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Pantami: Controversy rages over Presidency’s backing for Minister

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  • Cracks in House as Minority Caucus, Reps spokesman clash
  • Ezekwesili: Buhari has shown where he stands on terrorism
  • JNI: Linking minister to Yakowa’s death false, disgusting
  • PDP to Buhari: Send minister to deradicalization centre
  • Pantami’s case different from Adeosun’s – Garba Shahu

Many Nigerians are displeased with the Presidency for expressing support for Communications and Digital Economy Minister Isa Pantami over his alleged sympathy for terror groups.

Some of them took to the social media yesterday to denounce the federal government for backing Pantami who has come under pressure to resign on account of his past sermons.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the embattled minister belongs to the deradicalization centre and not the Federal Executive Council. It asked President Muhammadu Buhari to fire him.

Leading Islamic body in the north, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), dismissed as false and disgusting an allegation linking it and Pantami to the death of a former governor of Kaduna State, Mr. Patrick Yakowa.

A social media report had claimed that the minister presided over a JNI meeting where the decision to kill Yakowa was taken.

President Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, had said on Thursday that the administration stood by Pantami, having “rightly apologised for what he said in the early 2000s.”

He said: “The views were absolutely unacceptable then, and would be equally unacceptable today, were he to repeat them.”

According to Garba Shehu, critics “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.”

Reacting yesterday on Twitter to the Presidency’s position, former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, said she did not agree with government that “any citizen can get away with such bloodcurdling rhetoric the latter made through the years.”

She added: “Worse, that one who swore an oath to public office said and did the things @NigeriaGov has waved off.

“Yesterday’s action by our President was an anti-climax. He has persisted in badly managing our country’s diversity.

“Nigeria cannot at this stage avoid a genuine conversation about its future. The signs are all too obvious for all to see and act on.

“In that singular act of siding with his Minister of Communication, @NGRPresident @MBuhari actually conveyed a message on his view of terrorism. Nigerians now know that his views align with that of his minister. It is now left to Nigerians to convey whether we agree with them.”

Some other critics wondered why government did not treat the #ENDSARS protesters, many of whom were teenagers, the same way it is now treating Pantami for the views he reportedly made when he was also a teenager.

They cited the case of #EndSARS promoter Bolatito Oduala who was a victim of government’s clampdown after the protests.

Some others said the government left former Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun to her fate following a report that she forged her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate.

Adeosun resigned her appointment on September 14, 2018.

#OurFavOnlineDoc @DrOlufunmilayo said: “The Nigerian govt had a very rare opportunity yesterday- while the whole world watched- to declare where we stand on terrorism. The Nigerian govt was very loud and clear we are a country that fully endorses terrorism. And this, my friends, is how we market Nigeria to the world.

“When (former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter) Onnoghen was removed, it was not cancel culture. When Kemi Adeosun was kicked out, it was not cancel culture. But on Isa Pantami, a man who openly supported terrorists, admired Osama Bin Laden and praised Al-Qaeda, it is cancel culture to ask for his resignation. We are finished.”

Concerned Nigerians@ConcernedNIG said: “Even if Pantami likes, let him make the cost of data free. He must go. A terrorist sympathiser is no different from a terrorist. #PantamiMustGo.”

NEFERTITI @firstladyship said: “Pantami was 30yrs (an adult) when he made those incendiary remarks. It not only led to the death of Sunday Achi, it sparked the killing of Christians in Jos, Kaduna & most of the North. Your attempt at gaslighting is dead on arrival.

PDP: Pantami must go, he belongs to de-radicalization centre

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked the President to immediately withdraw the statement supporting Pantami, relieve him of his position as minister and “take a bold step to flush out terrorist apologists from the Presidency.”

Its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement in Abuja yesterday that Pantami “belongs to the de-radicalization centre and not in any way in the Federal Executive Council.”

It said the Presidency statement “confirms public and international apprehensions that the Buhari administration and the APC are patronising acts of terrorism in our country.”

