Achi, a former lecturer at the Kaduna State University, Kaduna, explains to KAYODE OYERO how his son, Sunday, was killed at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University mosque in Bauchi State when the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, was the Chief Imam of the university’s mosque
A former lecturer of Industrial Chemistry at the Kaduna State University, Professor Samuel Achi, has narrated how his son, Sunday Achi, was strangled at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University mosque in Bauchi State.
The 67-year-old don also said he was aware that Nigeria’s current Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, was the Chief Imam of the university’s mosque when the incident happened on December 9, 2004.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday, Samuel said his 24-year-old son and 400-level student of Architecture at the ATBU at the time was murdered by Muslim students over allegation that he circulated a tract that contained blasphemous content.
The father said the late Sunday was the leader of the students’ fellowship of the Evangelical Church Winning All Ministry. He said the tracts shared by his late son did not contain any blasphemous content but the Pantami-led Muslim community at the university pronounced a ‘fatwa’ on his son.
He said the Muslim students killed his son and threw his body off ATBU mosque, adding that he was able to retrieve the remains of Sunday with the intervention of the then governors of Kaduna and Bauchi states.
The father of the late student said, “The incident happened in the early hours of the 9th of December (2004). It was from the night of December 8 to the early hours of December 9 that it happened. From the fact that I had; from clear indications; from the confirmed information that I had, he was not stoned. He was actually strangled inside the mosque. His body was discovered outside the university mosque.”
The academic, who said he had forgiven all those involved in the sadistic killing of his son, however, stressed that were Pantami, who was the then chief imam of the mosque a man of peace, the killing of his son would not have occurred.
The don told The PUNCH, “As a Christian, my belief is that even though they killed him by pronouncing fatwa against him, he was doing God’s work, so, I don’t think we have to worry about it. God has comforted us and we have been able to forgive everybody that did that terrible act.
“Of course, we have no control over it but the blood of my son would always hunt whoever has a hand in killing him.”
When asked specifically if he was aware that Pantami was the Chief Imam at the ATBU mosque at the time, the sexagenarian, who sounded slightly still heartbroken and not ready to reopen the memories, said, “Of course yes, it is all over the place, I don’t want to go back on that.”
“We are not surprised to hear news out of it. We have actually forgiven everybody involved in his killing,” he added.
A top official of ATBU also told The PUNCH that Sunday was killed in December 2004 when Pantami was the Chief Imam of the school.
The official, who craved anonymity, said, “We lost a student called Sunday Achi in 2004 when Pantami was the Chief Imam. Pantami was a student but was later retained in the school.”
However, when contacted, Pantami’s aide, Uwa Suleiman, told The PUNCH that the claim by Samuel was not true. She declined further comments on the matter.
The minister’s aide said, “The allegations are not true. Do your research but the allegations are not true.”
Pantami has come under fire over his past controversial comments on terrorist groups including Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
Pantami had since renounced his radical pro-terrorists comments, saying he now knows better but Nigerians have been unsparing and relentless in the call for the sacking of the minister.
Meanwhile, a former Assistant Director with the Department of State Services, