By Dirisu Yakubu
A coalition of civil society organisations, the Civil Society Forum of Nigeria, Monday, blamed the calls for the resignation of Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy over his past comments on the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, on unpatriotic elements bent on derailing the steady progress being made under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari.
This is even as the group reiterated the position of the embattled Minister that his sermons in the past were largely influenced by information available to him at the time.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, Head of the coalition, Olayinka Dada described Pantami as a man desirous of availing his country the expertise and sacrifice needed to turn her fortune around. According to him, the ongoing National Identification Number, NIN registration exercise, a brainchild of the Minister, is making a lot of criminally-minded elements uncomfortable, hence their agitation for his removal at all cost.
“The huge cry about #PantamiMustGo is an attempt to derail President Muhammadu Buhari’s government from resolving the insecurity problems bedeviling Nigerian and Nigerians.
“As a young cleric, Sheikh Isa Pantami like other devoted clerics, sermonised in favour of his religious beliefs. The research available as at then prompted those beliefs. As time progresses and his educational pursuit increases, he stoutly stood for humanity through various efforts at ensuring peaceful religious coexistence and harmonious relationships amongst all people. Suffice to say that Sheik Isa Pantami grew from Islamic cleric to becoming a global peace enabler that he is today.
“The truth is that blackmailers are playing a script prepared by the enemies of Nigeria. The Minister is being attacked for the genuine reforms being championed by him in the fight against insecurity with the NIN initiative linking citizens phone numbers capable of identifying major criminals and their sponsors.
“Both as a private and public citizen, the Minister has displayed rare patriotism in ensuring the correctness and accuracy of the most important data which confirms who a Nigerian citizen is. Going further, the compulsory NIN registration is capable of identifying economic looters, political brigands, insurgents, kidnappers, internet fraudsters and all criminals alike,” Dada said.
The NIN initiative, the coalition added, is being rejected “by elements that are in the business of profiting through crimes against the nation.”
Fielding questions from journalists on the sideline of the briefing, Dada said Pantami’s ordeal bears no relationship with Kemi Adeosun’s, the former Minister of Finance who resigned her appointment a few years owing to certificate forgery.
“Pantami did not forge any certificate and did not lie on oath. So, it is pointless to compare this with the issue related to the former Minister,” he stressed.