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NITDA absolves self from Omatek collapse, says it never contacted agency

The Director General of the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isah Pantami on Monday, swiftly reacted to Business Hilights lead story on ICT Category captioned: ‘NITDA would have done to Omatek, what NCC did to Etisalat—-Analysts’, saying “ “This is the first time, I heard the condition of Omatek Computers. It has never been communicated to us, formally or otherwise”.

Continuing in a terse statement sent by the Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs. Hadiza Umar, NITDA DG explained that “I personally gave an appointment to Omatek for a meeting, but Omatek couldn’t make it and no official communications on their inability to attend was made available to NITDA”.

“I recently met all Original Equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in Lagos. Part of our discussions, was how NITDA can support them. They explained all their complaints, but not the situation of Omatek.

“For the first time in the history of the Agency that, we arrange a quarterly meeting with OEMs on how to strengthen local content.

NITDA boss also argued in the reaction that “The situation of Etisalat is far different from this. 9mobile has always been in touch with their regulators and they have considered them as their stakeholders. Etc”

From NITDA’s response, there are indications that prior to the crisis that trapped Omatek, the company never made its challenges known to NITDA for possible assistance. However, the confirmation of the claims could not be gotten considering the recent demise of the founder and chief executive of the company, late Engineer Mrs. Florence Seriki.

But industry analysts who are in the know of the nonperforming loan (NPL) deal that crashed productions at Omatek noted that the company failed in so many steps it would have taken to get off the hook.

To them, the first point of call when it observed collapsing signal would have been the Computer Practitioners Registration Council of Nigeria (CPN) and Nigerian Computer Society (NCS) so that both bodies can join forces to approach NITDA for assistance from a fund domiciled in the federal agency for related assistance in the industry.

It would be recalled that Omatek Computers Plc., was once a leading computer and other device brand of note in Nigeria, but was serially silenced and technically subdued by debt pileup from the Bank of Industry (BoI) some months ago.

The bank had in July secured a court ruling to take over the company’s operational premises due to nonperforming loans (NPLs)  and that effectively marked the eventual temporary comatose as production has seized, leading to loss of jobs and suspension of growth of a company that was hitherto championing local content in computers and allied devices manufacturing.

It was not clear if the issues of NPLs had a hand in the death of the chief executive, Engineer Florence Seriki just few months ago.

However, it was clear that what the federal government, though the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), had considered in coming to the rescue of 9Mobile, formally Etisalat Nigeria was saving jobs of Nigerian, but the same consideration was not to be for Omatek.

Etisalat Nigeria could not pay back loans it had taken for network upgrade and expansion and eventually rebranded as 9mobile after parent Etisalat terminated a management agreement with its Nigerian unit and handed its 45 per cent stake in Etisalat Nigeria to a trustee.

In a statement issued in July, the NCC said if 9mobile had gone under it would have “created a social problem especially with the job of over 2,000 Nigerians on the line”.

The commission added that the loss of the operator could even create security challenges for the country.

In the case of Omatek, analysts felt that NITDA, the federal government agency directly in charge of monitoring technology development ought to have put up a fight for the soul of Omatek for the interest of growing local content in the industry.

But the agency’s response to the story may have opened another issue of corporate governance and due process in tracking industrial challenges by troubled firms.