Continuing, the PDP said: “Nigerians were traumatised that the Presidency could mount a hopeless defence and justification for the actions of the exposed Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, who had already confessed to supporting terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and Taliban.

“Our party holds that this has further exposed why the Buhari Presidency has failed to decisively confront terrorism as well as why terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and insurgents are emboldened to ravage our nation and massacre our compatriots.

“It is inexcusable that the Buhari Presidency is showing grave insensitivity to the fact that thousands of Nigerians have been massacred, maimed and horrified; that hundreds of communities have been devastated and that our nation has been under siege because of the actions and public comments by individuals like Dr. Isa Pantami.

“Our party notes that if indeed, the Buhari Presidency has not found itself entangled, the least it ought to have done in the face of allegations against Dr. Isa Pantami was to reassure Nigerians by first relieving Isa Pantami of his office and hand him over to the appropriate agency for deradicalization.”

Galadima to Presidency: Release Nyame,  Dariye from jail

National Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Alhaji Buba Galadima, also faulted the Presidency on its support for Pantami.

He said on Arise Television that if all it takes for government to forgive offenders is an apology, then it should set free from jail Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyam, ex-governors of Plateau and Taraba states respectively, having shown remorse for the offence of corruption that got them convicted.

His words: “This issue is not a question of religion, because I don’t believe Isa Pantami is a representative of Islam. It is an issue that negates the laws of our country.

“We can’t pick and choose. If anybody commits any offence, irrespective of his position, tribe, or religion, the law must take its course. This is a moral burden on the shoulders of this government.

“We shouldn’t choose and pick, because if anybody who commits an offence apologises and should be let free, then let the federal government should release Jolly Nyame, Dariye of Plateau state; they have been jailed and they had remorse in court. Or those that are being interrogated for theft should be left off the hook if they apologise.

“Pantami has already admitted his crime, so there is no need to investigate anything. He has already admitted and apologised. Whether the apology is good enough to exonerate him, that I wouldn’t know. It is opportunism by these clergymen all over, on both sides, that they play to the gallery because they want to draw attention.

“Now, he did that in a certain period and now he is reaping the fruits because he has been recognised and given an appointment. Now that his past was bad, it is important that he faces his own music.”

House of Reps leadership disagrees over Pantami’s fate

The Pantami issue also seems to be generating bad blood between the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives and the House leadership following a failed attempt by the caucus to push through a motion demanding the suspension or sack of the minister.

Spokesman of the caucus, Francis Ottah Agbo, accused the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs/ Spokesman of the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, of misleading the Nigerian public on “genuine effort in the fight against terrorism in our country.”

Agbo was responding to a statement by Kalu that the motion presented on the Pantami issue by the Minority leader, Ndidi Elumelu, was not properly presented.

Kalu had said Elumelu should have known better than to present such an issue for debate via Order 6 of the House Rules which only applies to Legislative Privileges.

However, Agbo said yesterday that Kalu’s comments “clearly exposed a sinister intention to misrepresent the rules of the House, mislead the undiscerning public and frustrate genuine effort in the fight against terrorism in our country.”

He said: “We find it shocking that instead of standing with Nigerians at this critical moment, Hon. Kalu chose to engage in personal attack on the Minority Leader, Hon Ndudi Elumelu, for pointing to the dangers of retaining in office the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, after reports of the minister’s support for terrorists came to the fore.

“This is especially after the minister himself admitted to the facts of his sympathy for violent, extremist and terrorist groups, including, the al-Qaida and Taliban.

“Indeed, Hon. Kalu’s claim that our Minority Leader did not properly present his motion under an appropriate rule is frivolous and exposes his poor knowledge of the legislative procedures. It also points to a deliberate scheme to jeopardise our nation’s fight against terrorism.

“Furthermore, we take a strong exception to Hon. Kalu’s vain posturing of trying to tutor the Minority Leader, a well-respected seasoned legislator, on the House Standing Rules and parliamentary convention.

