The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami and his ministry, have been given a 48-hour ultimatum to account for N13.9 billion Service Wide vote collected from 2017 to 2021, by the Nigerian Senate.
This was made known by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Mathew Uroghide at an investigative hearing on Tuesday in Abuja.
This came as the Permanent Secretary of the ministry , William Alo, who had appeared on behalf of the Ministry before the lawmakers was unable to satisfactorily defend the expenditure of a whopping N13.9 billion and he was unable to provide any supporting documentation, which left the panellists perplexed about the Ministry’s culture of impunity.
The secretary therefore pleaded for more time to look for the documents relating to the funds. The request infuriated the lawmakers who disclosed that the Committee battled to have the Ministry’s officials appear before it for the past four months. Senator Uroghide said: “Based on records made available to the committee from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, a total of N13.9 billion was disbursed to the Ministry from the Service Wide votes for special capital projects execution from 2017 to 2021.”
The lawmaker stated that the Committee had written several letters of invitation but the officials keep reneging. “Only for you to come here today along with the DFA of the Ministry to beg for more time which would not be granted beyond Thursday this week because the committee must submit report to the Senate on how your Ministry and many of the other MDAs are running away from explanations on spendings made from the Service Wide Votes,” he said.
Uroghide said an investigation by the committee showed that government officials spent Service Wide Votes recklessly and insisted that the Ministry of Communications must explain how the fund was spent. The committee, however, granted the embattled Permanent Secretary another appearance before it on Thursday.
The minister, Pantami, was all over the news in 2021 over his past call to Jihad and his unalloyed support for murderous groups like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
“This jihad is an obligation for every single believer, especially in Nigeria,’’ Pantami was quoted as saying in one of his vicious preaching in the 2000s. “Oh God, give victory to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda,” he was quoted to have also said. In other audio clips that surfaced online, Pantami was also sympathetic to Boko Haram members when delivering sermons at several worship centres in the 2000s.
However, Pantami claimed he had renounced his radical comments and that his views had changed over time. He said he had in the past 15 years been traversing the country to preach against terrorism.
Despite the minister’s claim, most Nigerians said he ought to have resigned due to public backlash and be investigated by the authorities. Should he fail to resign, some commentators said he ought to be sacked by the President. But the Presidency, in glaring support for Pantami, dismissed the possibility of sacking the controversial minister because he had allegedly apologised for his radical views.