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Presidency battles to save Pantami as Reps plan debate

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The Presidency may have ruled out the possibility of sacking the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.

The Presidency said Pantami’s ordeals was not about his past utterances but about his current job as a minister.

This is just as the House of Representatives said members were ready to debate the issues around the minister.

The Presidency in a statement on Thursday said Pantami’s ordeal in the hands of those calling for his sacking was not about his past utterances but about his current job as a minister.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, made the Presidency’s position know in a statement titled, ‘Statement by the Presidency on recent campaign against the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.’

The Presidency aligned itself with the submission of the embattled minister that he was young when he made those statements and that his position had since changed.

The statement reads partly, “The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, is currently subject to a ‘cancel campaign’ instigated by those who seek his removal.

“They 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. But they will profit should he be stopped from making decisions that improve the lives of everyday Nigerians.

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“The minister has, rightly, apologised for what he said in the early 2000s. The views were absolutely unacceptable then, and would be equally unacceptable today, were he to repeat them. But he will not repeat them – for he has publicly and permanently condemned his earlier utterances as wrong.”

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Shehu said the embattled minister had been leading the charge against illegal data deductions and pricing; revolutionising the government’s virtual public engagement to respond to COVID-19 and saved taxpayers’ money.

“He has established ICT start-up centres to boost youth entrepreneurship and create jobs; he has changed policy to ensure locally produced ICT content is used by ministries, starting with his own; and he has deregistered some 9.2 million SIMs – ending the ability for criminals and terrorists to flagrantly use mobile networks undetected.”

However, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, in a statement issued on Thursday said the house would debate the issues around Pantami when it was properly presented.

The statement read, “The House will hear Rep Elumelu’s call for Pantami’s resignation when it is properly presented before it.

“The House is aware of several publications on online and traditional media claiming that the Speaker of the House, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, blocked a motion by the Minority Leader of the House, Ndudi Elumelu, purportedly demanding the resignation of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.”

Kalu added, “For the avoidance of doubt, the House is guided by the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives (House Rules) in its operations and administration. In this case, the Minority Leader 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.

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“He ought to have come under Order 8 Rule 4, as a matter of urgent national importance, or via a motion on notice to enable other members second the motion and make their contributions through debate in true democratic fashion, after which the House would be able to take a position on the issue.

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“It is, therefore, pertinent to inform Nigerians that the House has not acted in error but in line with the provisions of its rules. All insinuations that the House did not allow democratic debate to take place on the important issue of Pantami’s resignation are simple untrue.

“As always, the House stands ready to give audience to Rep. 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.”

Pantami has been in public space for his past comment supporting the violent cause of extremist Islamist sects and jihadist narratives of al-Qaeda and the Taliban before he became a minister in the cabinet of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

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