“It is instructive to state that the motion by the Minority Leader calling for the resignation or sack of the Minister by President Muhammadu Buhari was properly presented under the House rules as provided in Order 6: 1,2&3 (Privileges), contrary to claims by Hon. Kalu.

“Order 6:1,2,3 clearly and generously provide for full debate on the issue brought pursuant to it. For the avoidance of doubt, while sub-section 2 of the Order 6 provides that ‘whenever a matter of privilege arises, it shall be taken into consideration immediately’, sub section 3 is clear in providing that whenever a matter of privilege arises, it shall be disposed of and no other issue shall be considered until ‘the debate on a motion thereon” is adjourned…”

House will never support terrorist or sponsors of terrorism- Reps Spokesman

In a swift reaction to the Minority Caucus statement last night, Kalu said the House of Representatives would never support any act of terrorism or sponsors of terrorism in any form.

He said all insinuations that the House failed to subject the issue of Pantami to democratic debate were false.

Kalu said the House would always stand with Nigerians while following proper procedures.

Kalu said the issue raised by the House Minority Leader borders on issues of national importance which should have been brought to the attention of the House through a motion of urgent national importance.

He said: “The House acknowledges the severity of the issue and its nature as a matter of public concern. As always, the House stands ready to give audience to Rep. Ndudi Elumelu or any other member of the House on this issue, provided that such audience is sought through the proper channels and brought under the relevant rules of the House.”

He said the House stands by its earlier positions “as they are in line with the House rules we made to guide us and should not be seen breaching it as every good law applies to both principal officers and first-time members in the spirit of equality before the law.

”The relevant issue raised by Hon Elumelu which is of national importance is inadmissible under privileges for what it seeks to address, since matters under privilege, once breached, must be personal and internal to the House.

“This is why all matters of privilege are sent to the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges, not to the President directly as the house resolution as alleged by the yet to be tutored “spokesman” of the minority caucus.

“One wonders what the house committee on ethics and privilege will be doing with the sack of Pantami.  “That there is no debate on privileges unless a motion has arisen from it, in which case it must be seconded before debated in line with the house rules and procedure to a motion.

“Hon Ndudi Elumelu, though seasoned, experienced and celebrated legislator unlike his spokesman Hon Francis Agbo, came under the wrong order on this issue and the presiding officer, the Rt. Hon. Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, brought it to his notice openly on the floor of the house and in front of the camera watched and heard all over the world.

“The right parliamentary corridor to pass important issues like this, which had a national out-look, not specific on a particular member of the House to the exclusion of all others and urgent, should have been either through a Motion on Matter of Public Importance or a Motion on Notice, since it concerns the entire nation.

“Bringing it up under any of the two motions will give the debate a democratic spread among members from different constituencies to be well heard.

JNI: Linking us, Pantami to Yakowa’s death’s disgusting

Also yesterday, the apex Islamic body in the north, Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), described as false and disgusting  an allegation linking it and Dr. Isa Pantami to the death of ex-governor of Kaduna State, Patrick Yakowa.Yakowa was killed in a helicopter crash in Bayelsa State on December 15, 2012.A social media report earlier this week claimed that the embattled minister chaired a JNI meeting where the decision to kill him was taken.

Secretary-General of JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, said the allegation was designed to tarnish the organisation’s image, the Minister’s and those of other Islamic organisations.

He asked security agencies to immediately investigate the allegation and fish out those behind it.

He said: “To start with, how could Sheikh Pantami chair a JNI meeting while he was not one of its leaders either at the National or state levels?

“What could have necessitated the combination of Bauchi, Plateau, Niger and Kaduna states from different geo-political zones in the meeting?

“If Yakowa was vehemently hated by the Muslims and were desperately trying to ‘get rid’ of him, how did he win the 2011 elections in a Muslim dominated state of Kaduna where a Muslim-Muslim ticket recently sailed through? Who voted him in?

“The so-called pieces of minutes shared by the media to further confuse and manipulate an average Nigerian’s mind into believing this orchestrated lie has further confirmed the desperation of the perpetrators.

“It is very perplexing and heart-rending that minutes of an assassination plot could be written and kept. How disheartening and disgusting!

