Reps, Minister, Clash Over Suspended NITDA DG | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Reps, Minister, Clash Over Suspended NITDA DG

Posted: Jan 26, 2016 at 7:15 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)
Rotimi Akinwumi
Temper rose at the meeting of the House of Representatives joint Committee on ICT and TeleCommunications with the Minister of Communication, Abdulraheem Adebayo Shittu on Tuesday following comments from the minister which members considered insulting.
The minister was  invited to appear before the committee to explain why he ordered the removal of the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr. Peter Jack via suspension and appointing an acting DG in breach of the NITDA Act.
However at the committee sitting, the minister stoked the anger of the members when he unilaterally told them he does not understand why he was invited, just as he sought express permission to leave the meeting because he had other important state issues to attend to.
The minister made the gaffe when he went beyond his brief, preferring to make comments when he was only asked to introduced himself to the committee members in accordance with the practice in the parliament.
The member were angered when he told them he was in the blank as to why he had to appear before the joint Committee despite admitting that he got a letter of invitation to the effect.
Breaching further rules and conventional practice of the parliament, the minister who said he had been a lawmaker himself at the Oyo State House of Assembly from 1979 to 1983 went ahead to state his confusion about the setting as he claimed he had no information whatsoever why he has invited, when he was only asked to introduce himself.
He said: “My name is Abdulraheem Adebayo Shittu. I’m here almost blank as to why I’m here. I don’t have information why I was asked to come. And I’m hoping that members will tell me. As I speak, there’s a conference at Transcorp where I’m to represent Nigeria in the midst of many international bodies and foreign players”.
“I also have another meeting with Mr President and some foreign investors. And as you all know, Nigeria lacks the necessary capacity to fund investment in the ICT sector, so I’m appealing that I have all the questions so I can go and look at them, get necessary information and provide answers as appropriately on another date”, he said.
This submission by the minister angered some lawmakers who felt the minister was either not prepared for the discussion, or was simply being economical with the truth about the invitation sent to his office.
On the allegation that he was not informed of the reason why he came, the co-chairman of the committee, Hon, Saheed Akinade Fijabi  reminded the minister whilst displaying a letter sent to his office which was received and duly acknowledged with a copy of it sent back to the Committee.
Hon. Linus Okorie also frowned at the liberty taken by the minister to make his case when he was only invited to introduce himself.
He said: “The committee chairman was supposed to have opened the discussion before the minister would have responded by making his appeal as appropriate”.
He expressed dismay that the minister would feign ignorance of the reason for his presence, adding that either the minister was playing pranks on the committee which is tantamount to disrespecting the National Assembly, or some people in his office were simply being incompetent as to keep him informed.
Hon. Kehinde Odeneye concored with Linus Okorie but pleaded with his colleagues to give the minister another opportunity to prepare and then brief the committee properly.
At this point, the minister realising the full weight of his indiscretion admitted receiving the letter of invitation, saying: “I want to apologise for any misconception. A letter was brought to my office yesterday with a heading relating the suspension of the DG NITDA. And I liaised with my Permanent Secretary to get back to the committee Clerk so as to work out the possibility of re-adjusting the date – given the number of engagements I’m to have with the several groups on behalf of the President.
At this point, newsmen were asked to depart the venue of the meeting to enable them interact at an executive session.
Briefing journalists in his office, at the end of the meeting,  the Chairman of the joint Committee, Hon. Mohammed Onawo said that the joint committee was to meet the minister to attend to an assignment given to them to interact with him on the perceived injustice metted out to the suspended DG of NITDA.
“We would have had the interface where the minister and his team would provide necessary information regarding their action in line with relevant laws.
“But as humans, we have to listen to his plea for lack of preparation for the discussion. But not on the ground that he was not informed as he earlier claimed, because that is certainly not tenable.
“We are not carrying out a normal committee assignment, but only enforcing a resolution of the House which mandated the joint committees on ICT and TeleCommunication to invite the minister to state his role in the alleged unlawful suspension of the DG NITDA and the appointment of another in acting capacity whether it all followed due process of laws establishing the agency as a statutory body”, he said.
The meeting has been adjourned to next week.