The House of Representatives has begun an investigation into the Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the Chinese government on a $475 million optic fiber 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 for the purpose of executing 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 in lieu of the project, respectively, pending the completion of the committee’s investigation.”
These resolutions were based on the unanimous approval of a motion introduced 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.”
Bem moved the motion, noting that Nigeria’s Galaxy Backbone Limited, which is part of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China’s Huawei Technology Limited in 2018 to provide fiber infrastructure for the NICTIB 1 and 2 Projects.
According to him, Huawei Technology Limited was expected to design, manufacture, and deploy the kit that controls data movement across all ministries, departments, and agencies in Nigeria following the signing of the MoU.
According to the lawmaker, as part of the agreement, the relevant House and Senate committees approved a credit facility of approximately $475 million for the various phases of the project(s), which was to be provided by China EXIM Bank.
He stated that Phase 1 of the project, which spans 13 states in the country’s South-East, South-South, North-Central, and South-West geopolitical zones, was completed and commissioned.
“The House is concerned that, throughout the execution and completion of Phase 1 of the project funded by a portion of the credit facility, Galaxy Backbone, and to a large extent, the Ministry of Communications, have frustrated efforts to oversee project progress,” Bem said.
“The House is also concerned that Galaxy Backbone Limited has claimed that the completion of Phase 1 of the project will generate billions of naira in revenue for the government.”
“The House is concerned that, despite the fact that there has been no oversight to determine the level of work done and verify claims of revenue generated by the agency, there is a current bid to access an additional $328 million – N126.7 billion – credit facility to develop the NICTIB Phase II, which covers 19 northern states.”
“The House recognizes the need to ensure prudent use of the nation’s commonwealth while ensuring the government’s ICT policy is implemented in accordance with all aspects of statutory provisions guiding project execution.”