Yusuf Gagdi, a member of the House of Representatives, has said the Department of State Services did not inform the National Assembly of the past extremist views of the embattled Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, during his ministerial screening in 2019.
Gagdi, who represents Pankshin, Kanke and Kanam Federal Constituency in Plateau State at the House, spoke on Monday while featuring on TVC breakfast show.
The lawmaker said he was amongst those who screened Pantami in 2019.
He was reacting to a claim by a former Assistant Director with the DSS, Dennis Amachree, who said the secret police was aware of the alleged link of Pantami to terrorism before his confirmation for appointment as minister by the senate.
Amachree had earlier said the DSS decided not to make the reasons public, thus enabling Pantami to sail through Senate 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.
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 which were sympathetic towards terrorist groups, including the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. After initial denials, the minister later denounced his radical comments, saying he now knew better.
Meanwhile, the Presidency has exonerated the minister, saying that he should be forgiven because he made the statements at a much younger age.
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 practise in Nigeria,” he said.