The embattled Minister of Communications and Digital Economic, Dr Isa Pantami, has stated that detractors who do not want the National identity Number registration project to succeed were behind the current religious attacks on his person.

Pantami added that they killed the NIN project first in 2011 and later in 2015 and 2018 because they did not want to forgo their criminal and selfish interests.

In an interview with Premium Times, the minister noted that he believed that the detractors were presently fighting the NIN project and were behind the hordes of attacks against him.

Pantami said, “I do not doubt 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 announced that by the agreement with the 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. Now they have started coming with the news that people are coming from neighbouring countries to register. They fail to understand 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 controls 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 ten years in prison. It is there in the law. But people will like to discredit it because they don’t like it.”

When asked if he was stopped for a search or denied a visa whenever he visited the United States of America, the minister said, “I will give you evidence here with me, just for your eyes. At least I obtained the U.S. visa probably three to four times. One will expire; you apply for another.

“Even the one I applied for last, they asked for information which I provided. Look at their reply (he showed reporters email evidence). You can see the email from the embassy saying, ‘okay, you can go ahead to submit your passport for the visa’. So there is no issue. I don’t have any issue. I have been travelling there.

“For example, in 2017, I was in the U.S. attending consumer electronic show. In 2018, I was there attending a consumer electronic show. And I was in Seattle based on the invitation of Microsoft, and in 2019 I was also there attending a consumer electronic show. And I was also at Harvard University, where I attended training as well. I also travelled to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a visit, where we had a partnership with them representing Nigeria and the government, and many more. These were between 2017 and the end of 2019.”

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