The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has denied links to terrorism and extremism, claiming that criminals and other entrenched interests are behind the attacks on him.
The minister in an interview with Premium Times said the allegations levelled against are being peddled by forces that are against the federal government policy of compulsory national identity registration.
“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,” he said
Pantami said that the registration exercise had been attempted both in 2015 and in 2018, but ended up in futility because of the same reason.
“You have to try and investigate as a journalist. In 2015, it came up, it was not successful. In 2018 there was a time that there were meetings between government and mobile network operators. By January 2018, it was not implemented, because there are forces against it,” he said.
Pantami also addressed claims that had been made against the exercise, one of which is that citizens of neighbouring countries are coming to register for the NIN. Pantami said that the law allows for not just citizens to be registered, but even legal residents of the country as well.
“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.”
“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,” he explained.
Mr Pantami said despite the attacks on him, he would remain focused on his job.
“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,” he said.