Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, has joined calls for the removal or resignation of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.
The lawmaker on Wednesday, April 21, in a motion raised at Plenary titled: “A Call To Investigate Sheik Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Minister Of Communication And Digital Economy’s Link To Terrorist Groups – A Potential Threat To National Security,” said Pantami does not qualify to oversee the Ministry of Communications which controls the database of Nigerians.
Highlighting Sheik Pantami’s past controversial comments suggesting religious extremism, Elumelu noted that the Minister occupies a very sensitive position and the comments should not be overlooked.
“Further note that there have been repeated insinuations that Sheik Ali Ibrahim Isa Pantami has direct links and personally subscribes to the extreme Islamic beliefs of Al Queada, Taliban and Boko Haram sects.
“Aware that there are compelling evidence in the cyber space to buttress and lend strong credence to a relationship and existing mutual collaboration between Sheik Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami and the deceased Yemeni terrorist, Al Barnawi, a mentor to the Nigerian born Christmas day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
“Further aware that the Honourable minister while answering questions during his daily Ramadan lecture at Annor mosque a few days back, owned up to the fact that he took extreme positions in support of the brutal exploits of Al Qaeda and the Taliban out of ignorance.
“Concerned, that these allegations and relevant evidence in the cyber space and other informative platforms have been overlooked and glossed over by relevant authorities, thereby refusing to take appropriate security measures in examining the strands of facts and its implication on national security.
“For over ten years, the insurgency in the north east has cost Nigeria military high casualty level, moral depletion amongst its personnel, billions of dollars in financial resources, huge human and material displacement, culminating in high level of unemployment amongst the populace of that region.
“There have been instances in the recent past where top government officials have been complicit and acted as moles at divulging government strategy to the insurgents without traces, and some openly lend financial support to the insurgency in the north east.
“Worried that if these allegations are allowed to wear away without proper investigation and taking necessary actions, this may be the beginning of an end to our great country Nigeria,” Elumelu stated in his motion.
The Minority Leader therefore prayed the House to mandate its committee on National security to investigate the matter and report back in 4 weeks, while in the same vein urged the minister to honorably step aside to give room for an unfettered investigation.
Hon. Elumelu’s motion comes against the backdrop of recent overwhelming calls for the resignation or sack of the Minister over his pro-Taliban comments.
The increasing calls have come in the wake of revealing audio recordings of Mr Pantami’s past teachings where he declared support for Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also called on the Department of State Services (DSS) to immediately invite the Minister for questioning and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sack the minister, “given the sensitivity of the issue at stake.”
Human rights activists and social media users have also called for the removal of Pantami over the statements he made in the past in support of Islamic extremist groups.
This has 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.
But Nigerians, unimpressed with his confession, have increasingly called for his sack or resignation, leading to a viral trend with the hashtag, #PantamiResignNow, on Social media.