Isa Pantami: Nigeria’s next ICT Minister?

Many stakeholders in Nigeria’s ICT sector can now heave a sigh of relief as the name of former minister of ICT; Adebayo Shittu was conspicuously missing from the ministerial list released on Tuesday.

President Muhammadu Buhari finally transmitted the list of his nominees to the senate for confirmation, with only twelve members of the old cabinet returning to the country’s service.

Of particular interest for the tech ecosystem and ICT industry was the position of the minister of the ministry. The previous occupant of that position, Adebayo Shittu, according to many stakeholders, left little to be desired. Many had seen the appointment of the minister as a mere compensation for his role in the election of President Buhari, in which the president’s party won in Oyo state where the former minister comes from.

But if his appointment was a concern, his four years stewardship as minister of ICT was seen as a big disappointment and riddled with many controversies.

While his omission from the list may significantly have to do with his poor record in office, his unabashed political pursuit which saw him falling out many times with the leadership of the party at the national level and consequently contributing to APC’s loss to PDP in the state may have been the last straw.

In any case, with Shittu out of the picture, the attention in the coming days would likely turn to the inclusion of Ali Isa Pantami, current director general and CEO of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), on the list. Being the only nominee with a significant ICT experience and background, it will expected that the President will hand over the ministry to him.

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The ministry of information and communication technology (ICT), created in 2011, has five agencies including, Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC); NITDA; NIPOST; NigComSat and Galaxy Backbone.

NITDA is the agency that implements the ICT policy of the ministry of communication. It has the sole responsibility of developing programs that caters for the running of ICT related activities in Nigeria. It is also mandated with the implementation of policies guidelines for driving ICT in Nigeria.

NITDA’s strategic position in the ministry, should give the current DG a better perspective to manage its affairs.

Who is Isa Pantami?

Isa Ali Pantami is a 47 year old graduate of Computer Science and PhD holder in Computer Information System from the Robert Gordon University of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom. Before his appointment in NITDAY, Pantami lectured at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Information Technology and later joined the Islamic University of Madinah as head of Technical Writing in 2014. He made professor in Madinah where he lectured in the new Faculty of Computing and Information Systemsof the university.

In 2016, he was confirmed by President Buhari as part of the 13 newly appointed chief executive officers for 13 government agencies. His directive for NITDA upon employment was to develop the ICT infrastructure in the North East. The jury is still out on how much impact he has had on this particular mandate as ICT growth in the north remains at a very low level.

Alleged EFCC investigation

Despite his very glossy ICT resume, Pantami’s stewardship as DG of NITDA has had some snags. For instance, in 2017 the former minister of ICT, Adebayo Shittu, was reported to have alleged in a radio programme in Ibadan that Pantami was being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over award of contracts at the agency.

The allegation was originally made by Kaduna-based Good Governance and Accountability Monitoring Group. According to the group, Pantami did not follow due process of the Procurement Act in awarding a Galaxy Backbone contract.

NITDA however denied it was under investigation by the EFCC.

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