The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has expressed anger over calls for the Department of State Services to invite the Communications Minister, Ali Pantami for questioning over his comments on terror groups by the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Samson Ayokunle.
NSCIA said forgetting the cordial relationship and mutual understanding and trust that exist between Christian and Muslim leaders in the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), the President of CAN, jumped “into the frontline of the unreasonable ones, asking the Department of State Services to go after Pantami.”
A statement by Prof. Salisu Shehu, the Deputy Secretary-General of the NSCIA, said the body under the leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Saad Abubakar, has been inundated with barrages and deluge of lies, fabrications and smear campaigns being churned out against Pantami.
The authority said it had an unshakable conviction that Pantami is a man of impeccable character, a genuine Islamic scholar, a responsible and right honourable public servant and a person globally recognized as a man of peace and integrity and would survive the alleged campaigns of calumny.
NSCIA called the “attacks” on the minister, the handiwork of enemies and premeditated and well-calculated plots to witch-hunt.
The Islamic leadership absolved Pantami of blame, noting that he has been leading Friday Prayers, conducting Tafsir, study circles, preaching sessions, delivering lectures for more than 20 years.
NSCIA added that he excelled in his field of computer science/ICT, recalling that when NITDA was recommended for scrapping, Pantami’s agency made it a vibrant agency.
“His appointment as the Minister of Communication has brought transformation and vigorous and unprecedented pursuit of the mandate of the Ministry. His effort to put the telecom industry on the path of global best practices is appreciated by all patriotic Nigerians.
“His stance on deviant and violent groups is well-known. Then suddenly the mainstream and social media became loaded with all sorts of trash thrown at the Minister. Today they say he was a supporter of the Taliban. Tomorrow they say he plotted the killing of Yakowa. Another day they say he is on the watch-list.
“The NSCIA as the apex body of Islamic affairs is in a good position to know Ulama and organizations that harbour deviant ideologies as well as moderate and nominal Muslims. The statements and actions of the Hon. Minister speak for themselves.
“The Honourable Minister Pantami remains one of the vital vocal forces against terrorism and terrorist activities in the country. He was among the pioneer Islamic Scholars who publicly and openly condemned the activities and antics of Boko Haram Groups. Pantami’s debates especially with the leader of Boko Haram, Muhammad Yusuf, despite possible repercussions, unequivocally, proved him to be frontline and audacious Nigerian scholar against terrorism.
“The National President of CAN needs to be reminded that the NSCIA has always exercised restraints on issues involving individual political office holders except when it becomes ultimately necessary like in the present case.
“If the NSCIA has been as prejudicious and as pathologically hateful, it would have asked the Nigerian Government in 2008 and 2009 to arrest and investigate a one time prominent, active and vocal Christian Minister who at three different instances bailed the late leader of Boko Haram when the latter was arrested by the Nigerian Security agents.
“In fact, it is pertinent here to ask the CAN National President that between Honourable Minister Pantami who engaged the leader of Boko Haram in debates against his wrong and misguided ideologies and that Christian Minister who bailed Muhammad Yusuf three times who is it the country should rightly accuse of being a friend, supporter or member of the extremist group Boko Haram?
“At this point, the NSCIA wishes to commend the courage, brevity, rightful intervention and patriotism of the Kaduna State Branch of CAN for standing up for truth and saying it as it is through their statement which unequivocally distanced Dr. Pantami from the mischievous allegations peddled by purveyors of hatred with vilifying vituperation of venom as news causing confusion in the land”, the statement added.