The House of Representatives has commenced an investigation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, and the Government of China on an optic fiber project worth $475 million.
At the plenary on Thursday, the House resolved to mandate its Committee on Information and Communication Technology to “investigate the status of implementation of Phase 1 of the project, including a forensic audit on relevant transactions to execute the National Information and 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 fiber 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 Senate approved a credit facility of about $475 million 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 oversee the progress of the project.
“The House is also concerned that Galaxy Backbone Limited has 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 $328 – (N126.7 – credit facilities to develop the NICTIB Phase II, which covers 19 northern states.
“The House is cognizant 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 the statutory provisions guiding the execution of the project.”