“We thought the plot against Sheikh Pantami is politically motivated, but surprisingly it is assuming to be a more sinister dimension born out of a well thought-out scheme designed to smear and tarnish the image and the good name of the JNI and other Muslim organisations.

“Considering the various concerns raised by many citizens, vis’-a’- vis the attendant consequence of the scandalous allegation, we wish to place on record and for posterity that such never occurred and the JNI does not operate in such a dubious manner. We are at loss as to why is this allegation coming up just now, many years after the demise of Mr Yakowa?”“This should be treated with utmost urgency and the JNI is ready to fully cooperate with the security agencies in this regard.”

John Joseph Hayab, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kaduna State, who served as religious affairs adviser to Yakowa, had also dismissed the allegations.

He said: “There is no point, now or later, to open up what will not bring back Yakowa but rather open up old wounds in a very controversial manner.”

 Pantami’s case different from Adeosun’s — Presidency

Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, argued that the alleged certificate forgery case of former Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun cannot be compared with the alleged extremist views on terror groups expressed by Pantami.

Adeosun had resigned as minister in September 2018 after she was accused of forging her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate.

Shehu spoke yesterday during an interview on Channels TV programme, Politics Today, monitored by The Nation.

The Nation learnt that part of the many arguments of Nigerians calling for Pantami’s resignation is hinged on the fact that Adeosun was haunted because of her past and she resigned.

But Shehu explained that the presidency’s response “would have been different” if Pantami had forged his certificate like Adeosun did.

The Presidency had defended the embattled Minister saying he made enemies because he tried to put Nigeria first and had initiated plans and policies that would profit the public.

“In the second case which is that of Pantami, you are probing the thoughts, what is called ‘McCarthyism’; you search the inner recesses of the minds of individuals, bring out things they have said, or they are about to say, or you think they would say, and use that against them,” he said.

(The Nation)

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Marwa Warns Against Cannabis Legalisation

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Says “It is money versus life”

 

President Muhammadu Buhari (right) with the Chairman of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mohammed Buba Marwa at the State House, Abuja, during a visit by Marwa to brief him on the activities of the agency (photo by The Guardian)

Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd), has enjoined members of the National Assembly not to support to move to legalise cannabis, cautioning that members who vote for it might not be able to return to their constituencies.Marwa made the submission yesterday while fielding questions from newsmen after he met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.

The former military administrator of Lagos said the World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed the dangers of cannabis to the brain, disclosing that Nigeria was the highest consumer of the substance globally.

Vowing that Nigeria would not submit to the push for its legalisation, Marwa said: “Now, the WHO itself has declared that cannabis affects the brain, alters brain function. It destabilises and affects behaviour. It also affects body organs, and at some point, it can lead to death.

“So, while we appreciate those who want to legalise it for financial gains, we have to be careful to reconcile it with life. So, it’s money versus life. And up to this point, science has not developed up to the point where it can remove the THC in cannabis to zero.

“Therefore, cannabis is harmful to our health; it is a danger to society. We must never allow its legalisation. What’s more, Nigeria has 10.6 million cannabis users; this is the highest in the world. Isn’t it sad?

“We should be the highest in science, technology, mathematics, physics and not highest in cannabis. That is something we need.

“We can never support legalisation and I don’t see how the National Assembly would pass the bill because I know 90 per cent or more of the honourable and distinguished members of the National Assembly know the implications of this legalisation. They dare not go back to their constituencies if anyone signs legalisation because we are seeing the implication on the ground. The youth, the families are being destroyed because of cannabis and drugs. It wouldn’t be legalised by the grace of God.”

Marwa, who revealed that he has received constant death threats from criminals in the course of his assignment, said he was not concerned even though he takes precautions.

Specifically, on the threats, he quipped: “Severally! It’s almost a daily occurrence because my phone number is open. Equally, messages come through family, through colleagues, and sometimes people at random whom we don’t know but I live in the territory. That said, we also take precautions.”

