National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) can finance the country’s annual budget if given the necessary environment, according to Wole Oke, chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts.
Oke who expressed optimism during the investigative hearing into the queries issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (oAuGF) against NITDA, frowned at the flagrant abuse of the extant financial regulations.
He requested for a brief on the NITDA mandate and progress made so far with the view to the proposed relevant amendment to the NITDA Establishment Act for the smooth running of the agency.
Oke said “Nigerians want to know what you have done with the tax-payers’ money. Nigerians are watching you free of charge; we are not charging you for that. So it’s good PR for you to also market what NITDA is doing.
“People hear about NITDA, NITDA they don’t even know what you stand for. Not many people are aware until a few days, I saw your DG on Channel, some of us don’t even know your mandate. But this is a window for you to showcase what you also do. For Nigerians to also appreciate what you’re doing. The law setting you up is here. And from the information I gathered is that you can actively finance Nigeria’s budget if you’re given the wherewithal.
“The information I gathered is that NITDA alone can finance Nigeria’s budget if they are given the wherewithal, they are supported, they are given the environment to operate that we don’t even need to go borrowing.
“So these are the gains we are taking away. We did not just bring you here. We are very civil here, you elected us, we don’t harass, we don’t intimidate but we work as citizens of this country, and through the medium, you are able to render an account to Nigerians.
“Where you err, we will show Nigerians. Nigerians will know. If you give a contract to any contractor and he or she fails to perform, we will expose the person, okay, so we are not here to witch-hunt anybody. So please calm down and feel free,” Hon. Oke urged.
While responding, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general, NITDA, explained that before the advent of NITDA, ICT contributed less than 1% of the GDP, but today contributes more than 14% to the GDP, adding that in 2016 NITDA came up with strategic roadmap framework to transform the ICT sector in line with Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
He argued that the Agency has done so much in terms of “what people are doing with IT and making money. Like in NITDA we are not a revenue-generating organization, we just get levy from certain categories of companies so the money we are getting is small.
“What the chairman said if we can get what we need we can fund Nigeria’s budget. Let me give you an example of the Netherlands. Netherland is not as big as Kano and Jigawa States combined together, in terms of landmass and population but Netherland is using information technology for agriculture.
“What Netherland generated from agriculture export in 2019 was $106 billion while Nigeria generated only six-point something billion dollars from oil and gas.
“So what the chairman was saying is that if we can annex the powers of ICT, we don’t need to bother about any other thing because almost everything we do today is powered by ICT. So we can use ICT to boost our agriculture, our commerce and trading, almost everything.”
He noted that while other sectors of the world economy lost so much during the pandemic, those who invested in ICT were insulated, and “making money. One person, the owner of Amazon made almost $36.2 billion between the middle of March and June.”
The NITDA helmsman explained that the agency generated funds from the 1% levy from national information technology development fund (NITDeF) paid by the IT companies operating in the country and collected by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).
While responding to question on the alleged exclusion of Sokoto and Zamfara states from the 218 personnel employed in 2018, which the lawmakers argued was in breach of federal character policy, Mr. Inuwa however noted that 3 people were employed from Sokoto State in 2019.
On his part, Hon. Emmanuel Akpan requested for details of how NITDA contributes over 14% to Nigeria’s GDP during the status of an inquiry being initiated by the Committee.
“It will be important for this Committee and for Nigerians to know how much that translate to in naira and kobo that has come into the coffers of the Nigerian government vis-a-vis what you have spent that could have helped in advancing” the funding of the annual budget.
While responding to questions, Mrs. Titilayo Olusanya, NITDA deputy director Finance, explained that both appropriation and IGR for the year 2014 to 2018; audited account and management accounts as well as budget performance for the year under review were submitted for the Committee’s consideration.
She explained that the evidence for the submission of the audited accounts for 2014 to 2018 as well as evidence of remitted of internally generated revenues/operating surplus were part of the documents submitted to the Committee.
While speaking, representatives of office of the Auditor General of the Federation confirmed that the agency had submitted all relevant documents in line with extant financial regulations.
On his part, Hon. Mark Gbillah asked whether there was any value added to the agency sequel to the recruitment of the personnel.
However, while expressing his view, Hon. Oke argued that: “in our national life, sometimes a public organisation we may not relate employment generation to profitability; rather we may relate that to productivity, growth and development. And it was one of the tools that our late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo deployed in South West.”
Meanwhile, at the investigative hearing held on Monday, Hon. Oke directed the Clerk of the Committee to issue a fresh letter to Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to cause appearance over the non-remittance of audit report since 2015 to 2019.