By Emmanuel Elebeke
Stakeholders in the nation’s ICT industry have criticized the planned relocation of three Federal Government agencies : Nigerian Communication Satellite, NigComSat, Galaxy Backbone and National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA from the ministry of Communications Technology to ministry of Science and Technology.
The Nigeria Computer Society, NCS in a letter to the Presidency through the Chairman, interministerial Committee, Aso Rock Villa, signed by the President, Prof. Sola Aderounmu and obtained by Hi-Tech, condemned the move, saying that such plan would set the nation more than 15 years just as it would affect development plans.
It noted that relocating the three agencies would negate the original plan of using Information and Communication Technology to contribute to the global knowledge-based economy. The NCS said that maintaining the status quo is a pivotal instrument in accelerating growth, promoting sustainable development and eradicating poverty in Nigeria.
NCS also in the letter noted that by relocating the three agencies, federal government would be working against the 2011 agreement it reached with other stakeholders when the Communication Technology Ministry was established to supervise the said agencies alongside the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC and Nigerian Postal Service, Nipost in order to actualize the ICT objective of diversifying Nigerian economy.
The association further argued that the mission of NCC, NITDA, Galaxy Backbone and NigComSat are related and focused on ICT and as such should be allowed to remain under one ministry. Presently, NITDA formulates policies and develops information technology initiatives, while, NigComSat and Galaxy backbone are providers of ICT infrastructure and services to federal government and its agencies. According to Aderounmu: “My reading of the current government, however, suggests it is not structured for research, discussion and planning. Rather it grapples with problems as they emerge. How can there be progress in such a system?
“For me, I will just ignore whatever the government does in the hope that by 2019 we shall pick the pieces and start rebuilding. That is better than kicking against any ill-digested moves which may at best just breed unnecessary tension in the industry,” he said. According to him, the industry has remained at a standstill for 19 months.
Earlier in 2016, it was reported that the minister Communications Technology, Adebayo Shittu and his counterpart in the Science and technology ministry, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu were locked in a protracted battle over supervision of the affected agencies, which prompted the President to set up a committee headed by the Vice President to look into the logjam.
According to the report, the Attorney General of the Federation backed the move on the ground that the plan to relocate the affected agencies is backed by law that established them. Apart from faulting the secular that transferred the trio agencies from Science and Technology ministry to the Communications Technology ministry, the AQGF was also quoted as arguing that moving them to Science and technology ministry would strengthen the ability of the National Space Research and Development Agency, NASRDA currently supervised by Science and Technology ministry.
For NASRDA, NigComSat currently operates at only 10 per cent capacity and by operating as a separate space agency, makes Nigeria the only country in the world with two space agencies. For instance, it argued that NIGCOMSAT-1R gulped as much as n40 billion of national budget between 2009 to 2016 but only remitted a paltry sum of N200 million in the same period.