THROWBACK: Breakdown Of How Senate Approved Isa Pantami As Communications Minister

 On July 26, 2019, Isa Pantami, then-director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), was screened as a ministerial nominee by the senate.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who would later make him minister of communications and digital economy, had forwarded his name alongside 42 others to the federal lawmakers for consideration.

Nearly two years in office, Pantami is in the news over his extremist views in support of terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Although the minister has recanted the pro-Al-Qaeda comments, Nigerians have been tackling the senate for not raising the issue when they screened him.

Let’s rewind to how his screening went down:

After Pantami was admitted into the red chamber, Senate President Ahmad Lawan told the nominee that he should elaborate on his records as contained in his curriculum vitae and also on other issues that “will be helpful” to the lawmakers.

“We have your CV. But you can emphasise on those things in the CV that you think needs special notes by the senate, and you can also say any other information that you think will be helpful but has not been included in the CV,” Lawan told the nominee.

Pantami then spoke for about 10 minutes, touching on his academic qualifications and work experience, before the senators engaged him for the next 30 minutes.

However, none of the seven lawmakers who spoke afterwards asked him about his past activities as an Islamic scholar, including the lectures during which he made the extremist comments.

Although he was asked to speak on a number of key issues ranging from the country’s digital economy to out-of-school children and Nigeria’s tax policy, a good number of the lawmakers showered him with encomiums while focusing on his curriculum vitae.

For instance, Ibrahim Hadejia from Jigawa north said he “can attest to most of the achievements” in Pantami’s CV; Adedayo Adeyeye from Ekiti south told him, “from your resumé, you are a very qualified person”; while Barau Jibrin from Kano north remarked, “I am fascinated by your CV”.

“In any case, you are well known in this country. One does not need to look at your CV before he or she agrees that you have a profound pedigree,” Jibrin had added.

After the first batch of questions, four senators — including George Sekibo, Albert Bassey, Ifeanyi Ubah and Dino Melaye — who had earlier indicated interest to ask the nominee questions suddenly chose not to ask again.

Enter Danjuma Goje from Gombe central who said he was “very proud” of Pantami, also from Gombe.

“I am very proud because before the entry of this candidate whose only one side we have heard — he has two sides; he is a computer scientist but he is also a man of very, very high integrity and a very good, excellent, well-known Islamic scholar, a preacher,” the senator said.

“So, when you bring these two sides together, Mr President… by his presentation and performance, the chamber is okay. (He is) very excellent (and) I am very proud. 

“So, on behalf of the caucus of the state and Gombe people, we are unanimously grateful to Mr. President for recognising this very special talent and bring him to the limelight. We totally endorse his nomination. On this call, I will urge my colleagues and Mr. President to ask the nominee to take a bow and go.”

Four days later, the senate confirmed the nomination of Pantami and other minister-designates, all of whom, according to Lawan, were Nigerians of “great quality”.

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