The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Friday faulted the Presidency for its recent statement in which it declared its support for the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami.
It said the statement by the Presidency has shown desperation to provide official cover to “a terrorism apologist”, alleging that such action confirmed the apprehensions that the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration was patronising acts of terrorism in the country.
“Nigerians were traumatised that the Presidency could mount a hopeless defence and justification for the actions of the exposed Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, who had already confessed to supporting terrorist groups like al-Qaida and Taliban.
“It is instructive to note that this anti-people stance has heightened public anxiety that the Buhari Presidency is a haven for traitors who are providing support to acts of terrorist activities in our nation,” the party said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan.
It added, “Our party holds that this has further exposed why the Buhari Presidency has failed to decisively confront terrorism, as well as why terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, and insurgents are emboldened to ravage our nation and massacre our compatriots.”
The PDP accused the Presidency of being insensitive to the fact that thousands of Nigerians have been killed and hundreds of communities devastated.
It insisted that Pantami must be relieved of his duties as a minister and handed over to the appropriate agency for “deradicalisation”.
According to the party, Pantami had denied his support to terrorist groups and only admitted after he was overwhelmed by evidence.
It stated that the minister belonged to the deradicalisation centre, and not in any way in the Federal Executive Council.
“This is in addition to allegations in the public space that the exposed minister had been compromising our national data, as well as the NIN registration exercise, wherein aliens and invaders from other countries were alleged to have been registered as our citizens.
“These are issues that our party insists must be investigated by the Department of State Services (DSS),” the PDP said.
It added, “As a party, the PDP charges President Muhammadu Buhari to reassure the citizens by immediately withdrawing the statement from his Presidency, relieve Isa Pantami of his position as minister, and take a bold step to flush out terrorist apologists from the Presidency.”
Mr Garba Shehu has slammed the critics of the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, for their unwillingness to forgive him.
He believes the failure to forgive the minister for the comments he made in support of extremist groups in the past is worse than the offence he committed.
The President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity made the remarks on Friday during his appearance on Politics Today on Channels Television.
He said, “I am saying to you that people who stand in criticism of this position of the man who said he had wronged himself, he had wronged the society, and has apologised that he has changed, and they are not willing to forgive to move on; they are the ones who are the problem.”
Pantami has been widely criticised by various individuals and groups for the comments he made in the past in support of extremist groups.
‘We Change And Transform’
Recently, the remarks he was said to have made many years ago sparked debate and controversy, with many calls for his resignation or removal by the President.
The minister has since renounced his comments and said he was a changed person, but that was not enough for those calling for his removal.
Rather than sacking the minister as widely demanded, the Presidency said it was in support of Pantami and all Nigerians to ensure they receive fair treatment, fair prices, and fair protection in ICT services.
Defending the government’s position, Shehu stressed that it was wrong for any individual to deny their fellow beings a chance to be a better person.
“In all our lives, we change and transform … we don’t remain in the same position. The people just assume that he cannot change; if the One who created you gives it to you that from being bad, you can become good, what tells you to deny some other persons this right?” he questioned.
The President’s spokesman added, “They are the ones who are deeply intolerant, and who are telling the world that in this country, we have the set of people who don’t forgive, who don’t want to move on; they are the problem of the society.”
The Presidency has maintained its position in support of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami.
Appearing as a guest on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Friday, Mr Garba Shehu compared the case of Pantami with that of Mrs Kemi Adeosun, a former minister of finance.
Shehu, a spokesman for the President, believes the Presidency would have acted differently if the communications minister had committed forgery.
“If Pantami had forged a certificate to come into office, the attitude (of the Presidency) would have been different,” he said.
The presidential spokesman added, “In the second case which is that of Pantami, you are probing the thoughts and this what Americans have called ‘McCarthyism’.
“You search the inner recesses of the minds of individuals, bring out things they have said, or they are about to say, or you think they would say, and use that against them.”
Adeosun, a Commissioner of Finance in Ogun State between 2011 and 2015, was appointed as the Minister of Finance by President Muhammadu Buhari in November 2015.
About three years after serving in the President’s cabinet, the former minister was caught up in a controversy after a report emerged that she failed to participate in the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
The report indicated that Adeosun did not only fail to take part in the one-year scheme but also supposedly obtained a fake exemption certificate.
This sparked a widespread call for her removal, forcing the 54-year-old to resign as a minister in September 2018.
Pantami, on the other hand, was widely criticised by various individuals and groups for the comments he made many years ago in support of extremist groups.
