Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has explained that forces against the Federal Government policy of compulsory National Identity Number (NIN) registration for all Nigerians and those residing in the country are behind the attacks against him.
Pantami in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES dismissed all the allegations against him, describing them as ‘untrue’.
He further denied links to extremist views, saying criminals and other ‘entrenched interests’ are behind the attacks on him. He said, “I have no doubt about this. It has to do with the National Identification Number. Do you know one thing? This policy was started in 2011, it was not successful. Why? It was fought.
“In 2015, it came up, it was not successful. In 2018 there was a time that there were meetings between government and mobile network operators.
“And it was actually announced that by the agreement with government, the deadline was January 2018. It is there online, I will share it with you if you like. By January 2018, it was not implemented, because there are forces against it. There are forces!
Pantami explained that the National Identification Number registration is not only meant for Nigerians and that it could be obtained by anybody in Nigeria.
“Now they have started coming with the news that people are coming from neighbouring countries to register. What they fail to understand is that the National Identification Number is not only for Nigerians; anybody in Nigeria can obtain it.
“Section 16 and 17 of the Act mention the registrable people in the country – citizens, legal residents, legal permanent residents, and legal residents for a minimum of two years. So, it is not only for citizens. And it is also important to know that this is not just an indication that they are citizens of Nigeria.
“It is rather an indication that you presented your biometric data, so the government has control over your data.
“And that data of NIMC (National Identity Management Commission), nobody has access to it in any way he likes. Getting access to it illegally is 10 years in prison. It is there in the law. But people will like to discredit it, because they don’t like it.
“As long as it is implemented by the government, it will go a long way in reducing crime and based on the statistics we have been seeing now, it’s really encouraging.
“As government, our priority is the protection of the lives and property of our citizens. Security is our priority as a government – whether in agric, digital economy, education or in health, in whatever. President Muhammadu Buahari is so passionate about security, and he directed me to do that because he knows I try to persevere despite challenges and do what is right in the interest of our citizens and humanity.”
“You know as a government appointee, and at this level, if you say you are going to be intimidated by everything, then you cannot do the work. You cannot do the work. I was with the Minister of Foreign Affairs this week, on April 12. I was with the minister. I was with the ambassadors of the U.K., the U.S., South Korea, and many other countries.
“Even this issue that we are talking about, based on our findings, preliminary investigation, many people are not happy with what we have been doing – linking National Identification Number with SIM. Because a situation will come that all the people using SIM to commit crime will not be able to do that.
“If they do that, the government will be able to intercept them easily. This is what they don’t want to happen.”
And this is a mandate given to me by President Muhammadu Buhari. He personally signed the letter that ‘you are mandated to do that’.
“As his appointee, I should either do it or say I cannot. So, since I am willing to serve my country, I must continue to do it to the best of my ability.
“So, in my meeting with them, they even encouraged me to push it and make it very successful.”
Source: The Nation