A former Assistant Director with the Department of State Services, Dennis Amachree, has said the secret police informed the Nigerian government and the National Assembly of the past radical pro-Taliban views of embattled Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, before his confirmation as minister in 2019.
Amachree spoke on PUNCH Online interview programme, The Roundtable, on Wednesday.
He, however, said the minister must have been confirmed by the National Assembly due to a lot of factors, including federal character balancing.
Pantami, a former director-general with the National Information Technology Development Agency, is the only member of the Federal Executive Council from Gombe State.
Many Nigerians have called for the sacking or resignation of Pantami after some comments he made some years ago came into light, which support Islamic extremism.
“We are all happy whenever unbelievers are killed,” Pantami once said as an Islamic scholar and cleric.
He also hailed Osama Bin Laden, who orchestrated the terrorist attacks on United States soil on September 11, 2001, saying the terrorist “is a better Muslim than myself.”
Pantami once also condemned Muslims who took up government positions, saying he would never join politics or take up a role in government.
Like many Nigerians, the ex-DSS director also called for the resignation of the embattled minister.
According to him, the Department of State Services (DSS) has information on all individuals of interest, adding that the minister’s past extremist views were communicated to the Federal Government and the legislature.
Amachree said, “There is no information that escapes the DSS, we have all of it, all. When I was working there, we keep a catalogue of anybody of interest that comes up to the limelight in this country.
“During the vetting process for anybody to be appointed a minister or commissioner or anything, your name is sent to the State Security Service (SSS) for vetting. They check your background up to the extent of your grandmother. They check your schools up to the extent of your primary school. And of course, they keep a tab on you online and offline. We get a lot from open source intelligence and I can tell you that in Pantami’s case, we have it.
“But there is a political angle to it. When somebody is being appointed, if the security agencies see that there is something wrong with his name, they will send it to the appointing agency. The appointing agency will now decide amongst other variables either religious variable, federal character balancing variable, or political variable and say that, ‘Oh, yes, we know that this guy has this and that but let’s appoint him.
“So, the political decision is not taken by the SSS. Even when you go to the Senate for confirmation, there is party by party and you can see that there are some political candidates that the opposition party will say that this one will not be appointed but because he belongs to that party, they will appoint him. So, these are political and federal balancing where they will say that there is nobody from this place that has been appointed, so let’s appoint him.”
The ex-DSS director added that the US was gathering information on Pantami.
Amachree said, “He (Pantami) has just submitted his name into US database. The cataloguing of people is not automatic, it comes in drips and drops. Now, people are talking about him and that has come to the attention of the United States Embassy in Nigeria already. Now, they will do a deeper dive into his background. They will catalogue him and now they will start watching him and if it comes to a very critical level, they will place him on a no-fly zone.”