GGAMG), to both arms of the National Assembly Committees on Information Communication Technology & Cybercrime and copied to the Minister of communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, the NITDA boss himself, Galaxy Blackbone and the anti graft agencies, the group alleged unwholesome practices trailing the 2017 budget.

According to the petition jointly signed by Comrade Yusuff Muhammad and Ms Rebecca Emeleogwu, the National Coordinator and Convener respectively, “the controversy over 2017 budget of NITDA may ultimately rubbish the anti-corruption fight of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

“There is the urgent need to clean the Augean stable in NITDA because it may also call to question, the integrity of your Committee (Senate and House of Representatives) as it relates to the performance of your oversight functions on the Agency. These and many more make this petition timely and inevitable!”

Titled “NITDA 2017 BUDGET: Matters Arising…,” the group stated that “a maxim of equity says he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”. Issues surrounding the 2017 budget stem from the subtle efforts of the NITDA management to ride roughshod on the faces of over 180million Nigerians by handing over all the spendings of the budget estimates approved for the agency to Galaxy Blackbone, thus rubbishing the “local content initiative” of the present administration to redistribute wealth to as much as millions of Nigerians for the much expected dividends of democracy to permeate every nook and cranny of this great country.

“Feelers from the nocturnal meeting between Dr. Pantami and his counterpart in the Galaxy Blackbone, Yusuff Kazaure reveals that the NITDA boss is making this year’s budget a one-off agenda, in a way deliberately targeted at cornering the proceeds at the expense of suffering Nigerians who are yet to recover fully from the economic recession that plagued the country for more than a year now.

“It is on record that Galaxy Blackbone has surreptitiously submitted quotation to carry out internet access for all NITDA offices in Lagos, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Curiously however is the astonishing fact that the estimated cost for this offices with less than 300 staffers put at N95million, is ostensibly outrageous and the planned move to use part of it “to grease the palm of some compromising National Assembly members is dangerous to the fight against graft.

“Knowing fully well that the current National Assembly is peopled by highly disciplined individuals, we trust your Committee isn’t aware of this development to soil your reputation,” the group stated in the letter to Senate and House of Representatives Committees.

But Pantami described the allegation as laughable and handiwork of fifth columnists stressing that: “this is mischief by enemies of progress. Galaxy is a FG Company mandated to serve MDAs. EFCC etc are welcome to investigate it 100%. No one-man decision in the agency. All decisions are taken by the entire management. Further, there are no projects under my office. All projects are handled by relevant departments.

Notwithstanding the rhetorics by Pantami that the N95million will cater for video conferencing, internet facilities for all the four offices under NITDA, the group said such posture “fly in the face of market pricing reality! Records from agencies as Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Nigerian Export Promotions Council (NEPC), TETFund, among others with more than 500 staffers each are spending far lesser amount comparable to NITDA’s N95m with just less than 300 staffers. This is a worrisome development that must be thoroughly investigated.”

The group stated further that “the DG is capitalising on a circular from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation that government’s agencies should patronise Galaxy Blackbone. Curiously however, the DG is abusing such lofty idea because he is currently perpetrating frauds of monumental proportion through a grand and deliberate conspiracy with a Galaxy Blackbone top shot. The example stems from inflated contracts and subtle efforts to circumvent due process.

“As if the above was not enough, all NITDA projects among others are being ceded to Galaxy Blackbone alone in a manner suspected to be anti-people and pro-purse of those initiating the idea. Presently, NITDA management through some willing hands and corrupt individuals in the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) are desperately cooking papers to realise and ultimately hand over a pre-arranged Certificate of No Objection to Dr. Pantami and Cohorts.

“Findings have further revealed that even the Galaxy Blackbone being touted as major beneficiary of 2017 budget of NITDA also advertise to the general public with a view to getting cost effective, quality service and engender transparency in the running of its day to day affairs.

“The supervising Ministry, Federal Ministry of Communications and the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) have in the past few days, been advertising their contracts to interested, qualified and competent companies to handle with a view to dovetailing the nation’s economy to all, rather than making it exclusive preserve of a single company and privileged individuals.

“Needless to say that if the plan to secure Certificate of No Objection sails through and Advertisement is jettisoned, not a few Nigerians would assume that the National Assembly, BPP, Galaxy Blackbone and of course, NITDA conspired to wit: defraud them and make nonsense of President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight anchored on discipline, self control, self restraint and mass-oriented.

“Galaxy Blackbone like other contractors patronise same markets for a number of deliverable items, so why shutting doors against other qualified and tested contractors who have what it take to support NITDA in its efforts at implementing the National Information Technology Policy and its 2007 Act which was benchmarked on “Developing and implementing the National IT Policy”.

“NITDA boss should leave up to his rating as a completely detribalised Nigerian with knack for due process and transparency as exemplified in his daily interactions with staff, stakeholders and captains of industry.

“And “since his religious inclination had over time proven to be an inspiration to be just and fair to all,” now is the time to proof, once again, to all Nigerians, that he has zero tolerance for corruption and other acts capable of tarnishing his hard-earn reputation,” the group’s petition stressed.

Reacting through a short message services, Pantami sated as follows: “this allegation is not true at all. FG directed MDAs to patronize Galaxy in some ICT projects through a circular since any money pay to Galaxy is for FG. Even in that due process must be followed.

“Further, on the issue of internet the amount is not true. It is also the cheapest given to us by any service provider. Infact, cheaper than last year considering the coverage. The provision is for all our offices in Abuja, Lagos and PH.

“In all these, I am not the one handling but relevant departments. And all must follow tenders board which I have only one vote.

“There must be advertisement in NITDA for our projects. Where necessary. Galaxy could do some jobs and many other contractors could do as usual. Galaxy patronage will not stop advert at all. Just come for fact finding & see it.

“The word always doesn’t arise. I advise please contact BPP and get the details of how no objection in specific project is awarded to few projects.

“In no time we said no advert. I also advertised last year. But in peculiar issues no objection is given.

“For your info, all projects by galaxy is a project to all Nigerians because is their company. It is their mandate for all MDAs to patronise them. For details we can meet. Text not sufficient,” NITDA boss maintained innocence on all the said allegations.

Commenting on the matter on behalf of the Galaxy Blackbone boss, the company’s spokesman Owoicho Igoji said Mr. Kazaure was outside the country but hinted “there is no such arrangement between NITDA and Galaxy. As at last Friday when I checked the desks, there was no such deal with us and we also belief in due process. The allegation is not true”.

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