Last week was quite an eventful one for the ICT sector in Nigeria beyond the announcement of paternity leave granted to staff of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
The action-packed week became even more thrilling, going by the plethora of heartwarming news emanating from the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and some of its key agencies under the supervision of the Minister, Dr. Isa Pantami.
Apart from NITDA, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST), Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), Galaxy BackBone, and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), all have a common thread binding them together.
The agencies received a huge boost to redouble their efforts towards the delivery of a successful Digital Nigeria Programme, one of President Buhari-led government’s key initiatives geared to empower innovators and entrepreneurs with skills required to thrive in the country’s emerging digital economy.
The six agencies are responsible for empowering Nigerians to develop skills and build innovative solutions to tackle challenges within our local environment.
As the minister in charge of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami has demonstrated consistency in galvanising all agencies under his supervision to implement people-oriented projects to advance the digital economy agenda of the Federal Government.
It was a week the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Professor Garba Umar Danbatta presented the newly elected Executive Secretary of West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA), Engineer Aboki to the Honourable Minister. Nigerian’s nominee for the post was endorsed by the minister strictly on the basis of merit, considering his proven expertise and skills in the sector.
Pantami’s advocacy for the improved condition of service of staff in all agencies under his Ministry became a reality when he personally presented the new scheme of service for NITDA, as approved by the Federal Government, to the management and staff of the agency.
In an interview with Economic Confidential sometime in September 2020, Pantami had spoken on the need for government to give adequate budgetary allocation to agencies that generate more revenue.
He said: “We have been generating more funds and revenue for the government. So, any institution that has been generating more revenue for the government should be encouraged to do more by adequate budgetary provisions. I have been agitating for that, that any sector doing well should be supported by giving them more funds.”
Presenting the new Employee-Centric Condition and Scheme of Service, the minister explained that the document presents a comprehensive approach to the development of NITDA and the wellbeing of employees (including paternity leave) and the approved skills and certifications required for appointment and promotion in the agency.
Henceforth, NITDA workers are entitled to numerous benefits, key among them being transfer benefits, home ownership loans, compassionate leave and paternity leave, which have been described as novelties.
But that was just the tip of a most eventful week of good tidings in the ICT sector.
A major event was the announcement that President Buhari has approved N5 billion as the capital budget for the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to enable it deliver on the national digital economy project, with appropriate infrastructures, and attractive conditions of service.
The approval showed an upward review of the capital budget of NIMC from between the a meagerly N500 million and N700 million in the previous years to about N5 billion this year as part of the President’s commitments to digitising the economy.
As if that was not enough within the week, the minister broke the cheery news that the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) has been authorised to collect stamp duty after it initial feud with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) on the same last year.
The minister had decried the unfair treatment meted to NIPOST and swore to pursue the issue by reporting to the minister of Finance, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the President.
Until the latest development, NIPOST carried the burden of over 12,000 staff and was unable to fix its dilapidated offices spread across the country because it had not received any capital budget for several years.
In the same interview quoted above, the minister had said that “I am not worried about some institutions collecting money. It is just that I cannot stand injustice. And it is my nature that I always fight for the oppressed. So, what provoked me is the injustice.”
Indeed, Pantami’s vision, zeal for excellence, and leadership style has reinforced the synergy and cooperation between the Ministry and its agencies in creating a robust digital economy for enhanced diversification of the nation’s revenue-earning resources.
From the foregoing, in the last one week, the operations and structure of agencies under the ministerial supervision of Dr. Pantami have witnessed tremendous adjustments and proper repositioning to function as valuable players and partners in the development of Nigeria’s evolving digital economy.
For the benefitting agencies, these newly introduced incentives like the paternity leave should serve as additional stimulus for them to redouble their commitment and effort in fulfilling the country’s vision of emerging as a leading player in the global digital economy.
Inyene Ibanga, Managing Editor of TechDigest writes from Wuye District Abuja, Nigeria