By Hashim Suleiman
Let me take us back to the creation of NAFDAC in 1992 and then their headquarters was in Lagos till about 1995 to 1996 when Abacha ordered the relocation of MDAs from lagos to Abuja then the headquarters moved to the Area 2 part of Garki in Abuja and subsequently the national headquarters ended up perhaps to their permanent Head office at Wuse Zone 7. In all these period, Nigerians barely knew what NAFDAC stood for until President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Dr. Dora Akunyili the Director in 2001, the rest of how NAFDAC had since become entrenched in the Nigeria’s system is a story for another day.
Let me again refer you to an excerpt in the popular Oronsaye report which had the mandate of advising the government on how to reduce the number of MDA’s for better management and cost saving wherein there was an advise for the NITDA to merged into a department in the ministry. When I heard about this long ago, I wondered that the Agency which in my opinion is the most critical that the government can leverage upon to get to solve majority of its problems ranging from security and economic management had not gotten a professional to head it and harness its potentials.
However, such wonder was short lived with the appointment of Prof. Isa Pantami, the Director General in 2016 who came and revolutionized the place and called the governments attention to the fact that it was actually one of the most important Agency of government that could guarantee endless benefits to government in terms of efficient management of its activities. One of the first policy he brought in was the centralization of ICT projects clearance by the Agency and that ensured that government was not wasting money on unrealistic ICT projects as well as those that were duplicates of another. That policy was successful in saving Nigerias government billions of wastages because now there was placing of square holes in square pegs.
Pantami was easily able to achieve that because he was a professional and he head hunted a critical ally in Kashifu Inuwa who served him well to further harness the ingenuity in the existing staffs of the agency as well as so many fine guys that they assembled. In our country today, part of the selling points of the top presidential candidates was the fact that they head hunted and developed people who contributed immensely to the development of the country in several sectors. Indeed Prof Pantami by imbibing these very important virtues for succeeding was more than ready to revolutionize that sector and he did.
Once he set out the policies, it was very easy before Nigerians and the presidency herself began to notice the advantages of the mandates of NITDA and how they could leverage it for national development. The Annual e-Nigeria event was expanded to involve more private sector participation as well as the public sector participation because the President attended all the versions that the new DG Pantami had organized personally. The Vice President’s office involved NITDA more in advisory in areas of MSME development through the creation of ICT Hubs around the nation as well as the social investment programmes.
Little wonder why the president immediately appointed Prof Pantami a minister to oversee the entire sector on his return in 2019 and Pantami too on his own wisdom had to lobby to ensure the appointment of his protégé to take over the Agency which was the most critical of the whole Agencies under the ministry in terms of advancing his already planned digital transformation. The synergy worked as expected with Kashifu Inuwa and Nigeria is happy ever after with the ICT sector contributing the highest to the GDP in the last three consecutive years.
Just recently when ASUU attempted to hoodwink the Federal Government into accepting another payment platform for their salaries, the government quickly called its now chief ICT adviser, the NITDA through the Honorable Minister to vet the application and advise on its propriety for deployment. It was at this point I knew that NITDA’S roles have finally been identified by the government and have equally been appreciated. Afterwards, just this Friday on the 12th August 2022, the Honorable Minister implemented the approval of the president by setting up a committee to vet other transactional platforms of the government ranging from IPPIS, GIFMIS and the rest with NITDA serving as the secretary of such committee.
You can trust that with their antecedents, such work was going to be carried out critically and the government would get to find out areas that needed to be amended for national development, they would also be able to align the needs of all strata of the society to the various applications in order to avoid silo applications for different strata. Money saving benefits also ensue in such endeavors.
Wishing NITDA all the best!
God bless Nigeria!
Hashim Suleiman can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org