• Eyes digital economy, directs execution of ICT master plan
President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented what he considers as meagre earnings Nigeria is deriving from oil. Buhari who spoke while receiving in farewell audience the Cuban Ambassador to Nigeria, Carlos Trejo Sosa, at the State House, Abuja, noted: “We have deficit in infrastructure, in education, health care, and many other areas. But Cuba has always been helpful. What we earn from oil does not meet our needs, and we can use any assistance we get.”
The president also re-submitted a request to the Senate seeking approval for a $29.96 billion loan. In a letter read on the floor by Senate President Ahmad Lawan at the commencement of plenary, Buhari hinged the renewal of the request on the rejection of the same by the last Senate.
He stated that an approval of his request would ensure the prompt implementation of projects under the borrowing plan with special emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, growth and employment generation, poverty reduction through social safety net programmes, governance and financial management reforms among others.
In November 2018, the Senate had unanimously thrown out Buhari’s request for the loan, saying the letter conveying it was not accompanied by a borrowing plan.
“I hereby request the resolution of the Senate to approve the Federal Government’s 2016-2018 external borrowing plan as well as relevant projects under this plan. Specifically, the Senate is invited to note that while I had sent the 2016-2018 external borrowing plan to the 8th National Assembly in September 2016, this plan was not approved in its entirety by the legislature.
“Only the Federal Government’s emergency project for the northeast, four states’ projects, and one China Exim bank assisted railway modernisation project for the Lagos – Ibadan segment were approved out of a total of 39 projects,” the letter said.
It further explained: “The outstanding projects that were not approved by the legislature nevertheless are critical to the delivery of the government policies and programme relating to power, mining, roads, agriculture, health, water and the educational sector.”
The president also seems poised to dig deeper into the wealth potential of the digital economy. He revealed that a 2018 directive that all government-funded ICT projects must be reviewed and cleared by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) saved the country over N16.8 billion.
“There is a need to maintain the tempo in order to help us to maximally utilise the resources that we have as a nation,” Buhari said yesterday at the opening ceremony of the e-NIGERIA 2019 Conference on Nigerian Digital Economy in Abuja.
He therefore directed Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to comply with the ongoing transition of all government operations to digital platforms, to enhance efficiency, effectiveness in service delivery and promote more inter-agency synergy.
According to him, the transition to a digital economy is no longer optional for MDAs, but is “an absolute necessity,” following the launch of the e-government master plan which will drive and guide the process.
The president meanwhile noted that unregistered Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM cards) remain a threat to national security.
“The digital economy is already playing an important role in improving security, fighting corruption and developing the economy. The issue of unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards however has constituted a key vulnerability that has been exploited by men of the underworld to carry out their nefarious activities,” he said.
“We were happy to be informed that over 9.2 million SIM cards were normalised, blocked or deactivated in less than 40 days. This is a very good development and will have a positive impact on our security as a nation. The ministry deserves commendation for this timely and proactive measure and you need to stay vigilant to ensure that we never return to an era where improperly registered SIM cards make our mobile networks ready vehicles for crime,” the president explained.
“All Ministries, Departments and Agencies are expected to comply with the Nigerian e-Government Interoperability Framework, the Enterprise Architecture and the Nigeria Data Protection Regulation. We are well aware of the prerequisites for the development of a virile and sustainable digital economy. And while we note that this process requires committed effort on the part of government, we are equally aware of the potential positive impact it will have on the overall economy,” he added.
On his part, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Pantami, said the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria focuses on eight pillars that address different aspects of a vibrant digital economy.
“We now have an opportunity to become a key player. Digital economy is not just a buzz term for Nigeria, rather it provides a very good opportunity for us to redefine our approach to the development of the economy in a way that makes digital technology central to all aspects. This approach has the potential to improve the various indices of our economic growth,” the minister said.