Mr Isa Pantami the Minister of Communications has admitted making controversial statements supporting the extremist groups but said his views on such groups have changed.
As a result the country’s main opposition party the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, has joined the call for his immediate sack and arrest.
Mr Pantami has been in the eye of the storm since the 12th of April 2021, when a newspaper report emerged linking him with support for Abu Quata-da Al Falasimi and Al-Quada and Boko Haram, which made US placed him on the intelligence watch list.
The Minister quickly denied the reports and challenged any Nigerian with any evidence of his support for any terror organisation to bring up such evidence.
In response to the challenge by the minister, The Peoples Gazette on Saturday 17, April 2021, released a video in their verified twitter handle where the minister was decrying Nigerian military under Goodluck Jonathan for launching attacks against Boko Haram.
In the released video Isa Pantami who spoke in Hausa language was heard calling the dreaded boko haram sects, his Muslim brothers and that they deserve to be treated fairly and not otherwise.
In the translated video Pantami said “All of us most not fold our arms and watch helplessly how they shed our Muslim brothers’ blood and cheat them in vain.”
“Even if the Boko Haram fighters commit a crime, but can we justify the way and manner they are being killed?”
Mr Pantami, an Islamic cleric, denied any links with the groups. He, however, admitted making the controversial statements supporting the groups but said on Saturday that his views on such extremist groups have changed.
“Some of the comments I made some years ago that are generating controversies now were based on my understanding of religious issues at the time, and I have changed several positions taken in the past based on new evidence and maturity,” Daily Trust newspaper quoted him as saying during an Islamic lecture at an Abuja mosque.
On Sunday, Nigeria’s main opposition party, PDP, added her voice to the many voices calling for the minister to be sacked and arrested.
“Our party’s position is predicated on the heightening concerns in the public space and in the international arena of possible compromises by the communication minister, who has access to sensitive government documents and information, in addition to data of all individuals including high profile personalities in the public and private sectors as well as the traditional and faith-based circles,” the PDP said in the statement signed by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan.
The party also charged the State Security Service (SSS) to probe Mr Pantami for allegedly compromising “the NIN registration exercise by giving room for the registration of aliens and invaders from other countries as our citizens.”
Mr Pantami had in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, alleged that the calls for his removal were being sponsored by those opposed to the government’s policy of mandatory registration of the National Identity Number (NIN) and linking it to all SIM cards. The policy was proposed and is being driven by Mr Malami’s ministry.
One of Nigeria’s leading Islamic rights groups, Muslims Rights Concern, MURIC had however come to the defence of the Minister, saying the allegations against the minister was ‘‘a product of malice, envy and evil desire concocted in the laboratory of the notorious ‘pull him down’ (PhD) syndrome, saying that it was only a ploy by his detractors to pull him down.’’
A popular columnist, who claimed to be an associate of the Minister, Farooq Kperogi said he found it difficult to defend the Minister ‘‘it’s impossible to deploy the resources of logic, reason, basic decency, and even religious morality to defend some of the sermons Pantami gave in the early to late 2000s, especially in light of his current position as a federal minister in charge of a vast treasure trove of citizens’ sensitive information.’’
However, an aide to the Minister, Mr. Yusuf Abubakar told Vanguard in a chat that he was shocked to read some of the allegations raised against the Minister, which did not portray the true picture of who the Minister is. ‘‘Based on my personal experience, during his inaugural speech, Pantami said, ‘‘If you are to progress under my leadership, you must focus on education and hardwork to lift you.’’ ‘‘He is a man of honour, untribalistic and a man of vision. His leadership has influenced me a lot, I have gained a lot of experience from him, even at my house, I treat everybody equally. Pantami does not look down on his drivers, he respects everyone. When people visits him, he escorts them being a male or female. He is a man of honour and discipline. ‘‘I feel very bitter reading all the media comments and attacks against him because most of these things are being concocted. I think, people who do not know him are those making all sort of comments about him and insinuations. ‘‘Their actions are uncalled for. I advice that they should get to know him because he is very simple person, if not for coronavirus, more people would have come to know him. He is a very simple and easy going person.’’