‘I have changed several positions,’ Pantami says about past comments supporting extremism

Communications Minister Isa Pantami has renounced some of the controversial comments he made in the past that showed he supported Islamic extremist views.

Mr Pantami has been under fire since the clips of some of his lectures resurfaced over a decade later, some of which showed he was sympathetic to extremist sects like Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

The clips quickly caught online frenzy as many Nigerians demanded that the minister resign.

Others tore into the minister asking him to clarify the statements or at the least renounce them if truly his opinion has evolved.

While responding to questions during his daily Ramadan lecture at Anoor Mosque in Abuja on Saturday, the minister, an Islamic cleric, said his position on the subject has since changed, Daily Trust reported.

He noted that his position on the subject was based on the information he had at the time, some of which were the consensus opinion among clerics in northern Nigeria at the dawn of the faceoff between the West and some Islamic countries in the early mid-2000s.

“Some of the comments I made some years ago that are generating controversies now were based on my understanding of religious issues at the time, and I have changed several positions taken in the past based on new evidence and maturity,” Daily Trust quoted him as saying.

“I was young when I made some of the comments; I was in university, some of the comments were made when I was a teenager. I started preaching when I was 13, many scholars and individuals did not understand some of international events and therefore took some positions based on their understanding, some have come to change their positions later.”

The minister nonetheless doubled down on his comment that some of the criticism he had received in the past days were politically motivated.

He also claimed that he has pushed for peace and preached to deradicalize convert young people who countenanced extremist views.

READ ALSO: Why I am being linked to extremism – Isa Pantami

“For 15 years, I have moved round the country while educating people about the dangers of terrorism. I have travelled to Katsina, Gombe, Borno, Kano states and Difa in Niger Republic to preach against terrorism.

“I have engaged those with Boko Haram ideologies in different places. I have been writing pamphlets in Hausa, English and Arabic. I have managed to bring back several young persons who have derailed from the right path,” Daily Trust quoted him as saying.

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Mr Pantami’s past came under public scrutiny earlier in the week when some platforms ran a story claiming that the minister was under the U.S. watch list for terrorism.

The papers would later retract the story and apologize. Checks by this newspaper also show that there was no evidence that Mr Pantami’s was on a U.S. watchlist.

The accusation soon spiralled as some audio tapes surfaced where the minister was heard sympathizing with the extremist sects. Many of the tapes were of Islamic preachings the minister did over a decade ago.

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