The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, on Monday, said criminals across the country are “feeling the heat” of the ongoing linking of National Identification Numbers (NIN) with Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM).
He made the comment while reacting to the retraction of a story published by an online news site.
The story had purportedly linked the Minister to Boko Haram.
“On the issue of NIN-SIM Verification to fight insecurity, there is no going back,” he said.
“Our priority as GOVERNMENT based is on the provision of our constitution 1999 (as amended) Section 14(2)b is SECURITY, not just economy.
“For sure, no going back at all. Let the sponsors continue.
“If you are yet to verify your SIM using NIN, do it very soon, before our next action. Criminals are feeling the heat.”
Hours earlier a story had circulated that Pantami was on a US watchlist as a result of links to terrorism activities.
“My lectures against the doctrines and all other evil people have been available for over 15 years, including debates that endangered my life against many criminals in Nigeria,” Pantami said, apparently referring to a video in which he appeared alongside Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf.
“If you can’t understand Hausa, get an objective Hausa speaker to translate for you objectively.”
Pantami has vowed to sue the publishers of the story.
“Major publishers will meet my lawyers in the court on this defamation of character,” he said.
Presidential spokesman, Bashir Ahmad, also condemned the report which he described as “fake” and “a false and dangerous narrative.”
“Dr. Pantami has never been on any US watchlist,” Mr. Bashir said.
Meanwhile, the minister has written to the publishers of Daily Independent newspaper, demanding retraction and a public apology over the story.
The minister’s action follows the publication of an unconfirmed report, alleging that the he is on the watchlist of the United States for his connection to insurgents.
Speaking through his legal representatives, Karina Tunyan & Company, in a letter on Monday, Pantami issued a 24-hour ultimatum to the newspaper to retract the story or face legal consequences.
He also demanded that the newspaper tenders a public apology, which should be published in renowned print and online media platforms.
According to the letter signed by Michael Numa, and addressed to the managing director/editor-in-chief of the newspaper, the lawyers said Pantami’s reputation was badly damaged by the publication.
The lawyers described the report as a “false, malicious, misleading and degrading narrative simply targeted at tarnishing and bringing the good name of our client and that of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to disrepute”.
“That you are hereby given a 24-hour notice from the date of receipt of this letter to categorically retract your libelous statement made against our client,” the letter reads.
“That the said retraction and letter of apology be published in at least 5 print media circulated nationwide and 5 different renowned online media outfits across the globe.
“That you convene a press conference to publicly announce your retraction while dissociating our client from the false claims you made which are seriously injurious to our client’s personality.”
According to the lawyers, failure to comply with the minister’s demands within the stipulated time will lead to the commencement of legal proceedings against the paper and all persons involved.
The inspector-general of police, director-general of the department of state security (DSS), and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) were copied in the letter.