By Lukman Oladokun
The recent ‘hurricane’ in the Nigerian political landscape which ushered in President Muhammadu Buhari as well as other prominent political leaders in the 2015 elections -which is still considered to be the most keenly contested election in the history of Nigeria, also cuts across all aspects of the government sector with the aim of injecting a new form of leadership whose vision is in agreement with the government of the day.
Accordingly, the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) was not spared in this transformation process This is perhaps owed to the strategic roles which the Agency is expected to play in transforming Nigeria into a knowledge-based economy and also help in diversifying the nation’s economy from the monolithic economy; which is one of the cardinal points the current administration seeks to achieve which hitherto have suffered neglect.
It is based on this note that Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, FBCS, an Associate Professor of Computer Science was brought in to re-engineer the Agency in order to achieve the purpose of the agency’s establishment and thus make it more efficient, effective and responsive.
Shortly after being appointed, Dr. Pantami swung into action to drive home his views. It is however highly commendable how well articulated his plans for the Agency are. And as such he didn’t waste time to implement these plans for the Agency and Nigerians at large. At the topmost of his agenda to ensure the growth of the IT industry in Nigeria, is to reduce or eradicate the scourge of corruption in the sector.
In his inaugural address to the staff of the Agency, Dr. Pantami declared that, corruption is a hydra-headed monster Nigerians should strive to eradicate. He admonished the staff of the agency to step up their integrity level and work hand in hand with him to rid the nation of the menace especially in the IT sector. In his word “I am allergic to corruption and what can build your confidence in me is your professionalism, integrity, and dedication.”
The rate at which he strives to fight corruption in the IT sector is rare and thus earns applauds. Asides from his prompt identification of corruption as the bane to development and problem to how IT projects are being used as a conduit pipe for siphoning public fund, Dr. Pantami possesses a well-defined and feasible roadmap which he is following to achieve his zero tolerance for corruption. This strategy has proven to work well for him in his fight against corruption.
He is, however, in collaboration with institutions which are saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring transparency in government procurements. Without prejudice to the National Assembly’s screening of MDAs’ budget proposals, Dr. Pantami knows that little is being achieved from the legislative arms of government in their struggles to reduce corruption in the country, as the technicalities involved in scrutinizing IT projects might not be available to legislators.
His first place of call was the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) because he knows the key role the Commission could play in this regard. For the war against corruption to be won, he enjoined on the management of the Commission the importance of partnering with NITDA in achieving its regulatory function.
As an ICT stakeholder, he has stressed the blatant disobedience shown to section 6 of the NITDA Act which empowers the Agency to be the clearinghouse for all government IT projects. He therefore appealed to the commission to always request for NITDA’s clearance from any MDAs that is under its investigation especially IT related cases. He said that “this strategy will reverse the trend of using IT as a cash cow by unscrupulous public officials. “Collaboration between our agencies would ensure accountability and professionalism within the industry; checkmate widespread corruption; save the country billions of naira and help tremendously in developing and promoting the IT local content policy.”
Seeing the wisdom in Dr. Pantami’s initiative, the Ag. Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu pledged his support and went further to commence the enforcement of the Act during the investigation of MDAs.
Magu declared that “this strategic partnership is timely and an indication that the current administration of NITDA is focused and determined. We will also comply immediately with all the guidelines in procuring IT products and services so we can practice what we preach”.
His anti-corruption acumen also led him to the office of Auditor General of the Federation where he requested for support of the “Audit House” in insisting on IT clearance while auditing the account records of government establishments. Pantami hinted that both organizations needed to collaborate while auditing the accounts of MDAs especially as regards IT projects. He stated that the purpose of insisting on clearance before procuring IT products and services for government is to review, justify and analyse the projects’ values for money and sustainability. “We want your office to always request for clearance obtained from NITDA by MDAs whenever you are auditing them.”
In his reaction to the request, the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Anthony Ayine gave immediate approval and pressed it upon his staff to henceforth commence requesting for NITDA’s clearance.
Dr. Pantami’s insistence on MDAs to seek NITDA clearance has also saved the country billions of naira. The Federal Executive Council has rejected several memoranda that failed to seek NITDA’s clearance.
In addition to this, he has been a lone voice in ensuring that IT infrastructure deployment is in accordance with the needs of the nation. He has never hidden his reservation for the mismanagement of public fund shrouded on the pretense of development like the case of the Close Circuit Television deployed in Abuja.
He holds the view that before deploying any technology, we must consider our peculiarity and identify the challenges that could inhibit the benefits accruable to such projects. He once remarked that failure to identify our IT challenges has impacted negatively on our IT development and it is the bane of moribund projects we have all around.
The prognostic consequence of this uncommon trait in fighting corruption comes with attendant consequences. As expected, people whose toes have been stepped upon must fight back. You can’t block the means of “livelihood” of these unscrupulous elements and expect to go untouched.
Dr. Pantami has been maligned by this set of people who surfaced when the heat was more on them but he still remains unruffled. A faceless group accused him of “promoting unwholesome practices in the award of contract for 2017 budget an allegation they have failed to substantiate.
Dr. Pantami is focused and determined. His steadfastness in ensuring that Nigeria’s commonwealth benefits all and sundry remains unshakable and he will not compromise. He is prepared for the battle ahead because according to him “anything that you do in the aspect of anti-corruption will surely elicit retaliation by perpetrators but as long as legal is made illegal and legitimate is made illegitimate, it is corruption and no effort must be spared to fight it.”
Lukman Oladokun is a Principal Executive Officer II with the National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA)