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Pantami: CHRICED Admonishes Federal Government, Warns of Serious Implications for Nigeria

The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) absolutely condemns the cavalier, lax and unacceptably permissive reaction of the Federal Government to the recent revelation that a cabinet minister, Isa Pantami was once an avid supporter of the activities of the global terrorist group, Al Qaeda. It is unimaginable that in the face of incontrovertible facts that Pantami indeed openly endorsed the extremist worldview of the terror group, he has remained in the cabinet of the Buhari Government. To add further insult to injury, the Presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria went on to lend the weight of the institution to such an anomaly by openly declaring that it “stands with Pantami.” 

CHRICED is of the well-considered position that the statement by the Presidency which openly declared support for a sympathiser of a terrorist organisation, is the most damaging communication to ever emanate from the Nigerian Presidency. On the basis of that statement alone, countries around the world would not be blamed if they decide to categorise or classify Nigeria as a state-supporter of the activities of terrorists. This very grotesque reality, which appears lost on the government, would then become the basis for further maltreatment and harassment of Nigerians in airports around the world. It is disturbing that the government of the day has of its own volition showcased readiness to embrace and cozy up to someone with a long history of endorsing terrorism and extremism. It is unacceptable that the government would take such a brazen position without considering the very serious implications for Nigerians in the diaspora and around the world. 

Consequently, the position of the government is absolutely bizarre when it is considered that this is a country currently grappling with the reality of global terrorism. As we speak, thousands of Nigerians in several communities in the North-east live in fear for their lives as a result of the heinous activities of Boko Haram terrorists. Many more are dying in droves as a result of the activities of terrorists, who have been rebranded as bandits. The so-called Islamic State of the West Africa Province (ISWAP), which is a franchise of the larger global terror machine has found a foothold in the Lake Chad Basin. Enormous human and material resources have been expended in the bid to defeat the terrorists. Given the ferocity with which these extremist groups have spilled the blood and claimed the lives of Nigerians, it is unbelievable that a government which says it is committed to rooting out terror, will be pampering and harbouring a terror sympathiser within its fold.   

For the avoidance of doubt, the Federal Government should also know that its position on the Pantami issue has effectively damaged its relationship with key allies needed to vanquish the terrorists who have made life a nightmare in Nigeria. How will the government expect to get the cooperation of key allies like the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the relevant agencies within the landscape of multilateral diplomacy, if it is seen as a state that harbours someone with extremist views right inside its cabinet? How will these allies trust Nigeria with high caliber weapons, technology and intelligence when they know that such secrets could be accessed by a sympathiser of a global terror group? The government does not seem to understand that its handling of the Pantami affair could invite serious reprimand from the Financial Action Task Force, which is the watchdog for global money laundering and terrorist financing. If the government’s half-hearted claim that Pantami has changed is anything to go by, the question to ask is: when did he become de-radicalised? Did he pass through any known process to purge him of his extremist views. How safe is the biometric information of close to 200 million Nigerians in the hands of a terror sympathiser? These are fundamental questions, which the government must immediately answer, if it is to be taken seriously.   

Importantly, the other issue to think about is the implication of the government’s offhand approach to this issue on the internal realities of the country. For a country that is already being torn apart by sectarian strife, the government’s decision to side with a terror sympathiser has sent the wrong signal and further heightened mutual suspicions. This careless and reckless decision is live ammunition in the hands of separatist agitators who would stop at nothing to ensure the country implodes. All these considered, it is a big blow to the health of our country that Pantami has been given the greenlight to continue in high office despite his tainted past. For a country, which has been struggling to defeat an insurgency for over one decade now, the expectation is that the government would not condone any close or remote association with terrorism. To our mind therefore, the proper thing to do is for the government to ensure Pantami is kicked out immediately to face investigations, and subsequent accountability for his past association with terror groups. Responsible statesmanship should have been the way to go, particularly to achieve the objective of putting the interest of the country above the personal interest of an individual. As the ancient saying goes, a stitch in time, saves nine. 


Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi

Executive Director

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