In an apparent defense of the embattled Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, over his previous stance on insurgency, the Presidency has condemned the ongoing campaign for his resignation, describing moves to get Pantami out of office as an agenda of some private individuals that felt threatened by the minister’s efforts to sanitise telecommunication industry.
The presidency, while declaring support for Pantami, stressed that the allegations raised against the minister were utterances made as a youth to which he had publicly apologized and should be allowed to forge ahead with his duties to improve communications across the country.
It stated that though the views were absolutely unacceptable then, and would be equally unacceptable presently considering the insecurity challenges confronting the nation but assured Nigerians that the minister would not repeat such considering his maturity as well as his admittance that earlier utterances were wrong.
Stating the Presidency stance on the argument that had attracted reactions across the country including from Governors, opposition parties and Civil Society Organisations (CSO), and others, the Senior Special Adviser 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”.
Shehu, meanwhile, disclosed that the government understand the sponsors of the campaign and had commenced an investigation of attempted inducement of media organisation executives by the perpetrators to participate in the champion.
“This insidious phenomenon seeks to cancel the careers of others on the basis of a thing they have said, regardless of when they said it. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami is, currently, subject to a “cancel campaign” instigated by those who seek his removal. They do not really care what he may or may not have said some 20 years ago: that is merely the instrument they are using to attempt to “cancel” him. But they will profit should he be stopped from making decisions that improve the lives of everyday Nigerians.
“The Minister has, rightly, apologized for what he said in the early 2000s. The views were absolutely unacceptable then and would be equally unacceptable today, were he to repeat them. But he will not repeat them – for he has publicly and permanently condemned his earlier utterances as wrong.
“In the 2000s, the Minister was a man in his twenties; next year he will be 50. Time has passed, and people and their opinions – often rightly – change. But all discerning Nigerians know this manufactured dispute is nothing to do with the Minister’s prior words, but solely concern his actions in the present.
“This Administration is committed to improving the lives of all Nigerians – and that includes ensuring they are not over-charged or under-protected for those services on which modern life depends.
“The Minister has been leading the charge against illegal data deductions and pricing; he has revolutionized the government’s virtual public engagement to respond to COVID-19 and save taxpayers’ money; he has established ICT start-up centres to boost youth entrepreneurship and create jobs; he has changed policy to ensure locally produced ICT content is used by ministries, starting with his own; and he has deregistered some 9.2 million SIMs – ending the ability for criminals and terrorists to flagrantly use mobile networks undetected.
“In two short years, Pantami has driven the contribution of the ICT sector to the GDP to more than 18 percent, making it one of the top two playing a critical role in the emergence of the economy from the COVID 19-induced recession.
“In putting people first, the Minister and this administration have made enemies. There are those in the opposition who see success and want it halted by any means. And there is now well-reported information that alleges newspaper editors rebuffed an attempt to financially induce them to run a smear campaign against the minister by some ICT companies, many of which do indeed stand to lose financially through lower prices and greater consumer protections. The government is now investigating the veracity behind these claims of attempted inducement, and – should they be found to hold credence – police and judicial action must be expected”.