Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami; Celebrating an unparalleled Trail Blazer
By Femi Salako, Publisher Triangle News Media
On the 6th of May 2023, in London, the United Kingdom, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) FCIIS, FBCS, FNCS, was conferred with the prestigious “Most Outstanding Minister” Award by Triangle News Magazine. The award was given in recognition of the dedication, hard work, outstanding leadership and deep commitment to duty displayed by Prof. Pantami, which seeks to position Nigeria’s digital economy sector on the path of progressive development.
It is on record, that since the expansion of the Ministry, a lot of accomplishments and developments have been recorded by the Ministry and its Agencies, under the supervision of Professor Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami),
On the 28th of November 2019, President Buhari launched National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy formulated by Pantami. These actions put Nigeria in the right place to harness and exploit the opportunities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. When COVID-19 hit harder, everything was put on hold aside from the digital space which became the glue of economies.
Under the stewardship of Professor Pantami, the digital economy sector has recorded unprecedented achievements in areas of broadband penetration, digital innovations and entrepreneurship, digital inclusion, developmental regulation, data protection and privacy, and digital skills, among others.
Minister Pantami personally championed the formulation of two important bills for Nigeria’s digital economy sector, Nigeria Startup Act 2022, a piece of legislation that provides a safe haven for innovation to thrive and the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau Bill 2022, which provides guidelines for the protection of personal data in Nigeria, promoting trust in the digital economy and ensuring the privacy of individuals are protected.
The initiatives and policies championed by Minister Pantami, such as the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria, have ensured that ICT becoming the fastest growing sector in Nigeria, superseding oil and gas in contribution to GDP and contributing immensely to the growth and diversification of the Nigerian economy.
Prof. Pantami is an epitome of impactful leadership and it was no surprise that the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), under the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), found it worthy to appoint the Nigerian Minister as the Chairman of the Forum for the year 2022. Prof. Pantami’s impact was so significant that the leadership of the Forum changed the tenure of the Chairman from the traditional 5-day period of the Forum to a whole year and even institutionalised this new tenure for all WSIS Forum Chairpersons at the ITU Plenipotentiary in Bucharest, Romania on the 12th of October 2022, through Resolution 140. Similarly, Minister Pantami remains the first and only African to be conferred with the revered fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Information Security (FCIIS).
The personality of Professor Pantami has attracted global and regional bodies to woo Nigeria into alliances and these include the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO), and Smart Africa Alliance. Similarly, his courageous leadership ensured that Africa won the election as the Director of ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT). In the same vein, Nigeria unanimously emerged as Chairman of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) for 2021.
The Digital Economy sector under Professor Pantami has continued its trend of playing a key part in the growth on Nigeria’s economy. The report by the NBS indicated that the ICT sector contributed 18.44% to the total real GDP in Q2 2022. This is the highest contribution of ICT to the GDP and is truly unprecedented and marks the third time that the sector has achieved an unprecedented contribution to Nigeria’s GDP during the tenure of the Minister- in Q1 2020, Q2 2021 and now Q2 2022.
Another accomplishments of Digital economy is the formulation of Nigeria startup bill which was finally passed into law by senate on 20th of July, 2022. The Nigerian Startup Bill (NSB), when it becomes a law, would help address more than 90% challenges confronting technology innovators in the country, Pantami said. The Bill project is a joint initiative by Nigeria’s tech startup ecosystem and the Presidency to harness the potential of our digital economy through co-created regulations. The Bill will ensure that Nigeria’s laws and regulations are clear, planned and work for the tech ecosystem. This, we believe, will contribute to the creation of an enabling environment for growth, attraction and protection of investment in tech startups.
Following the approval granted by President Buhari, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy on the 4th of February 2022 announced the creation of the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau. The Bureau is headed by its first National Commissioner/CEO, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, and is saddled with the responsibility of implementing the Nigerian Data Protection Regulations (NDPR) 2019 and other data privacy matters in Nigeria which were formerly under the purview of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). The official launch of the Bureau’s logo, website and core values was coordinated on the 5th of April 2022 at the Communications and Digital Economy Complex, Abuja.
In a congratulatory message on the occasion of the 50th Birthday of Professor Isa Pantami, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari stated that appointing Professor Pantami to supervise the digital economy sector remains one of the best decisions he has made, as the minister has added tremendous value to good governance.
The digital identity ecosystem in Nigeria will forever remain grateful to Minister Pantami for an unprecedented transformation resulting in massive enrolment of citizens and legal residents, data interoperability, and implementation of an improved welfare package for staff of the identity commission, among others. The enrolment rose from less than 40 million in 14 years of the existence of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), to close to 100 million in 3 years, under the leadership of Prof. Pantami.
There is no doubt, that the contributions of this enigmatic leader, to the successes recorded by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, cannot in anyway be undermined, and it will always be a reference point, whenever the history is told.