A Civil rights groups on Sunday called on the Department of State Services to immediately invite the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, for questioning over some controversial comments he made in the past in support of global terrorist groups, Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
The National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement in Abuja, also called on the President Muhammadu Buhari, to sack the minister.
Pantami has been under fire lately over comments he allegedly made several years ago in support of Al-Qaeda – an extremist group founded by the late Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011 by the US Navy SEALs inside a private residential compound in Pakistan.
Following the outrage generated by his past comments, Pantami on Saturday renounced them.
He stated that some of his past views were made out of immaturity, alleging that attacks on him by Nigerians were politically instigated.
But on Sunday the PDP said Buhari should immediately sack the minister, given the sensitivity of the issue.
The party said its position was predicated on the heightening concerns in the public space and in the international arena of possible compromises by the communication minister.
It noted that Pantami had access to sensitive government documents and information, in addition to data of all individuals including high profile personalities in the public and private sectors as well as the traditional and faith-based circles.
The statement partly read, “The party tasks the DSS to investigate the allegation, which has created apprehension, particularly given the rise in banditry and other terrorists activities in our country.
“The PDP urges Nigerians to remain at alert and very sensitive to their environment, while not hesitating in providing useful information to our security agencies in the interest of our nation.”
On its part, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria also asked Buhari to sack Pantami.
The civil society group also admonished the President to be courageous enough by arresting and prosecuting terrorists and bandits, including armed herdsmen whom it said were about pushing the nation into another civil war by their unbridled quest to displace farmers all over the country.
The group stated this in a statement on Sunday, titled, ‘Buhari must purge his government of terrorists sympathisers,’ signed by HURIWA Executive Director, Emmanuel Onwubiko.
Onwubiko noted that Pantami had been exposed and his past misdeeds made abundantly open, “but President Muhammadu Buhari with his holier-than- thou attitude has refused to dismissed this self-confessed supporter of Al Qaeda.”
Also, a constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights activist, Grace Ketefe, said, “It is very important to watch one’s utterances at every point in time especially those that are in position of higher authority. Words callously stated may result in the loss of innumerable lives and properties. I am of the opinion that he should resign.”
On his part, the Head of Legal Department, Human Right Defenders of Nigeria, Sampson Ekigbo, stated, “As a person holding a public office, such a person should not, in the first place, scale through the scrutiny of the committee saddled with determining the propriety or otherwise of his qualifications to that very position. He should be made to resign forthwith and face prosecution.”
But it was gathered that the President might not ask the minister to resign despite the growing calls for his resignation or sacking.
Some of those pushing for Pantami’s exit from government had cited the case of a former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, who had to resign due to her past action as regards her National Youth Service Corps certificate.
When asked on Sunday if the President would advise Pantami to resign like Adeosun did or he believed the two cases were different, a Presidency official said the two cases were not similar.
The official, who did not want his name mentioned because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, said, “There is a clear distinction between the two (Adeosun’s case and that of Pantami).One is perfidious. Forgery is a criminal offence in our laws.
“The other is being pursued for what Americans call McCarthyism, the crime of thought. Have we become a communist country?”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, could not be reached on the telephone for comment as of the time of filing this story.