Presidency stands by Pantami despite pro-terrorism statements

THE Nigerian Presidency has said it stands by the embattled Minster of Communications and Digital Economy Ali Isa Pantami despite calls by Nigerians for his resignation or sack over controversial statements made in support of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

The Presidency said Pantami was subject of a campaign instigated by those seeking his removal and who never cared what he might or might not have said some 20 years ago. It said it was merely the instrument used by the campaigners to attempt to cancel the minister.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu said this in a statement posted on his official Facebook page.

Pantami was appointed in 2019 as a minister at the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second tenure after spending three years (2016-2019) as the Director-General and CEO of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

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Nigerians began demanding the resignation of the Minister using hashtags, #PantamiResign and #PantamiResignNow, after multiple reports accused him of endorsing terrorism and genocidal act.

The ICIR had earlier reported how Pantami’s statements of admiration for the Taliban’s, Al-Qaeda and Jihad came from some of his preaching and lecture recordings translated by a professor and African expert at Naples University in Italy Andrea Brigaglia, and a Nigerian scholar Musa Ibrahim of the University of Florida in the United States, both of whom contributed to the academic paper published in March 2019 that explored the emergence of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

The statement read in part, “Today, there is an unfortunate fashion in public discourse that makes leaders in politics, religion, and civil society liable in the present for every statement they have ever made in the past – no matter how long ago, and even after they have later rejected them.”

“This insidious phenomenon seeks to cancel the careers of others on the basis of a thing they have said, regardless of when they said it. The Minister has, rightly, apologised for what he said in the early 2000s. The views were absolutely unacceptable then, and would be equally unacceptable today, were he to repeat them. But he will not repeat them – for he has publicly and permanently condemned his earlier utterances as wrong.”

The statement also said since the controversial statements were made in the 2000s, the minister had changed.

“In the 2000s, the Minister was a man in his twenties; next year he will be 50. Time has passed, and people and their opinions – often rightly – change. But all discerning Nigerians know this manufactured dispute is nothing to do with the Minister’s prior words, but solely concern his actions in the present.”

“This Administration is committed to improving the lives of all Nigerians – and that includes ensuring they are not over-charged or under-protected for those services on which modern life depends.”



    The statement appeared to link the current controversy surrounding Pantami to his job as the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy.

    “The Minister has been leading the charge against illegal data deductions and pricing; he has revolutionized the government’s virtual public engagement to respond to COVID-19 and save taxpayers’ money; he has established ICT start-up centres to boost youth entrepreneurship and create jobs; he has changed policy to ensure locally produced ICT content is used by ministries, starting with his own; and he has deregistered some 9.2 million SIMs – ending the ability for criminals and terrorists to flagrantly use mobile networks undetected. In two short years, Minister Pantami has driven the contribution of the ICT sector to the GDP to more than 18 percent, making it one of the top two playing a critical role in the emergence of the economy from the COVID 19-induced recession.”

    “Inputting people first, the Minister and this administration have made enemies. There are those in the opposition who see success and want it halted by any means. And there is now well-reported information that alleges newspaper editors rebuffed an attempt to financially induce them to run a smear campaign against the Minister by some ICT companies, many of which do indeed stand to lose financially through lower prices and greater consumer protections.”

    “The government is now investigating the veracity behind these claims of attempted inducement, and – should they be found to hold credence – police and judicial action must be expected. The Administration stands behind Minister Pantami and all Nigerian citizens to ensure they receive fair treatment, fair prices, and fair protection in ICT services.”

    Olayinka works with The ICIR as the Social Media Manager, Reporter and Fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via [email protected]. You can as well follow him on Twitter via @BelloYinka72

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