By Musa Baba Adamu
A political group, All Progressives Congress Advocates Forum, has revealed that leader of the Boko Haram terrorists organization, Abubakar Shekau, last year pronounced fatwa on the Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, over how he moved around Northern part of the country preaching against terrorism and nonviolent Islamic ideology.
Briefing journalists in Abuja yesterday, the leader of the APC group, Comrade Kabiru Duhu, while defending the Minister over the calls on President Muhammadu Buhari, to sack him (Pantami), said Pantami should be judged based on his record of service and not past comments most of which he has recanted.
He said Pantami is one Nigerian who has had to speak in positive terms in the past, out of his conviction as an impressionable Islamic cleric, about AlQaeda and Osama Bin Laden, at a time many of other clerics in Nigeria believed the Saudi was doing the right thing.
He said “But along the line, he had an experience similar to what the Holy Bible told us that Apostle Paul had on the Road to Damascus after he was exposed to fresh evidence.
“Thereafter, Pantami openly recanted his previous comments and took it upon himself to preach against Islamic extremist ideologies across major cities of Northern Nigeria and which has over the years made him a target for Boko Haram which had been radicalizing thousands of youths.”
He said whereas many Nigerians from the South, first heard about Pantami when President Muhammadu Buhari named him the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and subsequently as a cabinet member, he had for at least 10 years been a known figure in the North for his itinerant anti-Boko Haram preachings.
The group said he was in fact one of the few Islamic preachers that dared preached publicly against the deadly sect, before it was designated as a terrorist group, and which was why Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the insurgent group in February 2020 issued a fatwa on him and reminded Nigerians how his group shot and killed other preachers.
To this end, the group said they are surprised that a group of Nigerians with the backing of some vested interest began a campaign of calumny against Pantami, starting with false claims of him being on a US terror watch list.
“When that failed, they began to dig up his past views to paint him in a dangerous light long after he had recanted those positions. We were therefore not surprised that even a former US ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell made it clear that Pantami was not considered an individual of interest by American security agencies because his country pays more attention to action than words.
“Not long after the Presidency dismissed calls for his sack and reaffirmed his competence especially as the sector of the economy he oversees was instrumental in taking the country out of the Covid-19 induced recession at a time more established economies are still struggling.”
While outlining the numerous achievements of the Minister since he was appointed by President Buhari, the group said the telecommunications sector recorded a growth rate of 15.90%, which they said is the Ministry’s highest growth rate in the last 10 years.
“Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria (2020 – 2030) -November 2019. Development of a SIM Card Registration Policy-February 2020. Development of Revised NIN-SIM Registration Policy (Approved on 8th of March, 2021).
“Development of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (2020 – 2025) – March 2020 (Launched by President Buhari on 19th March, 2021), Launching of the Emergency Communication Centres and 112 Emergency Communication Number -March 2020.
“Facilitated the Platform for Virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) Meetings – May 2020 (42nd Virtual FEC took place on the 21st of April 2021), Significant drop in Right of Way charges after meeting with NGF – February 2020. (Costs per linear metre dropped from as high as 14k in some states to N145, some States even waived it completely)”, the group listed as some of the achievement of the Minister.