A member of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Gagdi, has revealed that the Department of State Services didn’t send any report to the National Assembly on the past extremist views of the embattled Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, during his ministerial screening in 2019.
The lawmaker, who is the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Navy, said he was amongst those who screened Pantami in 2019.
Gagdi, a member of the House representing Pankshin, Kanke and Kanam Federal Constituency in Plateau State, spoke on Monday while featuring on TVC breakfast show, ‘Your View’.
The lawmaker was reacting to a claim by a former Assistant Director with the DSS, Dennis Amachree, that the secret police screened Pantami before his confirmation as minister in 2019 but the minister sailed through National Assembly screening due to a lot of factors including federal character balancing.
When asked whether the DSS sent Pantami’s past extremist views to the National Assembly during his screening in 2019, Gagdi said, “I don’t think it is true that there was (anything) in that report regarding Pantami to the National Assembly, quote me anywhere.”
“What is clear which I stand by is that this pressure which some Nigerians who are privileged to know the commitment and disposition of Pantami when he was 34, why didn’t they bring it up to the attention of the National Assembly during the screening of the ministerial nominees?
“These Nigerians that have access to this very important information, what stopped them from hitting the media with it at the time the screening exercise was being conducted? That was the time the National Assembly had the power to reject nominations of the President or to confirm nominations. If the information had gone out and the National Assembly had gone ahead to confirm Pantami, then I will accept the responsibility that the National Assembly had done extremely bad,” the lawmaker added.
Efforts to reach DSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, proved abortive as of the time of filing this report as he neither responds to calls nor reply a text message sent.
Pantami, a former Director-General with the National Information Technology Development Agency, is the only member of the Federal Executive Council from Gombe State.
He has come under fire over his past controversial comments on terrorist groups including Taliban and Al-Qaeda. After initial denials, the minister later denounced his radical comments, saying he now knows better.
The regime of the President Muhammadu Buhari recently exonerated the minister, saying that he should be forgiven because he made the statements at a much younger age but Nigerians have been unsparing and relentless in the call for the sacking of the minister.
Speaking further on the television programme, the lawmaker said, “I think this issue of Pantami should not disqualify our democracy.”
Gagdi also said the President has a right to sack or retain Pantami in his cabinet.
“He (the President) has the right to either give the man (Pantami) a prerogative of mercy or to sack the man. That is his own power just as President (Donald) Trump before the end of his tenure decided to forgive criminals in the United States which was unacceptable to some democrats. It is the same democracy that we practice in Nigeria,” the lawmaker stated.