Following concerns over the past sermons of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, related to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda groups, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Middle Belt Forum (MBF), on Sunday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sack the minister, given the sensitivity of the issue at stake.
In a statement issued by Kola Ologbondiyan, its national publicity secretary, on Sunday, the PDP also charged the Department of State Services (DSS) to immediately invite the minister for questioning.
The PDP hinged its position on the rising concerns of the public on the sensitive position held by the minister, as it affects Nigerians’ data.
The party tasked the Department of State Service (DSS) to investigate the allegation that the National Identity Number (NIN) might have been compromised, given the rise in banditry and other terror activities in the country.
It urged Nigerians to remain at alert and be sensitive to their environment, while not hesitating in providing useful information to security agencies in the interest of the nation.
In the same development, the Middle Belt Forum frowned on what it described as lackadaisical posture of President Buhari towards the allegations and controversies surrounding Pantami. Its national president, Dr Bitrus Pogu, said the issues against the minister are too weighty to be ignored, in view of security challenges facing the country.
The forum, therefore, demanded the minister’s resignation to pave the way for thorough investigation of his comments or outright sack by the president.
“If the government is sensitive, Isa Pantami should have gone long time ago. There were series of allegations against him, even before he became a minister, but the Senate and presidency ignored such sensitive petitions and cleared him. It is quite unfortunate that such kind of petitions from security agencies can be swept under the carpet,” he said.
But the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) urged the minister to ignore calls by some people that he should resign.
In a statement by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, on Sunday, the organisation described the call for Pantami’s resignation as baseless, adding that: “It is a baseless call and it should be ignored. Afterall, the US itself has denied it. Dr Pantami has been enjoying unhindered multiple entry to the US for a very long time.
“Even Facebook, the USbased social media giant had Pantami’s picture on its digital board for several hours as a mark of honour and respect during one of his numerous visits to that country.
“The campaign of calumny is being pushed by forces against the Federal Government’s NIN policy, Boko Haram terrorists, bandits, criminals in general and political IDPs (internally displaced politicians).
“No one who has the love of Nigeria at heart will support such a malicious and frivolous allegation.
“The implications of Pantami’s resignation at this crucial stage are too gloomy to contemplate. It is a national security issue. The NIN scheme, our hope for dealing a technical blow on terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping and all sorts of criminality in the country will suffer suffocating palpitations. There will be a break in monitoring.
“It is better for us to allow the man who started it to finish it. If any problem arises after we have changed hands in the middle of its implementation, the new boss will easily shift the blame. It will then be a double tragedy. Let the beginner be the finisher.”
When contacted, the All Progressives Congress (APC) refrained from commenting on the call for Pantami’s sack. Secretary of the APC caretaker/extraordinary national convention planning committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, said the allegation, which remained unsubstantiated, did not deserve the attention of the party.
The minister has been under fire over the comments he made over the years, which were interpreted as endorsing the extremist sects. Pantami had, however, renounced some of the controversial comments he made on Al-Qaeda and Taliban. While answering questions during his daily Ramadan lecture at Annor Mosque in Abuja, on Saturday, the minister said he now knows better about some of the comments he made in the past, adding that the campaign against him is politically-motivated.
“For 15 years, I have moved round the country while educating people about the dangers of terrorism. I have travelled to Katsina, Gombe, Borno, Kano states and Difa in Niger Republic to preach against terrorism.
“I have engaged those with Boko Haram ideologies in different places. I have been writing pamphlets in Hausa, English and Arabic. I have managed to bring back several young persons who have derailed from the right path.
“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.
“I was young when I made some of the comments; I was in university, some of the comments were made when I was a teenager. I started preaching when I was 13, many scholars and individuals did not understand some of international events and, therefore, took some positions based on their understanding, some have come to change their positions later,” he said.
Despite his explanation, some Nigerians are still unconvinced as they mounted social media campaign against the minister, asking him to resign. Many Nigerians commented on the development on Twitter, through the trending hashtag, #PantamiResignNow.
They said some ministers who were indicted before Pantami had resigned voluntarily, asking him to follow suit.