By Nimot Adetola Sulaimon
The Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, demanding that Dr Isa Pantami be sacked from his position as the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy of Nigeria.
In the letter signed by the Chairman of CACOL, Debo Adeniran, the advocacy group stressed that Nigeria remains a secular country.
Pantami’s continued presence in the President’s cabinet was frowned upon, describing it as leaving a venomous snake under the bed whilst asleep.
Read excerpts from the letter below
”We have observed keenly the events of past weeks concerning the allegations levelled against the incumbent Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami. We have tried as much as possible to listen to arguments in favour of and against his sack as a Minister of the Federal Republic.
It is in view of the foregoing that we have taken a position on the matter based on the various allegations as stated below:
- In April 2021, a publication by an online media company linked Pantami to the then leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf as allies, and that Pantami has been listed by the American Government under its terrorist watch list.
- There are series of audio and video messages of Pantami, which has gone viral on social media, in which he publicly supported the activities of the Taliban and Al-Qaida.
- There has been a steady stream of new evidence of the views he held in the past and the latest are documents that appeared online recently. The documents are purportedly from a 2010 meeting he chaired at the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), a top Islamic body, where it was agreed that Christians should be prohibited from building churches in city centres across northern Nigeria, which has a majority Muslim population although millions of Christians also live there.
- Among other things, he also said, “Oh God, give victory to the Taliban and to al-Qaeda,” and, “This jihad is an obligation for every single believer, especially in Nigeria.” In another, he reportedly endorsed the killing of “unbelievers.”
- In a 2006 speech, Mr Pantami publicly offered his condolences after the death of al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
- In one audio clip, where he talks about the Nigerian army’s war against Boko Haram, he appears to be on the verge of tears as he passionately describes the militants as “our Muslim brothers” who did not deserve to be “killed like pigs”.
- In another audio recording, he declares he is always happy when infidels are massacred.
- Audio and video recordings have also emerged of Mr Pantami’s fiery prayers and sermons at different stages of his career as an imam. In one sermon he volunteered to lead a force of the Sharia police, Hisbah, to Shendam in Plateau state, where there had been a deadly religious conflict, to fight in defence of the Muslims. So many more extremist views have been attributed to Pantami.
He has not denied the authenticity of these texts, audio and video clips. In his defence, Pantami argues that he has repented; that he erred as an innocent youth.
After the backlash and calls for his resignation continued, Pantami disavowed the statements on April 17, saying “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.”
Mr President, we wish to state unequivocally that the fact that Pantami has developed the level of orientation that made him uttered those grievous words and statements as stated above, cannot be wished away by mere recanting which some people in your cabinet are claiming he has done.
Ideological issues are ingrained in the mind of those who pursue them. Even when they denounce it they are not to be trusted because they can always go back to that conviction that led them into accepting that extremism and for somebody who has said that people should be killed and that he is happy when he sees that and who has supported terrorists in the past, we want to believe that it cannot get out of his mind so easily.
Moreover, due to the sensitiveness of the Ministry that he is supervising, he can provide information about anybody to the terrorists, because terrorists don’t work with their foot soldiers alone, they also work with those who pretend to be part and parcel of the decent society and Patami can be some of that conduit pipe through which information is streamed to them.
Furthermore, in the area of the security system, the ministry also could have a link with the way security communication are being organised and deployed and Pantami could sabotage the process by facilitating access to the terrorists to kind of jam the communication system of the military and other security agencies in the country.
Your Excellency, we are of the opinion that Pantami is a dangerous person that ought not to be a minister of the Federal Republic if all the agencies of government that screened ministerial nominees including the Senate and the State Security Service carried out their due diligence before he was sworn in as a Minister.
A situation whereby the Senate would ask a Ministerial Nominee to take a bow showed the level of mediocrity among those in government considering the fact that governance is a serious administrative endeavour guided by international best practices.
He is indeed one of the tares sown by the enemies of the country in your cabinet when Your Excellency was asleep.
His continued presence in your cabinet is like leaving a venomous snake under the bed and someone goes to sleep or leaving a spark of fire on the roof and someone goes to sleep.
He is dangerous to the peace and security of Nigeria, he is a security risk to the nation. Even if he has denounced his extremist orientation, our mind would only be at rest if he is removed.
Therefore, we are aligning with calls on your office to immediately swing into action by removing and sacking Isa Pantami as Minister of Communication and Digital Economy now and also ask the Department of State Services to investigate him!
Yours in the service of Humanity”.