By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja
The Minister of Communication, Mrs Omobola Johnson came under fire yesterday in the senate over the long delay in the take off of the national rural telephoney project despite huge government investment in the business.
The Senate Committee on Communication also expressed concern over the proposed budget for the ministry in the 2014 appropriation, insisting that the proposed N14.7 billion vote for communication was inadequate to support government program on communication development.
Chairman of the committee, Gilbert Nnaji, who decried yesterday the poor quality of mobile telecommunications in the country, said the non-take off of the National Rural Telephony Project despite government ‘s huge investments called for serious concern.
He stated this at the budget defence by the ministry of communications technology and it’s parastatals at the National Assembly.
“The fact that our nation has little access to broadband services, even with the number of
undersea cables running across the country, is worrisome,” Nnaji said. Adding: “We still lag behind in terms of broadband and internet penetration. Until there is a seamless network service, there is no way the committee can shy away from raising alarm in the face of poor quality of service.
According to him, the situation is perplexing. This is gravely coupled with the apparent quietness and or reluctance on the part of the Ministry to kick start the National Rural Telephony Project which is a way of relieving pressure on the GSM.”
He further added that ” if we agree that ICT is a powerful tool for national development; if there is a consensus that Nigeria still ranks abysmally low in terms of knowledge creation, penetration of ICT, as well as physical infrastructure; if we believe that there is urgent need to deploy ICT to address the challenges of terrorism and national security and more importantly, create opportunities in every sector of our national life, then the onus is on the Ministry to enlighten the committee on how it intends to utilize this fund in a way that it’s mandates, programmes and policies will be well executed.”
In her response, Minister, reiterated the commitment of the ministry to its mandates which include speeding up of the building of ICT infrastructure, enabling access of Nigerians to good quality telecom service and high speed internet as well as bridging the digital divide and stimulating job creation in the industry.
She also pledged to work hard to ensure that Nigeria assumes full and effective leadership in regional ICT. She presented the 2014 budget estimate of fourteen billion, six hundred and forty-six million, nine hundred and sixty-four thousand, five hundred and forty-nine naira as recurrent and capital expenditure for the ministry and the parastatals.