Isa Ali Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, has said he no longer holds radical views on the operations of terrorist groups, saying his worldview has evolved as he has become more mature.
Pantami said this while answering questions during his daily Ramadan lecture at Annor Mosque in Abuja on Saturday.
The minister has been subject to intense criticism in recent days after his previous videos and audios of his sermons surfaced on social media, suggesting that he tacitly supported the activities of terrorist groups, including Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
He has been in the spotlight after the Daily Independent published a report claiming that the minister, a known Islamic preacher before his appointment, is said to be a very close confidant of the late Mohammed Yusuf, the killed leader of Boko Haram with whom he allegedly shared jihadist doctrines.
The newspaper, in its now-retracted report, also reported that Pantami has been placed on the watch list of America’s Intelligence Service.
According to Pantami, he made some of the comments when he started his preaching at a young age based on his understanding of religious issues.
He noted many scholars and individuals when he was younger did not understand some of the international events, but stated that his views have now changed having got more enlightened over the years.
“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.
“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.
“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 Daily Trust quoted Pantami as saying.