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EXCLUSIVE: How Terrorists-Linked Minister, Isa Pantami Allegedly Bribed National Assembly Members With Millions Of Naira, Job Slots To Ensure Passage Of Controversial ICT Bill

December 24, 2022

The Bill had earlier been considered by the House of Representatives and consecutively passed the first and second readings on the floor of the Senate on December 12 and 13 respectively.

Some members of the National Assembly have been paid millions of Naira to ensure the passage of the controversial bill to repeal and re-enact the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), SaharaReporters has learnt.

The Bill had earlier been considered by the House of Representatives and consecutively passed the first and second readings on the floor of the Senate on December 12 and 13 respectively.

A top source told SaharaReporters that the federal lawmakers – senators and House of Representatives' members received bribes in cash and job slots from the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami to ensure the passage of the bill.

The bill seeks, among others, to empower NITDA to fix licensing and authorisation charges, collect fees and penalties and issue contravention notices and non-compliance with the act.   

The proposed legislation also seeks to establish the National Information Technology Development Fund which shall be funded by a levy of one per cent of the Profit Before Tax (PBT) of companies and enterprises with annual turnover of N100m and above.   

It listed the affected companies’ pay levels to include mobile and fixed telecommunications companies; information technology companies, gaming companies, and e-commerce companies; foreign digital platforms targeting the Nigerian market; banks, financial institutions, Fintech companies, insurance companies among others.

“Imagine, some members on the board of NITDA are not aware of this bill. That when the bill first came, they got to know through the public,” a top NITDA official told SaharaReporters.

“They set up a sub-committee at the board level and made their recommendations known. But the minister, Pantami dropped the recommendation and still went ahead.

“As it stands, he has paid the senate committee members to pass the bill and force it through, giving their families jobs in parastatals and contracts to them as he has giving his son.

“Recall that Cosgrove gave him a huge percentage for building the NITDA headquarters building and it was from that deal that he got his house in Wuse 2 which was previously published on SaharaReporters.

“Using these proceeds and his manipulation of Sabiu Tunde, he is now trying to seek the renewal of the NITDA DG, Kashifu Inuwa before time so that the incoming President will not have the chance to recruit someone else to NITDA and that will give he (Pantami) more years of milking the cow, which he is creating with the new bill.

“The startup and business community have said for someone that claims to be a professor and supporter of businesses in the technology sectors, this is a reflection of how incompetent he is or personal interest is driving his agenda that he became blind and is creating more taxes, duplicating roles. How will NCC issue license and now NITDA willl issue another license. What’s the logic in that?

“Let me tell you, the senate chairman has already been compromised but some lawmakers are against him. Not sure, but I heard that Ahmed Lawan has been paid by Pantami as well and even recruited his son.”

Stakeholders raised concerns about some provisions of the bill, which they said overlapped or usurped statutory powers and authorities of other agencies of government. 

They argued that the bill seeks to make NITDA a mega regulator of regulators in the country.

Meanwhile, Pantami and Inuwa were absent at the hearing organised by the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on ICT and Cybersecurity on Friday over the controversial bill.

The joint committee claimed the public hearing was organized to take inputs from stakeholders in the industry but the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and the Director-General of NITDA were conspicuously absent at the hearing, a development that prompted some committee members to call for an adjournment.

Some members of the House of Representatives, Isiaka Ibrahim (Ogun),  Uzoma Nkem Abonta (Abia) and Unyime Idem (Akwa Ibom) raised objections to the continuation of the public hearing citing the absence of the minister and the NITDA DG, non-availability of materials on the bill and the fact that the event came at a time the National Assembly members were already on ‘holiday mood’.

They also expressed disappointment that there was no apology received either from Pantami or Inuwa while none of their representatives was at the public hearing.

“The drivers of this bill seem to be driving in low gear. The necessary ingredients for us are not here. We don’t have the documents before us. Members are not here, the minister is not here; what needs to be done should be properly done,” Abonta said.

However, their submissions were unacceptable to the co-Chairman of the panel, Senator Yakubu Oseni (APC, Kogi), who insisted that the proceedings should go ahead as planned.

SaharaReporters had in August reported how Cosgrove Investment Limited, a firm owned by Umar Abdullahi, gifted Pantami a multi-million naira mansion in Abuja.

The sprawling edifice is located in Wuse area of the Federal Capital Territory, different sources confirmed to SaharaReporters.

The building it was learnt had been gifted to the Minister as compensation for the different multi-billion naira projects being executed by the company for the Nigerian government, including the construction of over N3 billion National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre.

“Cosgrove Investment Limited, a company that built one of Malami's mansions in Abuja was the one given the job to build NITDA digital centre. It was gifted to Pantami and he made sure the company was awarded the contract to build the NITDA project,” a source had said.

“The project was awarded for over N3 billion and the company was expected to give Pantami 10 percent of the total contract sum.”