Amid the calls for his resignation or removal by the President, the minister renounced his comments and said he was a changed person.
Unlike in the case of Adeosun, the Presidency declared its support for Pantami, saying he was being subjected to a “cancel campaign” instigated by those who seek his removal.
The Muhammadu Buhari administration has declared its support for the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, amid calls for his resignation or removal.
Mr Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, made the position of the government known in a statement on Thursday.
“The administration stands behind Minister Pantami and all Nigerian citizens to ensure they receive fair treatment, fair prices, and fair protection in ICT services,” he said.
Pantami was widely criticised recently for the comments he made in the past in support of extremist groups.
The remarks he was said to have made many years ago sparked debate and controversy just recently, with many calling for his resignation while others called on President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve him of his duties.
Subjected To A Cancel Campaign?
Although the embattled minister has since renounced his comments and said he was a changed person, it was not enough to calm the call for his removal.
In his reaction, Shehu claimed that Pantami was being subjected to a “cancel campaign” instigated by those who seek his removal.
According to him, such persons do not really care what he may or may not have said in the past because they will profit should the minister be stopped from making decisions that improve the lives of everyday Nigerians.
The President’s spokesman stated that Pantami had publicly and permanently condemned his earlier utterances as wrong and would not repeat them.
Despite the calls for his removal, the minister attended the virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) which was presided by President Muhammadu Buhari On Wednesday.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had told reporters at the end of the meeting that the issue of Pantami’s removal was not discussed.
Read the statement below:
STATE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENCY ON RECENT CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS AND DIGITAL ECONOMY
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 of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami is, currently, subject to a “cancel campaign” instigated by those who seek his removal.
They do not really care what he may or may not have said some 20 years ago: that is merely the instrument they are using to attempt to “cancel” him. But they will profit should he be stopped from making decisions that improve the lives of everyday Nigerians.
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.
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 Minister has been leading the charge against illegal data deductions and pricing; he has revolutionised 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.
In putting 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.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting held on Wednesday with the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami in attendance, and the Federal Government keeping mum on overwhelming calls for his removal.
President Muhammadu Buhari presided over the meeting which was held at the State House with Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, and Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari physically in attendance.
After the meeting, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed was questioned by state house correspondents on the council’s disposition towards increasing calls for Pantami’s removal.
Lai Mohammed simply replied that the issue was not discussed at the council meeting.
Pantami has been under fire for his radical preachings and pro-terrorists comments, which he says he has since denounced.
– Overwhelming Calls For Removal/Sack –
The calls for Pantami’s removal gained momentum over the weekend as Human rights activists, social media users, and even the opposition party PDP called for the removal of Pantami over statements he made in the past in support of Islamic extremist groups.
The increasing calls follow the revealing of audio recordings of Mr Pantami’s past teachings where he declared support for Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
This generated debates on social media platforms with many Nigerians calling for his removal and others defending the Minister who is also an Islamic Cleric.
In response, Pantami denied any links with the groups. He, however, admitted making the controversial statements supporting the groups but said he has since renounced those radical assertions.
According to Pantami, the past radical ideas he was championing were due to age, immaturity, and limited knowledge. This excuse however has not calmed the Twitter storm which is threatening to sweep him from office.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami after several reports portrayed his past extreme religious views.
Pantami had for the first time acknowledged his past views but noted that he has since renounced those radical assertions.
According to Pantami, the past radical ideas he was championing were due to age, immaturity, and limited knowledge.
But the PDP in a statement issued on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in Abuja, asked the Department of State Service to quiz the Minister.
“The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) charges the Department of State Services (DSS) to immediately invite the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, for questioning over alleged affiliations with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda,” the statement partly read.
“The party also demands that President Muhammadu Buhari should immediately sack the minister, given the sensitivity of the issue at stake.”
The main opposition party explained that its 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.”
It also expressed worry about “allegations in the public suggesting that the minister compromised the NIN registration exercise by giving room for the registration of aliens and invaders from other countries as our citizens.”
While urging Nigerians to remain alert and very sensitive to their environment, the PDP said the masses should not hesitate in providing useful information to our security agencies in the interest of our nation.
Nigerians who fail to enroll for the National Identity Number (NIN) risk imprisonment, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, has said.
Pantami made the comment at the sixth edition of the ministerial briefing organised by the Presidential media team at the State House in Abuja.
He explained that the decision to imprison those without a NIN was in line with the Nigerian Constitution, saying no one should enjoy government services without the number.
Pantami made the emphasis that while obtaining a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card may be optional, NIN is mandatory, noting that a lot of transactions in the country should not be conducted without the NIN.
