A clandestine move by the Joint Senate and House Committee on Information Communications Technology, ICT, to pass a controversial bill concerning the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, has attracted harsh responses from the industry.
Controversy began after an invitation for a public hearing, jointly signed by the Clerks of the Senate Committee on ICT and Cyber Security; and House Committee on ICT, Mr. Ayo Ogon and Abosi Lolo, respectively, and published in a daily on Thursday, December 22, 2022, fixed the hearing on Friday, December 23, 2022, a day after both Chambers of the National Assembly had proceeded on recess, indicating desperation by the Committee to pass the controversial bill to favour NITDA and cause a disruption of the entire ICT sector in Nigeria.
While it was suspected that the Committee wanted to pass the bill without substantial public participation it was also alleged that the submissions of the industry stakeholders made during its first public hearing, were jettisoned, and that the current invitation may be the ultimate smokescreen to pass the controversial bill.
There were also allegations that the Committee did not formally invite key stakeholders for fears that the process to force down the bill in the industry may be scuttled, hence the Joint Committee capitalized on a hasty public notice, issued within hours to the public hearing.
According to a source from the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Companies, ALTON, the attempt to push this bill will amount to creating a behemoth that will erode the gains made by the industry for many years.
There was another allegation that the joint committee in the undue haste to pass the flawed bill, had had thrown away all the submissions made by the members of the public and stakeholders during the first hearing where the bill was vehemently opposed.
Among the stance of the stakeholders, was that rather than preserve and promote the mandate of NITDA as a statutory ICT development agency, they have made up their mind to create an agency with similar responsibilities like those of some of existing regulatory agencies in Nigeria.
All well-meaning Nigerians and all stakeholders in the ICT industry should know that if the enemies of Nigeria, who are determined to force the new bill down our throat succeed, the gains recorded in the ICT and telecommunications sector in the last 22 years will be reversed.
Just in the second quarter of 2022, the ICT sector, besides digital services, contributed 18.44 per cent to GDP. This is unprecedented but painfully it is one of the gains the passage of the infamous bill will reverse.