The NDLEA boss said he was at that presidential villa to brief President Buhari on the recent activities of the agency, especially the move to construct barracks for personnel of the agency, saying he received a positive response from the president on the initiative.

“Well, the President told us well done. And that well done does not go to Gen. Marwa but the NDLEA officers and men. And if there’s a secret behind it, we thank the Almighty God for the successes recorded so far, and also to the gallant and professional officers and men of the NDLEA who have remained upstanding.”

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Court freezes Kogi State Govt’s Bank Account over N20billion Salary Loan Fraud

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Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State

 

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday froze a Kogi salary bailout account domiciled in a new generation bank over a N20 billion loan obtained from the bank.

Justice Tijjani Garba Ringim made the order pending the conclusion of an investigation or possible prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The agency approached the court via an ex-parte application brought pursuant to Section 44(2) of the Constitution and Section 34(1) of the EFCC Act.

Its counsel, Mr A. O. Muhammed, informed the court that the order was necessary to preserve the res and abate further dissipation of the funds in the account.

Moving the application, Muhammed alleged that the N20b loan was meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the state government but was kept in an interest yielding account with the bank.

He added that instead of using the money for the purpose it was meant for, the Kogi State Government instructed the bank to transfer the money from the loan account and place same in a fixed deposit account.

According to the agency, the bank is yet to present any credible evidence to show that the facility is well secured.

Granting the application, Justice Ringim ordered the EFCC to publish the order in a national newspaper and make a quarterly report to the court on the progress of its investigation.

The judge adjourned the matter till December 1, for the report of Investigation.

The EFCC’s allegations were made in its 13-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex-parte motion deposed to by a member of a team of investigators attached to the Chairman Monitoring Unit Lagos of the EFCC.

The document averred that the Commission received credible and direct intelligence which led to the tracing of funds reasonably suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities warehoused in the account with the name Kogi State Salary Bailout Account

He said the Commission acted on the said intelligence and assigned same to the Chairman Monitoring Unit, where it was discovered that on April 1, 2019, the management approved an offer of an N20billion bailout loan facility for the Kogi State Government.

According to the deponent, on June 19, 2019, fiscal year, the Kogi State Government, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Office of the Commissioner, applied for a credit facility of N20billion with an interest rate of nine per cent for a tenure of 240 months from the bank”.

The agency added that the said facility was meant to augment the salary payment and running cost of the state government.

It stated further that on June 26, 2019, the credit facility offer was accepted vide a memorandum of acceptance signed by Governor Alhaji Yahaya Bello, Asiwaju Idris Asiru, the Commissioner of Finance Kogi State; and one Alhaji Momoh Jibrin, Accountant General, Kogi State.

It averred that before the said application for a loan, the Kogi State Government on the 19th June 2019 vide a letter to the Manager of the bank in Lokoja applied for an account opening in the Bank with the name Kogi State Salary Bailout Account with Alhaji Momoh Jubril, Accountant General of the State and Elijah Evinemi Ag. Director Treasury as the signatories to the said account.

“That upon the opening of the said account disbursed salary intervention loan to the tune of N20billion to the account.

“That rather than use the intervention funds for the purpose for which it was granted, the State Government proceeded to open a fixed deposit account No. 0073572696.

“That on the 25 day of July 2019, the bank acting on the instruction of the Kogi State Government transferred the money from the loan account and placed same on the aforementioned fixed deposit account.

“That the said account sought to be frozen received the sum of twenty billion naira, (N20, 000,000,000) on the 25th July 2019.

“That as of 1st day of April 2021 the balance standing to the credit of the said fixed deposit account was N19,333,333,333.36 billion

“That we are still tracing what the sum of N666,666,666.64 billion, has been deducted from the said funds and were not used for the payment of the salary.

“That the Commission has the statutory mandate to prevent the Commission of economic and financial Crimes with the shores of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That investigation in this matter is still ongoing and this application is pertinent to secure the funds in the said account to prevent them from being totally dissipated.

“That without freezing the nominated accounts, there is no better way of preserving

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