There was a power play at the National Assembly on Friday between members of the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on ICT and Cybersecurity over a bill to repeal and re-enact the National Information Technology Development Agency.
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 of companies and enterprises with an annual turnover of N100 million and above.
Stakeholders raised concerns about some provisions of the bill, which they said overlap or usurp statutory powers and authorities of other agencies of government.
The joint committee on Friday organised a public on the bill to take inputs from stakeholders in the industry.
But the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami and the Director-General of NITDA, Kashifu Abdullah were conspicuously absent at the hearing, a development that prompted some committee members to call for adjournment.
Reps 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 is coming at a time the National Assembly members are already on ‘holiday mood’.
They expressed disappointment that there was no apology received either from the minister or the NITDA boss while none of their representatives was also 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.
Their submissions did not sit well with the co-chairman of the panel, Senator Yakubu Oseni (APC, Kogi), who insisted that the proceedings should go ahead as planned.
Oseni said copies of the bill had been circulated to all committee members digitally, and that the NITDA boss was represented by the agency’s legal adviser.
“I want to put it on record here that if there is any anomaly or any document that is missing that should be a fault from your side, the House of Representative members
“For us in the Senate, everything is intact and the necessary documents concerning the bill have been circulated through digital means, so I believe if you are conversant with your system, you should have been able to see that.
“I don’t see any reason why we should not go ahead with the public hearing. From our end, the Senate we are ready for this public hearing,” the senator said.
The House of Representatives members, however, stood their ground and moved a motion that the public hearing be adjourned till next year when the main drivers of the bill will be available to respond to questions on its merits and demerits.
Other lawmakers unanimously supported the motion when it was put to a voice vote and the public hearing was adjourned to January 2023.