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The Nigerian Islamic human rights body, Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC has described calls for the Minister of Communications and Digital Planning, Isa Pantami to resign as ‘baseless calls that should be ignored.
MURIC advised the minister against resigning in a Monday statement issued by its director, Ishaq Akintola.
The Islamic group claimed that internet fraudsters and kidnappers against NIN registration were behind the online campaign against the minister.
The Minister has been under fire since audio recordings of his past teachings where he declared support for Al-Qaeda and Taliban resurfaced last week, generating debates on social media platforms with many Nigerians calling for his removal and others defending him.
He denied any links with the groups but admitted making the controversial statements supporting the groups but said on Saturday that his views on such extremist groups have changed.
But throwing its weight behind Pantami, MURIC advised that he should ignore the calls.
Part of the statement read, “It is a baseless call and it should be ignored. After all, the US itself has denied it. Pantami has been enjoying unhindered multiple entries to the US for a very long time. Even Facebook, the US-based social media giant had Pantami’s picture on Facebook’s digital board for several hours as a mark of honor and respect during one of his numerous visits to that country.
“The campaign of calumny is being pushed by forces against the Federal Government’s NIN policy, Boko Haram terrorists, bandits, criminals in general and political IDPs (Internally Displaced Politicians). No one who has the love of Nigeria at heart will support such a malicious and frivolous allegation.
“It is a well-known fact that NIN is designed to expose the true identity of criminals like Yahoo Yahoo boys, bandits and kidnappers who use the internet and telephone to extort money from foreigners and families of kidnapped victims. They live a life of Mr. Jekyll and Hyde : respected gentlemen in the day but dangerous criminals at night and on lonely alleys.
“They have become jittery ever since the NIN policy was introduced by Pantami’s Ministry of Communications and Digital Policy. They are among those who stand to benefit from Pantami’s resignation. As for the political IDPs, their motive is to ensure that no project initiated by the current administration succeeds.
“The implications of Pantami’s resignation at this crucial stage are too gloomy to contemplate. It is a national security issue. The NIN scheme, our hope for dealing a technical blow on terrorism, insurgency, kidnapping and all sorts of criminality in the country will suffer suffocating palpitations. There will be a break in monitoring. It is better for us to allow the man who started it to finish it. If any problem arises after we have changed hands in the middle of its implementation, the new boss will easily shift the blame. It will then be a double tragedy. Let the beginner be the finisher. #beginnermustbefinisher
The group further said it is in the country’s interest that Pantami retains his portfolio and not succumb to cheap blackmail because the statements credited to the minister were made when he was a teenager in the age of students’ unionism.
“In the interest of our great country, Nigeria, we, therefore, charge Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami to ignore calls for his resignation. An agitation for resignation which is not based on sincerity and truth must be resisted by patriots. This campaign for the minister’s resignation is in bad taste. It is pregnant with ulterior motives. Pantami must not surrender. He must not succumb to cheap blackmail. A captain does not abandon ship in stormy waters. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.
“On the issue of statements credited to Pantami in his younger days, we wonder how detractors would give preference to pronouncements made by a teenager and those made in the days of students’ unionism to those made after maturity and clairvoyance. It is sheer mischief to seek to use that against him.”