The Presidency has come under severe criticisms from a cross section of Nigerians for throwing its weight behind the continued stay in office of the Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami.
Old videos of Pantami’s support for terrorists groups like the Al Qaeda and the Taliban resurfaced with the Minister apologizing for them opining that his views had changed.
In one of the videos he praised Osama Bin Laden and expressed his backing for the activities of Al Qaeda.
But the Presidency, in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Thursday, said, “The administration stands behind Minister Pantami and all Nigerian citizens to ensure they receive fair treatment, fair prices, and fair protection in ICT services.”
The House of Representatives, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Christian Association of Nigeria, the Nigerian Bar Association among many others faulted Garba Shehu’s assertion and called for his immediate resignation.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila was blasted for blocking Hon Ndudi Elumelu of the PDP for calling for a probe of the embattled minister’s extremist statements in the House.
An official statement by the PDP read: “Our caucus will not condone any unwarranted attack on any of our colleagues, let alone the Minority Leader, who is doing very well by speaking the mind of the silent majority of Nigerians, who have no platforms to speak out.
“In any case, we are aware that Hon Kalu was not in plenary when the motion was moved. We expected him to have consulted the rule book before attacking the Minority Leader, for we believe if he had done that, he would have saved the 9th House of Representatives the embarrassment his statement has caused.
“We, therefore, demand that Hon Kalu should withdraw his statement and tender an unreserved apology to the Minority Leader and Nigerians for misrepresenting the rules of the House.”
CAN called on the DSS, NIA to investigate Pantami thoroughly. Pastor Bayo Oladeji, the Head of Media of CAN said: “The position of CAN is that the DSS, DIA and NIA should investigate the allegations against Pantami. Turning a deaf ear to the allegations against the minister shows that the government is not serious with its counterinsurgency.
“In a civilised society, Pantami ought to have resigned or stepped aside. He should have voluntarily offered himself to be investigated but in Nigeria of today, anything goes.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the NBA said: “I believe that public office is not a child’s play. People occupying it should be accountable. Whether his views have changed or not is between him and God. The government should not be seen as having sacred cows or that some people are untouchable.
“A former Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, resigned when the issue of her NYSC certificate scandal came up. That is better. In fact, it is wrong for people to think that Nigeria revolves around them. That is wrong and it is not true. Nigeria is bigger than any individual. This is quite unfortunate and this leads us to the issue of the Nigerian agenda.
“The Presidency should not act in such a way that people would think that whatever they think or say is of no consequence. The Presidency should not act in such a way to say that the views of Nigerians are not right or are of no consequence. Our leaders should not act in such a way or ask Nigerians to shut up.”
Kola Ologbodiyan, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP said: “It is instructive to note that this anti-people stance has heightened public anxiety that the Buhari Presidency is a haven for traitors who are providing support to acts of terrorist activities in our nation.
“Our party holds that this has further exposed why the Buhari Presidency has failed to decisively confront terrorism as well as why terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and insurgents are emboldened to ravage our nation and massacre our compatriots.
“It is inexcusable that the Buhari Presidency is showing grave insensitivity to the fact that thousands of Nigerians have been massacred, maimed and horrified; that hundreds of communities have been devastated and that our nation has been under siege because of the actions and public comments by individuals like Isa Pantami.”
Popular Human Rights Activist, Aisha Yesufu also said: “The Presidency is not Garba Shehu. The Presidency is not even Muhammadu Buhari. The Presidency is an institution and that must not be seen in any way whatsoever (as) supporting someone who is now known to have been a terrorist sympathiser. We cannot be a nation that allows people who support terrorism to be out there in the public domain as our public servants.”