- The Minister has come under fire for certain comments credited to him where he allegedly sympathised with Boko Haram terrorists
- Nigerians have since initiated an online campaign calling for his resignation over fears that he cannot handle the personal data of Nigerians
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has denied links to extremism, saying criminals and other vested interests are behind the media attacks on him.
He said the allegations were untrue claims being sponsored by forces that are affected by the government’s policy of compulsory national identity registration for all Nigerians and those residing in the country.
“I have no doubt about this. It has to do with the National Identification Number. Do you know one thing? This policy was started in 2011, it was not successful. Why? It was fought,” the Minister said.
“Now they have started coming with the news that people are coming from neighbouring countries to register. What they fail to understand is that the National Identification Number is not only for Nigerians; anybody in Nigeria can obtain it. Section 16 and 17 of the Act mention the registrable people in the country – citizens, legal residents, legal permanent residents, and legal residents for a minimum of two years. So, it is not only for citizens. And it is also important to know that this is not just an indication that they are citizens of Nigeria. It is rather an indication that you presented your biometric data, so government has control over your data. And that data of NIMC (National Identity Management Commission), nobody has an access to it in any way he likes. Getting access to it illegally is 10 years in prison. It is there in the law. But people will like to discredit it, because they don’t like it.
“As long as it is implemented by government, it will go a long way in reducing crime and based on the statistics we have been seeing now, it’s really encouraging.
“As government, our priority is the protection of lives and property of our citizens. Security is our priority as a government – whether in agric, digital economy, education or in health, in whatever. President Muhammadu Buahari is so passionate about security, and he directed me to do that because he knows I try to persevere despite challenges and do what is right in the interest of our citizens and humanity,” he told Premium Times in an interview.
Pantami said despite the attacks on him, he would remain focused on his job.
“Even this issue that we are talking about, based on our findings, preliminary investigation, many people are not happy with what we have been doing – linking National Identification Number with SIM. Because a situation will come that all the people using SIM to commit crime will not be able to do that.
“If they do that government will be able to intercept them easily. This is what they don’t want to happen. And this is a mandate given to me by President Muhammadu Buhari. He personally signed the letter that ‘you are mandated to do that’.
“As his appointee, I should either do it or say I cannot. So, since I am willing to serve my country, I must continue to do it to the best of my ability.
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