By EricJames Ochigbo
Abuja, Nov. 9, 2020 The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Telecommunications, Rep. Akeem Adeyemi (APC-Ondo) has queried the increase in the 2021 budgetary allocation for the Federal Ministry of Science and Digital Economy.
Adeyemi, during the 2021 budget defence organised by a joint committee of the National Assembly on Monday in Abuja, demanded for explanations.
“It is observed that the total proposal for the Communications Sector which is N39.3billion for the fiscal year 2021 is N21.9billion higher than the total approval of N17.4billion for 2020.
“What is responsible for this sharp increase, especially when the total Capital allocation in 2021 for the Ministry alone represents 70 per cent of the Capital allocation for the entire Communications Sector?
“We would also like to know the rationale for proposing another round of 76 projects in 2021 when a vast sum of Capital Projects in 2020 is awaiting execution,” he said.
Adeyemi said that there are immense capabilities of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the country.
He said if deployed effectively and efficiently, it would enhance productivity in virtually all human endeavours.
The rep recalled that at the previous budget interactions with the Ministry, there was a plan to establish the ICT University of Nigeria, the Smart City Project; ICT Hub Centres; and ICT Parks all of which are components of the National ICT Road Maps.
According to him, it is important that this Joint Committee is apprised of the extent of work done in this regard.
“It is our belief that if Nigeria must realise the full benefits that accrues to the country from digital economy, the ICT sector in Nigeria, spearheaded by the Ministry must sufficiently promote the utilization of ICT infrastructure.
“It must promotion participation in the ICT economy by Nigerians with a view to using same to promote good governance and digital service delivery in the country.
“With the current high level of development and deployment of ICT worldwide, it is expected that Nigeria, at the moment, should be able to tap into the capabilities of digital technology to proffer digital solutions not only to insecurity of lives and properties, but to other social and economic endeavours of Nigerians,” he said.
Responding, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Mr Isah Ibrahim said that the increase in the 2021 budget was to accommodate National Identity Management Commission (NIMC)
He explained that the scope of the ministry had been expanded to accommodate and supervise agency.
“It is to accommodate the proposal of NIMC that is the major variation there; their budget now is part of our own.
“If you look at their salary, it is over five billion naira and I think that could be the reason for the sharp increase,” he said.
Responding to question raised on the proposed ICT University, the minister said that proposal was not approved by the Federal Executive Council chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to him, the main issue at that time was that other stakeholders were not involved in the process.
Ibrahim said that the Minister of Education, and National University Commission (NUC) were not carried along in the process.
“May be we do not give it the priority, our major challenge in the country, ICT sector, is not just about you establishing a university but what is more important is providing 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 converting 600 universities to skills centre.
“Most of our graduates today lacks the skills required, they only focus more on getting certificates.
“They only focus on theory, and when you employ them, you need to train them all through because the skills are not there. Now it’s because of this that focus of the world is not on certificate but skills,” he said.
The minister said that the main target of the ministry was to focus more on providing skills for our citizens.
According to him, “there is one very important benefit we can drive from that, we will be producing more potential employers and entrepreneurs.’’