Computer professionals tackle minister over NITDA board

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

Computer professionals in Nigeria have expressed dissatisfaction over the approach taken by the Minister of Communications Technology, Omobola Johnson, in appointing members to the NITDA board.

They allege that the minister unilaterally dropped the names of the four nominees submitted to her by the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN) for appointment into the board of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

The members say this amounts to ‘usurpation of their constitutional duty’.

According to a source in one of interest groups in the industry, the action of the minister amounted to usurpation of the function of the CPN.

“In a letter dated 11th October 2013 signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communication Technology Dr. Henry Akpan, the Honourable Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson conveyed the approval of four names of IT professionals to the NITDA Board by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria."

“The nominees were sent by the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN) in accordance with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Act of 2011. Part II Section(C) under the Composition of the Governing Board Powers and Functions says “Four persons to represent affiliate bodies of the Computer Professionals Registration Council of Nigeria," the source said.

According to the source, less than three days before the inauguration of the board, the minister issued a counter order to drop the names earlier approved even at Presidency level.

“This, in the view of the profession, is a misinterpretation of the law to justify her position on affiliate bodies. This interpretation cannot be the intention of the Act and is a clear misunderstanding of her responsibilities as a neutral umpire."

“In providing leadership for the sector, her actions need to show respect to the IT profession. The profession views this action as an undue interference in its activities. For the Minister to try to introduce her own affiliate bodies from outside the Register of the profession and ignore the leadership of the profession would be to stretch her powerful influence too far,” the source said.

But in a reaction, the minister denied any wrongdoing, arguing that the law does not give the CPN any such powers.

Special Assistant (Media) to the minister, Efem Nkanga, was quoted as saying the action of the minister was line with the law. “The Minister has not usurped the powers of CPN, on the contrary, the NITDA Act 2007 makes provision for four persons to represent affiliate‎ bodies of CPN.

“The above does not say that CPN should nominate, and CPN cannot be an affiliate of its own body. Hence the bodies duly recognised in the industry are to be considered, bearing in mind that members of these bodies are also CPN members.

“To this end, the Act did not grant membership to CPN neither does it authorised CPN to be the one to nominate. The bodies recognised in the industry are Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria (ISPAN), NCS, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON) and Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN),” she was quoted to have explained in an email response, adding that NITDA Act was interpreted by the Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Communication Technology.

It was gathered that at an emergency meeting of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) College of Fellows, the CPN nominees were approved and ratified. A letter was written to the Minister reaffirming the position of the profession.

IT professionals in Nigeria are very law abiding and disciplined and will use every legitimate process to correct the unfortunate position of the Minister if only to save the Federal Government from any embarrassment arising thereto.

The CPN was established by Decree No. 49 of 1993, promulgated on June 10, and gazetted on August 9, of that year as a body corporate with perpetual succession and common seal, a legal entity charged with the control and supervision of the computing profession in the country.

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