Nigerians yesterday sent a deluge of requests to the Embassy of the United States of America in Abuja, trying to get more information and clarification on the alleged links of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ibrahim Isa Pantami, to Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations around the world.
There was outrage over the alleged links of the minister to the terrorists when it was reported on Sunday that he was on the watch list of America's Intelligence Service. Pantami quickly denied the allegation and threatened to initiate legal action against those who reported the alleged links.
At the time of writing this report yesterday, the US Embassy in it reaction to the alleged report said, "Thank you for your inquiry, however, we defer all press inquiries on Minister Pantami to the FBI at email@example.com."
According to the unconfirmed report indicting the minister, he was said to be a former student of Salafist ideologies, trained in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East with other top Islamic jihadists.
The report noted that before his appointment as a minister, Pantami was a known Islamic preacher and held what was termed 'dangerous views' against the American government over its stance on Al-Qaeda.
The minister was said to have been "a very close confidant of the slain Mohammed Yusuf, the founder and spiritual leader of Boko Haram with whom he allegedly shared jihadist doctrines.
"According to Western Intelligence, the minister had ties with Abu Quatada al Falasimi and other Al-Qaeda leaders that he revered and spoke glowingly of in several of his videos on YouTube.
"According to Middle Eastern Intelligence, corroborated by its Western counterparts, photographs of Sheikh Isa Ali Pantami and his jihadist allies are trending," the report added.
Not a few Nigerians have expressed outrage at the report and also warned about the consequences of allowing Pantami to handle sensitive issues such as the National Identification Number (NIN), which they feared he might use to register those who are not Nigerians especially terrorists.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP on the vexed issue yesterday, public affairs analyst, Dr. Katch Ononuju, said the alleged US intelligence on Pantami is a well-known intelligence report, which is not new.
He said, "Pantami is in charge of the NIN and that NIN is a form of formal documentation of those aliens that have come into the country but you can see what it has now become because trying to assimilate them into the society is a problem.
"There are so many of them like Pantami still in government but now that our international partners are beginning to work on this, we need to work hard to expose these people; they are internationally recognized Jihadists."
Speaking further on NIN, Ononuju blamed the President Muhammadu Buhari government for paying lip service to security.
He said that "a lot of the data that Pantami will produce will be subjected to further scrutiny and interrogation as a lot of people registered in the NIN may not be Nigerians."
Pantami has, however, denied the allegation and threatened legal action against the purveyors of the news item. In a tweet, he also claimed that he has been preaching against the Boko Haram for fifteen years.
The minister stated, "My lectures against the doctrines and all other evil people have been available for over 15 years, including debates that endangered my life against many criminals in Nigeria. If you can't understand Hausa, get an objective Hausa speaker to translate for you objectively."
Pantami admonished Nigerians to link their Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) with their valid National Identity Numbers before May 6, 2021, warning that the federal government was set to expose criminal elements through the NIN-SIM data linkage.
"On the issue of NIN-SIM verification to fight insecurity, there is no going back. Our priority as government based on the provision of our constitution 1999 (as amended) Section 14(2)b is security, not just economy. For sure, no going back at all, " he added.