The House of Representatives has begun an investigation into the Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Government, via the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, and the Government of China on a $475 million optic fibre project.
The House resolved in plenary on Thursday to charge its Committee on Information and Communication Technology with investigating “the status of project implementation, including a forensic audit on relevant transactions to execute the National Information Communications Technology Infrastructure Backbone Projects 1 and 2.”
The House also urged Galaxy Backbone Limited and the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to “immediately halt all certificates of completion and payments, respectively, in lieu of the project, pending the completion of the investigation by the committee.”
These resolutions were based on the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by a member, Benjamin Bem, titled, ‘Need to Investigate the Execution of the MOU between Galaxy Backbone and the Chinese Government for Fibre Infrastructure across the Country.’
Moving the motion, Bem noted that Nigeria’s Galaxy Backbone Limited, which is under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, signed an MoU with China’s Huawei Technology Limited in 2018 to provide fibre infrastructure.
He said following the MoU, Huawei was expected to design, manufacture and deploy the kit that controlled data movement across all ministries, departments and agencies in Nigeria.
The lawmaker recalled that as part of the agreement, the relevant committees of the House and the Senate approved a credit facility of about $475m for the various phases of the project, which was to be provided by China Exim Bank.
He noted that Phase 1 of the project, which spans 13 states across the South-East, South-South, North-Central and South-West geopolitical zones of the country, had been completed and commissioned.
Bem said, “The House is concerned that all through the execution and completion of Phase 1 of the project funded by part of the credit facility, Galaxy Backbone, and to a large extent, the Ministry of Communications, have frustrated efforts to oversight progress of the project.
“The House is also concerned that Galaxy Backbone Limited had made claims that the completion of Phase 1 of the project is expected to reap revenue to the tune of billions of naira for the government.
“The House is worried that, whereas there has been no oversight to ascertain the level of the job done and verify claims of revenue generated by the agency, there is a current bid to access an additional $328m – N126.7bn – credit facility to develop the NICTIB Phase II, which covers 19 northern states.
“The House is cognisant of the need to ensure judicious use of the nation’s commonwealth, while ensuring the government’s ICT policy is implemented according to every aspect of statutory provisions guiding the execution of the project.”