The Muhammadu Buhari government says it is looking into allegations of media corruption targeted at destroying the career of communications minister Isa Pantami.
Pantami recently came under heavy fire over comments he made in the past in apparent support for terrorism and Islamic violence. But the Nigerian government says he will not be fired.
The government has instead launched an investigation into telecoms and other ICT operators for allegedly bribing the Nigerian media to destroy Pantami whom it commended for doing a great job.
The probe could put investigative journalist David Hundeyin, who has reported extensively on Pantami’s extremist views, in danger. Hundeyin has also appeared on prominent TV programmes to defend his reporting. Meanwhile, Pantami has not denied the allegations against him. He only renounced extremism and offered a public apology.
But Buhari’s spokesperson Garba Shehu said Pantami is the reason Nigerians now enjoy cheaper data services and other economic benefits, adding that telecoms operators were unhappy with the situation.
“There is now well-reported information that alleges newspaper editors rebuffed an attempt to financially induce them to run a smear campaign against the minister by some ICT companies, many of which do indeed stand to lose financially through lower prices and greater consumer protections,” Shehu said in a statement issued on behalf of the presidency on Thursday.
“The government is now investigating the veracity behind these claims of attempted inducement, and — should they be found to hold credence — police and judicial action must be expected.
“The administration stands behind Minister Pantami and all Nigerian citizens to ensure they receive fair treatment, fair prices, and fair protection in ICT services,” he said.
Reacting to the presidency, journalist and founder of Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ), ‘Fisayo Soyombo, said the Buhari government has openly thrown his weight behind terrorism.
“The presidency was gifted a landmark opportunity to proclaim its aversion to terror or any form of it,” Soyombo said in a social media post on Thursday. “Instead, it released a statement ‘standing by Pantami.’
“This is tacit endorsement of terrorism.
“The governmentt is emboldening people to go ahead and spew hate, and return years later to a pat on the back.”