Communication Sector: Powerful Forces Against Pantami
By Ahmed Shuaibu Gara Gombe
Lately, there seems to be a wide range of missiles being fired at the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Sheikh (Dr) Isa Ali Ibrahin Pantami by a group of people in the country.
If they are not finding faults with how the Honourable Minister guided the Head of an Agency under his Ministry from going against protocol in the presence of Mr. President, they are sponsoring proxies to embark on smear campaigns against his office or any person close to him.
But the discerning would notice that even at the height of the sponsored campaigns of calumny, none has been able to question the competence or professional integrity of the Honourable Minister.
Most of the criticisms and attacks are borne out of the pursuit of self interests as against what should constitute the general good.
It will interest many to know some of the reasons Pantami, who unarguably is one the best performing Ministers in the current administration, has become the focus of attacks by some elites in the country.
Many have forgotten that it was Pantami who sanitised the security network in the country by his insistence on checking the number of unregistered SIM cards which had hitherto been criminally neglected to the detriment of the people of the country who have as a result suffered under various forms of crimes including kidnapping, internet scams and many others.
People also forget that it was Pantami who intervened when some telecom operators in Nigeria wanted to start charging for bank transactions done via mobile phones.
These are only a few of the many reasons why some self-centred and greedy individuals have taken it upon themselves to discredit the hardworking Minister but unknown to them, Nigerians are watching and taking note of what is happening.
Many would be surprised to discover how ridiculous some of the reasons for the gang up against the Minister as some boil down to mere envy and inordinate ambitions.
The second force against the minister is from his home State of Gombe. This is because the political class in the State are not happy and have not forgiven the President for bypassing them to pick Pantami as his Ministerial nominee from the State.
It will interest many to know that Pantami’s name was not included among the three names submitted from Gombe for consideration as Minister, but the President, knowing Pantami’s capacity, reached out to him to come and serve in his cabinet.
Again, that has not gone down well with the political elites and leaders in Gombe who are also trying to pull him down in any way they can.
Another thing is that when Pantami was nominated as Minister, there were some of his colleague nominees who, after the screening, were interested in being posted to the Ministry of Communications because they consider it lucrative.
But the President chose Pantami over all the lobbyists and again this angered some people who are now hell bent on working against the Minister.
Some Heads of Agencies under the Ministry are also not happy that Pantami, unlike his predecessor, came with deep knowledge and understanding of what ICT is all about and cannot be misled into taking the wrong decisions.
One of the very first things he did, as stated earlier, was to insist on SIM card registration and gave all the Agencies under his Ministry, tasks with a performance index to ensure maximum compliance.
He directed the NCC to block all unregistered SIM cards and make it difficult for unregistered SIM cards to enjoy space in the sector.
Due to his insistence, the number of unregistered, pre-registered or partially registered SIM cards in the country went down from 9.2 million to 5 and later to 2.4 million which later went down to zero (0).
Today there’s no single unregistered SIM in the country as they have all been blocked!
But the operators are not happy with the Minister over this because of what they were making from allowing shady SIMs in the system.
As if that was not enough, the Minister fought the telecoms companies on the issue of data expiration and call dropping.
The Minister ensured that the charges on data are reduced while drop calls and unsolicited SMS and messages which the telecoms companies used to place charges on are stopped.
The Minister also nipped in the bud the attempt by some unscrupulous elements to fleece Nigerians through the introduction of charges on financial transactions done on mobile phones which as mentioned earlier, the Minister stopped.
All these did not go down well with the telecoms companies because they were all conspiring against the people of Nigeria due to what they were benefiting from it.
Another thing the Minister did which irked some people in government was that when he came on board, he found out that the ministry of trade and investment is the one coordinating digital economy in the country with a committee which the ministry of communications is part of .
When Pantami came, he said no to that practice and explained to the authorities that everywhere in the world, it is the Ministry of Communications that coordinates digital economy because they control the platforms for it.
Two Ministers fought him in the Federal Executive Council over this. One of the Ministers even went to the Council and submitted a Memo to establish an Agency for Digital Economy under his office but Pantami shot it down with the backing of the President.
Not done with that, Pantami again requested the Council to rename his Ministry to Communications and Digital Economy and the President asked him to submit a Memo to that effect which he did and was approved.
The two Ministers dragging the Digital Economy portfolio with him were not happy.
Before becoming a Minister, Pantami who was heading the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) as its Director General ensured that the principle of federal character was implemented at the agency but this also did not go down well with some in the sector.
This positioned the Agency for the stellar performance it recorded under the period in question.
In order to consolidate on that gain, Pantami nominated Malam Kashifu Inuwa to President Buhari who appointed him as DG of NITDA.
Kashifu who is not even from the state with Pantami was seconded to the Agency from the CBN due to his competence based on a personal request by Pantami as he is well known in the ICT sector. He was on top of his set at Harvard and is one of the best brains in the ICT sector in Nigeria today.
But this has also angered some people even though his competence as a telecom guru cannot be questioned.
From these one can see that the gang up against Pantami are purely selfish and meant to stop a man who is sticking out his neck for the overall interest of the country.
Pantami is an expert in the field of communications, he attended some of the best schools in the world so he is well exposed and cannot be deceived by the head of any Agency under the Ministry unlike his predecessors.
He is one of the best Ministers in the current administration in terms of performance and is also a world renown Islamic Scholar.
They know that with such a credential, the Minister is set to revolutionise the ICT sector in Nigeria for the better and that is why they are after him.
Gara Gombe, a commentator on national issues is based in Abuja.