By Emman Ovuakporie and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA- THE Joint Committees of Information Technology Communication, ICT and Telecommunications in the House of Representatives on Tuesday queried the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu over a comment he made on the suspension of the Director – General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA Peter Jack over an alleged misconduct.
The minister who appeared before the joint committees, said, “I do not know the reason why I am before this committee, I am blank about this meeting”.
He further appealed that he had an international conference to attend begging to take his leave.
Breaching further rules and conventional practice of the parliament, Mr. Shittu who said he had been a lawmaker himself at the Oyo State House of Assembly from 1979 to 1983 went ahead to state his confusion about the setting as he had no information whatsoever why he has invited when he was only asked to introduce himself.
He said: “My name is Abdulraheem Adebayo Shittu. I’m here almost blank as to why I’m here. I don’t have information why I was asked to come. And I’m hoping that members will tell me. As I speak, there’s a conference at Transcorp where I’m to represent Nigeria in the midst of many international bodies and foreign players”.
“I also have another meeting with Mr President and some foreign investors. And as you all know, Nigeria lacks the necessary capacity to fund investment in the ICT sector, so I’m appealing that I have all the questions so I can go and look at them, get necessary information and provide answers as appropriately on another date”, he said.
His excuses and comments irked members of the committee who told him that he erred by saying he was blank on a meeting that was properly communicated to his ministry.
Chairman of the Committee on ICT, Mohammed Onawo however explained to him that, “this committee is mandated by the House to look into the perceived injustice done to the DG of NITDA”.
He added that the clerk of the committee had told him that the letter was personally handed over to him.
Members of the committee;Rep Wole Oke, Rep Tajudeen Yusuf, Rep Linus Okorie and others speaking separately expressed their displeasure at the Minister’s statement saying, “For him to say that he doesn’t know why he is here is an insult to the National Assembly.
“Now Mr. Minister knows why he is here, Mr. Chairman may give him another opportunity to re express himself”.
“We will not be part of anything that will undermine the National Assembly, “the lawmakers declared.
On the allegation that he was not informed of the reason why he came, the co-chairman of the committee, Hon, Saheed Akinade Fijabi from Oyo reminded the minister whilst displaying a letter sent to his office which was received and duly acknowledged with a copy of it sent back to the Committee.
Rep. Linus Okorie also frowned at the liberty taken by the minister to make his case when he was only invited to introduce himself.
He said: “The committee chairman was supposed to have opened the discussion before the minister would have responded by making his appeal as appropriate”.
He expressed dismay that the minister would feign ignorance of the reason for his presence, adding that either the minister was playing pranks on the committee which is tantamount to disrespecting the National Assembly, or some people in his office were simply being incompetent as to keep him informed.
Rep Kehinde Odeneye concored with Linus Okorie but pleaded with his colleagues to give the minister another opportunity to prepare and then brief the committee properly.
At this point, the minister realising the full weight of his indiscretion admitted receiving the letter of invitation, saying: “I want to apologise for any misconception. A letter was brought to my office yesterday with a heading relating to the suspension of the DG NITDA. And I liaise with my Permanent Secretary to get back to the committee Clerk so as to work out the possibility of re-adjusting the date – given the number of engagements I’m to have with the several groups on behalf of the President.
Briefing journalists in his office, the Chairman of the joint Committee, Rep. Mohammed Onawo said that the joint committee was to meet the minister to attend to an assignment given to them to interact with him on the perceived injustice metted out to the suspended DG of NITDA.
“We would have had the interface where the minister and his team would provide necessary information regarding their action in line with relevant laws.
“But as humans, we have to listen to his plea for lack of preparation for the discussion. But not on the ground that he was not informed as he earlier claimed, because that is certainly not tenable.
“We are not carrying out a normal committee assignment, but only enforcing a resolution of the House which mandated the joint committees on ICT and TeleCommunication to invite the minister to state his role in the alleged unlawful suspension of the DG NITDA and the appointment of another in acting capacity whether it all followed due process of laws establishing the agency as a statutory body”, he said.
The lawmakers therefore adjourn hearing on the matter to a later date yet to be announced.