The Plateau State Government has denied involvement in any plan or plot to discontinue Information and Communications (ICT) training for young people and those who need them across the state.
Recall that some weeks ago a publication on social media made rounds about the termination of a “partnership” as managing partner of ‘Code Plateau’ by a foundation by the name ‘Prince Ponfa Miri Foundation’. According to the publication it was suggested that the Plateau State Government through the Plateau State Information and Communication Technology Development Agency (PICTDA) was no longer interested in sustaining ICT trainings for youths and indeed anyone who needed them in the State.
Part of the story read ‘After serving as the “management partner for Code Plateau” for two years, the youth-led non-profit organization, Prince Ponfa Miri Foundation (PPMF), has decided to discontinue its partnership with the Plateau State Information and Communication Technology Development Agency (PICTDA)’.
According to the story “This decision comes in response to the current administration’s lack of enthusiasm towards the project and the intention to depart from the program’s original concept.”.
The story claimed that “The foundation has officially informed the head of local content at PICTDA about its plans, leading to the suspension of all activities at the Code Plateau Campus, a rented facility located in Fwavei, Rayfield.” This the Head of Local Content at PICTDA has denied knowledge of.
The story also claimed that “Even though the facility had been rented by the state government, PPMF had been in charge of managing the campus facility since its establishment. This encompassed the payment of salaries for security personnel and cleaners.”.
The story also added that ‘Prince Ponfa Miri, the Founder and President of PPMF, voiced his concerns, stating, “We fail to see why the current government is inclined to commercialize the program and modify its operational methods.’
According to Mr. Miri, the administration led by Caleb Mutfwang has displayed a lack of enthusiasm for the initiative, which was originally established during Simon Lalong’s administration. “They appear to be treating it as a political endeavour,” he added.
Code Plateau was initiated in 2019 and its primary objective was to provide young Nigerians, especially those residing in Plateau state, with valuable digital skills.
Investigations, including requests for information and clarification made to Mr Ponfa Miri and PICTDA to substantiate these weighty allegations leveled against the Governor Caleb Mutfwang led Plateau State Government have however revealed a different story from what was earlier published. If anything, what was discovered showed that the reported termination of partnership was a strange information and completely unofficial, as the Plateau State Information and Communications Technology Development Agency (PICTDA) had no offical record of any communication in that regard and as at Wednesday 29th November 2023, the agency was still waiting to receive such information. The Head of Local Content of the agency has also denied any knowledge of such.
Again, there was no record of any agreement or MoU signed between the Plateau State Government through PICTDA or any such communication that suggests that the Plateau State Government was into any partnership with Prince Ponfa Miri Foundation or any organization or persons as regards Code Plateau.
Records have shown that since inception, government has not paid anyone salaries or allowances for services provided to students of Code Plateau. Also, it was reported by the agency in her 2019 Code Plateau Report submitted in January 2020 that majority of the students who enrolled in 2019 had discontinued the program due to transportation, accomodation and other constrains. Indicating distress on the programme threatening its sustainability.
On the issue of the monetization of the program, it is obvious that from available records, funding for the payment of allowances and sustainability of the program was an issue government was unable to shoulder without external inputs from inception in 2019, hence there was need to improvise means to raise funds which pointed towards coming up with the financial implication of training a students with the view of getting partnerships for funding, the involvement of spirited individuals and other initiatives to ensure that the program is self sustaining and does not suffer as a result of the same factors that have threatened its continuity.
Interestingly, record have shown that the then DG PICTDA Mr David Daser solicited the support of the 17 Local Government Council Chairmen to support students from their LGAs, which the Council Chairmen of Quan’pan and Kanke LGAs responded by providing a number of laptops and other forms of assistance to indigent students. This is the same model suggests by the current DG PICTDA Mr Dominic Datong Gwamnan. One would wonder why Mr Ponfa Miri would make a mountain out of something that has been done for students he had reportedly trained.
Also, the agency had no record of any appointment letter given to anyone or organization to serve in any capacity to manage the Code Plateau Campus in Fwavwei, Rayfield, Jos or anywhere else. This is strange because government as an institution through strict bureaucratic impersonality documents every action and decision taken.
According to investigations, the only established connection between the Plateau State Government and Code Plateau since inception in 2019 is the informative report allegedly submitted to the then Plateau State Governor Simon Bako Lalong in January 2020 and the payment of the Code Plateau Campus rent in Fwavwei by the Plateau State Internal Revenue Service on behalf of PICTDA. Records also show that there has never been any Offical budgetary provision for the running of Code Plateau which is strange in operation of outfits run by Governments
Plateau State Government’s Efforts for ICT/Tech Community and Trainings:
When contacted, the Director General of the Plateau State Information and Communications Technology Mr Dominic Datong Gwamnan said that contrary to speculations, the Plateau State Government under Governor Caleb Mutfwang has initiated plans to build new jobs and produce professionals in the Tech industry with requisite internationally recognized certifications which, according to the agency was not the case during the periods of training for Code Plateau. No professional certification was issued to students besides certificate of attendance.
He added that Governor Mutfwang has instructed that for every training in ICT, trainees must take professional certification exams to prove their professionalism in their areas of learning which is on the way. This would make Plateau citizens presentable in the global ICT job market.
The DG PICTDA also said that 3 Floors have been made available at Murtala House Jos by the Plateau State Government to PICTDA for the expansion of ICT/Tech trainings in the State. He further noted that Governor Mutfwang is ready to equip the 3 Floors with all that is required which is going to be a shared facility for tech companies within Plateau to make use of for public and private trainings.
He also said that Governor Caleb Mutfwang has mandated PICTDA to engage the Plateau Tech Community to ensure that applications produced within the State meet international standards. This according to him was part of the commitment to materialize the intentions of government to make Plateau State a tech hub by providing ICT Services for the 19 North States of Nigeria and subsequently the entire country.
He added that to show seriousness about its intention, the Governor Mutfwang led Plateau State Government requested that a zonal office of the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) be opened in Plateau State in order to have closer interactions with the Federal Government to take advantage of the schemes that the FG has for the tech community to benefit the state. As at the time of filing in this report, information available showed that the NITDA team had already visited the state on an assessment tour in response to the request.
Additionally, the DG PICTDA Mr Dominic Datong Gwamnan also said that a Technical Working Committee has already been set up with membership drawn from the Tech Community in Plateau State. Government is currently awaiting the recommendations and expectations of the Tech Community from the Government of Plateau State.
This leaves alot of questions unanswered from the Prince Ponfa Miri Foundation and Mr Ponfa Miri because these findings have shown that the Government of Plateau State is very much interested in expanding and developing the tech ecosystem in Plateau State especially with the provision of infrastructure which in the past was not provided.
More details sorrounding the development of the tech ecosystem in Plateau State will be reported as they unfold.