By Christiana Ekpa and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
The much-touted ICT University of Nigeria initiative has been finally laid to rest, thereby, increasing the number of other policies that have suffered similar fate in the past. But it did not go down well with the Senate.
Speaking at the budget defense session with the Ministry of Communications Technology and its parastatals at the National Assembly, the Communications Committee chairman, Gilbert Nnaji frowned at the decision of the Federal Executive Council to abandon the project.
He expressed dissatisfaction that despite series of budgetary approvals and huge investments towards that project, federal government would just abandon it on flimsy excuses. According to him,
“It is totally unacceptable to us as a committee and by extension, the senate of the federal republic, that after all the funds appropriated and infrastructures put in place across the country, including one in my constituency, FEC, will just say that because it will add to the burden of the federal government in education sector, therefore that the idea should just die like that. This amounts to wastage of tax payers money and taking Nigeria backwards in the area of ICT, technology education and job creation”.
He further directed the ministry through its legal department to work with the committee to develop a bill for an Act establishing the University so that the senate can now intervene.
The minister had earlier stated that the ministry made efforts to actualize the project but could not succeed due to economic reasons.
He said that “we set up an Implementation Committee made up of distinguished Nigerians and chaired by the former Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Universities Commission, NUC. They came up with a report which we took to the federal executive council, FEC. But it was argued that it would be difficult to carry on with the initiative as it would add to the burden of sustaining the already existing tertiary institutions in the country. We were therefore advised to shelve the idea for now or better still, get the private sector involved since ICT globally is private-sector driven. So, that was what informed the suspension of actions regarding the ICT University.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the chairman had taken a swipe on the federal government over poor implementation of budget for-which there has been increasing poverty and hunger in the country.
In his words, “relying on the strength of information forwarded to the committee by the Ministry as at the last quarter of 2017, the same story of insufficient funding was prevalent just as it obtained in the previous fiscal years. The committee observes that out of 97 capital projects approved and appropriated in 2017, just a few were successfully completed while a larger percentage was either not funded or executed at all”. Describing this situation as “worrisome” he further questioned the justification for the introduction of new projects in 2018 if virtually all the projects in 2017 were not funded or executed stressing that the implication was that all those “budgetary items that were either poorly funded or not funded at all are actually not relevant and important to the Ministry ab initio”.
He reminded the ministry that the committee will not relent in its commitment to providing the enabling environment for the ministry to achieve its mandate of promoting “the utilization of ICT infrastructure by Nigerians and participation in the ICT economy with a view to using same to promote good governance and digital service delivery in the country”.