He noted that rather than the population census which can be manipulated, NIN will determine the accurate number of Nigerians because of its uniqueness and tamper-proof.
According to the Minister, no fewer than 51 million Nigerians have enrolled for NIN and it is important for transactions in the country to be conducted with the number.
Similarly, he announced that the aggregate registration for SIM across the country has hit 189 million
He explained that out of the figure, 150 million are completed registration while the remaining have problems of improper registration.
The minister decried that improper registration of SIMs has posed a challenge and the government has begun to address them.
He stressed that the government would not renege on the ban on SIM registration for security reasons arising from a huge compromise of the process.
As millions of Nigerians struggle to enrol for the National Identification Number (NIN), the Federal Government has revealed the next step it will take should there be another lockdown.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, who featured as a guest on Politics Today, noted that the ministry would immediately convene a meeting.
He explained that the meeting, which would be attended by stakeholders such as the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and telecommunications operators, would review the situation.
“If a second lockdown is enforced, then, the ministerial taskforce including NIMC, NCC, and all mobile network operators will come down and sit immediately and review.
“The task force meets usually within one week,” the minister said on the Channels Television political programme on Friday.
He added, “So, when there is a second lockdown, we are citizens, we must respect the Federal Government’s directives.
“When there is any announcement, we will come back to the drawing board immediately and review the process and see what we have achieved so far, and the challenges.”
‘We Need Attitudinal Change’
The minister, however, did not specifically state if the enrolment exercise will be suspended as the ultimatum issued to telecommunications operators to disconnect Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) without NIN draws near.
He insisted that it was not out of place for the government to take such action, coming at a time when the nation was experiencing the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Pantami, the Constitution provides that citizens should be captured not long after birth and Nigerians should be blamed for the present situation in the country.
He stated that before the government issued the directive for enrolment, the ministry had asked the people to ensure they comply with the COVID-19 protocols while at the NIMC offices.
“We are respecting the guidelines and we encourage our citizens to change their attitude; what we need is attitudinal change, laws cannot be implemented by themselves.
“We as citizens must be law-abiding and we must respect Federal Government’s laws and policies because they are for our own good,” the minister said.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy has blamed Nigerians for flouting COVID-19 protocols while participating in the ongoing National Identity Numbers (NIN) registration nationwide.
Speaking during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today, Pantami lamented the large number of applicants that throng the offices of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
“Citizens will go there, their names are not part of those to be captured but they will go and stay at the gates, and if you ask them to leave they will not. Even the security agencies plead with them but they will not go,” he said.
“All the crowds you have been seeing in Abuja or Lagos, 90 percent or even 95 percent of them were not part of those invited to be captured. They only go there and stay outside the gates.
“This is the problem we are having. It has nothing to do with the commission, it is with the citizens. We need to change our attitude.”
Pantami said his ministry and NIMC are working on transforming the NIN enrolment process and the onward linkage to SIM cards as required by the Nigerian Communication Commission.
The minister explained that his ministry, NIMC and telecommunication operators would review the entire NIN linkage to SIM cards by network users should the Federal Government impose a fresh lockdown amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We developed an app, when you go online, you will see it. That app, as long as you have your NIMC number, you will only download it without visiting any office. You will be able to link up to seven SIM numbers to only one. I have already downloaded the app, launched the app, and already linked some of my numbers immediately. This is part of digitalisation,” he added.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, has said that it takes five minutes for each Nigerian to complete the National Identification Number registration at any of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) offices nationwide.
He disclosed this on Friday during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“Each person takes around three to five minutes to complete the registration and go as long as you have completed your form,” he said.
“You can complete the form virtually without visiting any office but there are things that require you (to be there) physically like your biometrics; you cannot submit your biometrics without you (being there) physically.”
Reacting to the crowds that throng NIMC offices nationwide, the Minister said 95 percent of applicants appear at the agency’s offices without being invited.
He said despite the government’s directives for Nigerians to observe the COVID-19 protocols while registering, Pantami lamented that the applicant shuns directives.
“Citizens will go there, their names are not part of those to be captured but they will go and stay at the gates, and if you ask them to leave they will not. Even the security agencies plead with them but they will not go.
“All the crowds you have been seeing in Abuja or Lagos, 90 percent or even 95 percent of them were not part of those invited to be captured. They only go there and stay outside the gates.”
On the industrial action embarked upon by the NIMC staff, Pantami said the workers did not inform the ministry of their demands and grievances before embarking on strike.