Adah Daniel: Is it a N64m Website or ICT Infrastructure Project ?

Nigerian public space is replete with fake news strengthened by social media and competition for political power. This is compounded by possibly communication crisis arising from imprecise naming and description of governmental projects. A case in point is the trending website allegedly executed at the cost of sixty four million naira.

The story is curious and surprising. It raises so many questions. In a scenario like this, there are two categories of people. The first are those interested in the fact of the matter. They investigate and dig out facts behind the veil. They want to see the details of the project, the appropriation and possibly meet the consultant. This family of fact seekers is a genuine nation builder who seeks the truth using tracking of governmental appropriation and project implementation as a tool.

There is the second category of Nigerians. Even when they have the best of intention, their lenses are politically skewed, leaving them with easy option of viewing every incident as a political weapon to deploy for attack . Interesting thing is such people care less about the sacred reality of the issue. For those fixated on political firefight, the headline is enough to build a political capital and score cheap political points.

In the case in point, no website can be that costly even with the best of design. What then raised the cost to that level was the focus investigation. Then the details started popping up- we bought servers; we equipped computer room; we purchased networking materials; we train staff. Going through all the papers associated with the project, it is clear the problem is not the cost but the naming and description of it by the executors themselves.

What the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation executed is not a website project but an integrated ICT infrastructure designed to enhance interaction and interface of government with the citizens. The project has about five components with the website being the sixth item. For the hub of governmental coordination, it was ordinarily an innovative programme executed within the lowest costing range. Clearly, the N64 million is not for the website alone but for six mini-services and acquisition within the ICT infrastructure field.

However, why was the budget head for the project tagged “Website”? This is my own problem with the Nigerian budgeting system. A very annoying level of laziness and ineptitude is demonstrated within the budget office for the past several decades. Even when the best of a hand, Bright Okogwu, was the head of the federal budget office, the practice persisted. Most ICT projects under the budget simply have Website or ICT as heading. No attempt is made at specificity. Many at times there are duplications while so many items are simply repeated on annual basis. Neither the budget office nor the legislative committee act to correct the practices.

The whole confusion I traceable to the misleading headline for the project under the appropriation act. While it was named ‘Website’, the details showed that six mini-programmess were simply lumped under the item. It is rather an ICT Infrastructure project than mere website as erroneously repeatedly reported.

Something I discovered again is that the project was initiated long before Boss Mustapha was appointed into office. I was told he insisted on the right being done by ensuring that all the six components are implemented to the letter. The completion was reportedly delayed until this week because of SGF’s persistent insistence on quality and due process.

All the above may be of interest to those who are interested in facts rather than fiction or fable. The other side won’t be disposed to all the clarifications. Why? Because political consideration is the viewing lenses.

For both identified above, something may interest them. Mustapha is not the usual breed and butter politician easily swayed by lucre of public office. Nigerians should not simply used what had happened in that office as a yardstick; Mustapha is a disciplined public official who is reputed for his Spartan and honest lifestyle. As the Executive Secretary of the National Inland Water ways Authority, Mustapha’s records were exemplary.

Since assuming office as the SGF, the Adamawa pastor –politician has concentrated on reforming the office, creating synergy, enhancing coordination of governmental activities, strengthening the service personnel, building capacity and entrenching a culture of transparency and accountability. The SGF is a serious minded public official who just executed an ICT infrastructure project, not a website.

Nigerian still has honest public officials and high among them is Boss Mustapha.

*Adah writes from Okene, Kogi state

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