EMBATTLED communications minister Sheikh Isa Pantami has defied critics calling on him to resign after he was listed on the Federal Bureau of Intelligence’s (FBI) terrorist watchlist and turned up at today’s Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja.
Sheikh Pantami, who is also the deputy secretary-general of the Supreme Sharia Council in Nigeria and a former student of Salafist ideology, was trained in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East with other top Islamic jihadists. He is a chief imam who has been leading the Jumu’ah prayer for over 20 years in both Nigeria and the UK and currently serves as a member of the sharia board of Jaiz Bank.
A PhD holder from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland, before his appointment as a minister, Sheikh Pantami was a known Islamic preacher and held what was termed dangerous views against the US government. According to one report, the minister was said to be a very close confidant of the late Mohammed Yusuf, the former leader of Boko Haram with whom he allegedly shared jihadist doctrines.
Despite the strident calls for Sheikh Pantami to resign, he showed up at today’s meeting which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari. Sheikh Pantami is being criticised for his past controversial comments on terrorist groups including Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
President Buhari’s aide shared solidarity photos with the communications minister today, showing him and other members of the cabinet at the virtual meeting. Sheikh Pantami said he has renounced his radical pro-terrorists comments, saying he now knows better but Nigerians have been unsparing and relentless in the call for his sacking or resignation.
Nigeria’s main opposition the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) called on the president to fire Sheikh Pantami if he fails to voluntarily resign like the former finance minister, Kemi Adeosun. In addition, the PDP had also asked the Department of State Services to probe the minister.