Thursday, November 26, 2020

Lawmakers approve N39.3bn for ministry of communications, digital economy

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Senate

… ICTs contribute 17.83% of GDP in the second quarter of 2020 – Minister

By Tordue Salem, Abuja

The Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Communications, ICT and Cybercrime approved a budget of N39.3 billion for the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy for fiscal year 2021.

The Committee approved the budget after the 2020/2021 budget defense session of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami.

The Minister had explained that ICTs contribute 17.83% to the country’s GDP in the second quarter of 2020, compared to the 13% achieved by previous administrations.

In previous statements, the Minister said that the sector’s priorities include: “it plans to complete 70% of access to broadband connectivity by 2025 from the current 41.27%; execution plan to deploy 4G backbone throughout the country; digitize all government functions and processes by 2023 (e-government); develop and implement a digital economy strategy; support the implementation of the digital identity program; improve supervision and optimize income of all operators and licenses in agencies under the supervision of the Ministry; among others”.

However, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, in his contribution, expressed his disappointment at the failure of various ministries, departments and agencies (MDA) that he said wasting billions of naira a year on ICT services, rather than using Galaxy Backbone, a public ICT company. .

The president of the Telecommunications Commission of the House of Representatives, representative Akeem Adeyemi for his part, explained that the exercise would allow the Legislature to identify the projects that have been concluded; those that are in progress; those that are not executed; and the reasons, if any, why some projects are not executed.

Representative Adeyemi, who noted that effective ICT deployment would improve productivity in virtually all human endeavors, the need for the Ministry to give direction of plans for the establishment of the Nigerian ICT University cannot be overemphasized. ; Smart City Project; ICT hubs and ICT parks are all components of the national ICT roadmaps.

“We believe that if Nigeria is to reap the full benefits that the country is getting from the digital economy, the ICT sector in Nigeria, led by the Ministry, must sufficiently promote the use of ICT infrastructure and participation in the economy of ICT by Nigerians with a view to using it to promote good governance and digital service delivery in the country.

“With the current high level of ICT development and deployment around the world, it is expected that Nigeria, at this time, will be able to harness the capabilities of digital technology to offer digital solutions not only to the insecurity of lives and property, but also to other social and economic endeavors of Nigerians ”.

On the implementation of the 2020 budget, he demanded an explanation on the “notable disparities between total approvals and total releases, so the total amount released for the first and second quarters is much higher than the actual approvals.”

Adeyemi also asked about the use of billions of naira released so far for the implementation of a number of projects, which he noted that “they are still awaiting approval from the AFF or the acquisition process is ongoing.

“Can the Honorable Minister guarantee to this Joint Committee that the projects in these categories would be executed before the expiration of the current fiscal year?”

In his reply, the Minister explained “First of all, some of the questions raised by the Chairman of the Senate Committee, as in paragraph 4, number 1, about the position of the University of ICT in the establishment of smart cities and ICT parks. On the subject of the ICT University, I believe that the issue arose before I was appointed minister, it was part of the 2017/2018 deliberations, based on information available to the office of the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, that proposal was not approved by the Federal Executive Council chaired by the President.

“I think the main problem at the time, other stakeholders were not involved in the process. For example, the Minister of Education and the National University Commission (NUC) were not included in the process. Then, during the deliberation when the Ministry of Education revealed that they were not housed, the FEC did not approve it.

“Secondly today, perhaps we do not prioritize it, our biggest challenge in the country, the ICT sector, is not just that you establish a university, but the most important thing is to provide digital skills to our citizens. Many developed and developing nations are reducing the number of their universities. In China, they announced that they are in the process of turning 600 universities into skills centers.

“Most of our graduates today lack the required skills, they just focus more on getting certificates. They only focus on theory, and when you employ them, you have to fully train them because the skills are not there. Now, this is why the focus of the world is not on certificates but on skills. This committee will agree with me that one of the biggest challenges everyone is facing is our constituency problem that bothers us with recruiting. Many graduates do not have appointments and the vacancies are not enough ”.

Responding to the question posed by the President, the House Telecommunications Committee on why certain projects were not included in the 2021 budget proposal, Dr. Pantami said: “It is because our main objective now is to focus more in providing skills to our citizens and there is a very important benefit that we can obtain from that.

“If we provide enough skills to our citizens, we will be producing more potential employers and entrepreneurs.” But when we focus more on universities, we will be producing potential employees. So it’s because to reduce the burden of unemployment, we are focusing more on producing digital innovators and entrepreneurs. “

As shown in the 2020 budget performance presented to the joint committees, some of the disparities in the amount released and used by the Ministry showed that: of the total sum of N13,858,200 released for local travel and transportation, others, the ministry spent N13,900,800; of 2,803,032.52 naira released for office supplies / IT consumables, the Ministry used 7,683,520 naira; of 1,100,000 naira released for printing non-security documents, the ministry used 1,702,000 naira; Of the 2,630,000 naira released for the maintenance of office buildings / residential neighborhoods, the Ministry used 4,532,145 naira; Of the 3,479,000 naira released for the maintenance of office / IT equipment, the Ministry used 5,062,638 naira; of N4,015,526.58 released for advertising and advertisements, the Ministry used N4,027,301.58.

Meanwhile, the Ministry used a total sum of N8,123,775.75 from N8,749,687.26 during the year under review.

During the review of the 2021 budget proposal, Representative Adeyemi demanded a justification for the increase of N21.9 billion between the total budget proposal for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

Responding to the query on the sum of N21.9 million spreads between the 2020 and 2021 budgets, Dr. Pantami said: “Regarding the 2021 budget proposal, the variation and why the amount is greater than last year, it’s to accommodate NIMC’s proposal, that’s the biggest variation there, your budget is now part of ours and if you pay your salary it’s more than N5 billion and I think that could be the reason. “

He added that the N2 billion revenue sum was projected from the sale of forms, spectrum licenses, renewal fees and other sources in 2021.

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