Reporting by Johnstone Kpilaakaa
The news: 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). 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 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. 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.
Prince Ponfa Miri, the Founder and President of PPMF, voiced his concerns, stating, “We fail to see why the current government is inclined to commercialise 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.
Back story: In 2019, when Code Plateau was initiated, its primary objective was straightforward: to provide young Nigerians, especially those residing in Plateau state, with valuable digital skills encompassing areas such as digital marketing, software engineering, UI/UX design, and data science, all at no cost. Initially, the former director general of PICTDA collaborated with local tech innovation hubs like nHub and Tomruk iHub Multiverse to oversee the training, although this partnership exclusively facilitated the first cohort.
Mr. Miri, who had been actively involved in advancing the Plateau tech ecosystem for the past seven years, initially joined the project as an individual consultant. However, to ensure more efficient management, his non-profit organization was appointed as a “management partner.”
Since then, they have overseen the training for cohorts two through six, benefiting over 3,000 young individuals from Plateau state and neighbouring regions, including Bauchi, Taraba, and international participants from countries like Sierra Leone. The initial goal was to train over 20,000 tech talent.
The most recent cohort, 6.0, concluded within the last two weeks, which includes new courses like technical writing, content creation and project management. Ponfa Miri shared with JoeyOffAir that more than 1,000 graduates from the fellowship have successfully secured employment opportunities.
Going forward: Following Governor Mutfwang’s appointment of Dominic Datong as the new director general of PICTDA in June, we inquired of Ponfa what the course of action would be if the current administration did not appear to be in harmony with the initiative. His response was clear: “We cannot allow the progress we have initiated to be wasted. We will reevaluate our approach and intensify our efforts.”
Ponfa remains resolute in these convictions. The Prince Ponfa Miri Foundation will persist in its commitment to empowering young individuals through its alternative initiatives, all aimed at advancing sustainable development goals.
As of the time of this report, the future actions of the state government concerning the initiative remain unknown. Furthermore, PICTDA has not responded to requests for comments. There are claims from certain sources suggesting that the project may be dissolved.
Zoom out: While the Plateau state government appears to exhibit a diminished level of enthusiasm for a project that has positively impacted numerous young individuals within the state, the Nigerian government, under the Federal Ministry of Communication, Innovation, and Digital Economy, has launched a similar initiative called the “3 Million Technical Talent (3MTT)” program. This program is designed to train three million tech talents across the entire country over the next four years.
Just a few days ago, the country’s Digital Economy Minister, ‘Bosun Tijani, announced that the ministry has entered into a ₦1 billion partnership with IHS Towers to establish learning communities nationwide in support of the 3MTT program.