Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has continued to deny any links with or support for any terrorist group.
According to the minister, allegations linking him to any terrorist groups are the handiwork of mischief makers out to smear his reputation.
On April 12, a news site, Independent Newspaper, had published a story with the headline ‘Disquiet As America Places Nigerian Minister On Watch List.’
The publication alleged that Pantami was a Boko Haram activist under surveillance by America’s Intelligence Service.
There followed another report by the Daily Independent, which alleged that Pantami had ties with Abu Quata-da al Falasimi, an alleged terrorist, among other Al-Qaeda leaders.
Following the two reports, a video of Pantami discussing with Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf surfaced on the media. The video was shared on the official Twitter handle of a freelance journalist, identified as David Hundeyin.
In the video, Pantami was seen discussing with Mohammed in Hausa language, suggesting that he has connection with the insurgent group.
Hundeyin tweets read, “Just a nice video of Nigeria’s Minister of Communication and Digital Technology @DrIsaPantami having a friendly conversation with a nice chap you may have heard of. Nice bloke called Mohammed Yusuf who founded Boko Haram.”
However, according to the interpretation of the dialogue given by some northerners, Pantami was educating Yusuf on the need to seek Western education and to be patriotic.
Other publications have been made about the past comments of the minister regarding terrorist groups.
According to document titled: “Debating Boko Haram”, reported by The Peoples Gazette, Pantami was quoted to have pledged support for the Al-Qaeda, a network of Islamic extremists and jihadists.
The document, published in 2019, was said to have been written by an African Expert at the Naples University in Italy, Professor Andrea Brigaglia, who conducted an investigation about Boko Haram in Nigeria.
According to the document, Pantami was quoted to have called for jihad as an obligation of every Muslim.
Pantami’s comment on the Hisba Police of the North also surfaced on the media space.
The minister was quoted to have agitated for the establishment of Hisba Police, so it could travel to Yelwa Shendam in Plateau State to fight in defence of the Muslims.
Recall that in 2004, a mass violence erupted between Muslim and Christian residents of Yelwa Shendam. Several people were reported to have lost their lives in the conflict.
Meanwhile, the Daily Independent had retracted the publication alleging that Pantam has ties with Boko Haram and several terrorist groups.
Following the retraction, Pantami took to his official Twitter handle to deny the allegations, adding that he would take legal steps to ensure that those fabricating lies against him are brought to book.
He tweeted, “@NewsWireNGR your RETRACTION through your independent investigation, has been noted. However, investigative journalism requires the investigation before publishing, not after. Further, major publishers will meet my lawyers in the court on this defamation of character.”
Also, on Friday, during an interview session with the Peoples Gazette, Pantami denied the comments linked to him, adding that his driver and secretary are Christians.
His words, “My personal driver is Mai Keffi, a practising Christian. I also have a Christian, Ms Nwosu, as my secretary and Dr Femi, also a Christian, as my technical adviser.
“If I did not like Christians or I did not see them as my brothers and sisters, I would not have been working with them for so long. I employed more Christians than Muslims on my staff because I believe in merit and competence over ethnic or tribal sentiments.
“I have never condoned terrorism and I reject any affiliation to terror groups. I have long preached peaceful coexistence amongst people of every faith and ethnicity.”
Some Nigerians have been calling for the resignation of Pantami as the Minister of Communication, stating that he should not be in control of the country’s massive data and telephone infrastructure and other sensitive details of national intelligence.
However, some Nigerians are in support of Pantami, commending him for the good job he has been doing since he was appointed as minister.
The Nigerian Twitter communication has also trended counter hashtags.
#PantamiResign has been trending while the supporters of the minister also trended #PantamiWillStay.
Below here are some of the reaction harvested from Twitter:
“Fact that a lot of moderates are quiet or defending Pantami after initially claiming Islamophobia may just prove the point that some terrorists enjoy protection from moderates. It’s been shameful to watch. Everybody must now demand his resignation #PantamiResign” (@dondekojo)
“Wait, so we are really not going to insist that Isa Pantami step down until the allegations are investigated and he is officially cleared? Is that not the precedent Buhari’s govt set for the removal of the CJN that year? Wonders” (@ayosogunro)
“In serious countries, Isa Pantami’s firing would have been a given and not even debated. The discussion would have been the number of heads that should roll at the DSS, the agency that screened him and failed to spot his dangerous past. But Nigeria is not a serious country.” (@Mazigburugburu1)
“Way back in 2005/2006 before anyone outside the core North knew of Boko Haram, Pantami was already debating and preaching against them. In 2020, BH put out another assassination order on the man. But in 2021, he magically started having ties with BH. People are so stupid. And the most stupid part of this debate is the YouTube video link being shared by proponents of this story. Do you realize that video is from 2006 (I think) where Pantami was actually debating against BH ideology, calling out their unIslamic views, labelling them ignorant? You can label some of Pantami’s views about non-Muslims and women are extremist (I’d agree with you on that), but this story of a tie with BH is bollocks. You can agree with it because it fits your bias and that’s okay. But there is little to no truth to the story IMO.” (@KelvinOdanz)