May 2, 2021
The Senate has declared that nobody, group or organisation has approached the upper chamber of the National Assembly with any concrete evidence that could warrant the sacking of the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami. The Punch reports.
The Minister has been in the news since the audio clips of his alleged support for terrorism in the past surfaced on social media recently.
Many concerned Nigerians and religious organisations have demanded his immediate resignation from the cabinet of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
Some Nigerians have also blamed the Senate for not doing a thorough screening on Pantami before his appointment was confirmed by the red chamber.
But speaking with Sunday PUNCH in Abuja on Saturday, May 1, 2021, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Dr. Ajibola Basiru, said the upper chamber should not be blamed for clearing Pantami for appointment.
He said apart from the fact that it did not receive any petition against the embattled minister, there was no security report that indicted him as of the time of his screening.
Basiru added that no petition had been sent to the Senate, detailing specific allegations against Pantami, since the matter came to the limelight penultimate week.
He nevertheless said the current controversy around the minister does not constitute any grounds for his sacking which only Buhari had the exclusive power to do.
Basiru said, “To start with, there is nothing that disqualified him from contesting an election based on the constitution of Nigeria.
“The Senate can only act based on the information at its disposal as of the time of the screening. We have not acted in any way against the law. No security agency approached us to give us any information that could indict him, both at the time of his appointment and even now. The Senate does not have the power to remove a minister. We can only screen, based on the information available to us and based on the report that we have from the security agencies.
“There is no way we could act based on social media reports. It is only the President who could decide to appoint and remove ministers. As far as we are concerned, we only hear people talk about the issue we don’t have any fact about the so-called allegation. We don’t have any fact, we did our job based on facts available to us.’’
He further said, “Those who are talking have not pointed to a particular law upon which he ought to be removed as a minister.
“Even if the information about him now, assuming it was available then (during screening), does it constitute a disqualifying factor of being a Minister under the Nigerian law?”
He also dismissed the call on Buhari to sack Pantami based on moral grounds saying that controversy was a normal thing in politics.
He said, “All over the World, controversy is part of political existence. There is a difference between legality and political consideration which is not in the purview of the National Assembly.
“He was screened publicly and there was no objection. The exercise was aired live on the national television stations. The Constitution stipulates requirements to be a Minister and he hasn’t run foul of any as far as we are concerned.”