By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
Minister of Telecommunications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isah Ali Pantami on Wednesday gave reasons why the federal government shutdown telecommunications operations in the troubled Northwest geopolitical zone.
This is even as he revealed that the telecommunications is the fastest growing sector in Nigeria at present after raking in about One Trillion Naira (N1t) through the sale of spectrum, frequencies licence.
Pantami who spoke to State House Correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at Presidential Villa, Abuja, disclosed that the N1trillion also came through the remittances of Telcoms operators to FIRS and through what has been generated and appropriated by the National Assembly for the sector.
Pantami’s interaction with reporters went thus:
“I will begin by responding to my friend, the first questioner, about shutting down telecommunications facilities in some parts of Northwest of Nigeria. Prior to responding to the question, I want to clarify to all of us that the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999, Section 14, Subsection 2, under Article B, has expounded to us that the primary responsibility of government is the security and welfare of its citizens.
“Understanding the priority of security makes the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) to always make sure that our priority number one is security because this is what the Constitution says and any action to be taken, as long as it will support security institutions to achieve and deliver their responsibilities, government is willing to do that for them.
“Furthermore, security issues cannot be discussed in public like this. Most importantly, I am not in the better position to justify the shutting down of telecommunications because of security. I am aware of the shutting down, but the request is not from us. Rather, the request is from the security institutions, in which they asked for that as part of their strategy.
“Because of this, government allowed them to go ahead and even that one, the reason for doing that I may be aware of some, but I’m sorry to say it’s not for public discussion. What I only plead with all of us, as lay men, we shall try to give our security institutions the support they need in order to deliver on their mandate.
“Security issues today are not only for the security institutions alone, but there is a role that each and every citizen can play in order to make their work more successful. So, I plead with the media to support our security institutions and let us give them the benefit of doubt; when they come up with a strategy, let us not unnecessarily criticise it, except we allow them to begin and see.
“Particularly, they could have information at their disposal that you and I do not have and if you lack information, you will not be able to do justice in your deliberation. It is only when there is sufficient information at your disposal, then you can argue, but if you don’t have it, even if you partake in any debate, you will finally discover that you have made a very wrong decision.
“So, it is because of this. This is originally a request from Zamfara State government, in which they have requested the federal government to support them and Mr. President, as we always know that his priority is security and he always listens to complaints and new strategies on how to handle so he is very much aware. It is a trial, let us support them and based on the information we have been reading and hearing through the media that tremendous successes have been recorded so far.
“So, we need to support them to make sure that our country is secured and this is going to be good for all of us.
“Secondly, on the issue of shutting down the telecommunications facilities, as I said yesterday during an event in which some of your colleagues were there, that in the Digital Economy sector, we agreed that we can compromise the economic benefit of the sector, as long as that compromise will bring an end to insecurity.
“Investors in the sector invested because of profit, but they understand the priority of our government, then when security and economic benefits are going to be attained simultaneously, then definitely we are going to pursue both of them. But if only one can be attained by compromising the other one, we agree to compromise the economy benefit of our sector, in order to support security institutions to deliver their mandate, because as long as there is no security, even the economy will not thrive.
“So, because of this we agreed, we come up with so many policies, those policies can reduce the growth of our sector, we know, but we know they will support security of the country. So, we agreed to reduce the growth of our sector relatively in order to support the security, like NIN registration and SIM.
“We know, but because of security reasons, we have to accept that and this shutdown will definitely affect our sector economically, however, as long as this effort will save the life of one innocent Nigeria, we have no regret in doing that, because the life of one innocent Nigerian is better than any economic benefit we can attain in this country.
“So, it is because of this we agree on all stakeholders support the decision of government, I have been meeting with all of them, that as long as this effort will support your government, we will do it for you. So, it is because of this we have given that benefit of doubt, to security institutions, and we agree to shut down that will affect the economic development of the sector, for the security and stability of our country.
“Finally, with all this effort, and with all these compromises we are making the fastest growing sector of our economy today in Nigeria is the ICT sector.
“The recent report released by the National Bureau of Statistics of the second quarter of 2021, the fastest growing sector is clearly mentioned and if you look at the performance of ICT sector it’s 17.92%.
“This is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria. There wasn’t any time besides the Second Quarter in which the ICT sector contributed 17.92% to our GDP and by August, last month, within two years I spent in office, representing President Muhammadu Buhari, what the sector has generated directly for the Federation is over N1 trillion naira through the sale of spectrum, frequencies licence and through the remittances of the operators to FIRS is and through what has been generated and appropriated by the National Assembly for the sector is over N1 trillion naira. This is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria.
“So, with all this support we have been rendered to security to do their work, still the sector is progressing because of our population and we will continue to do that.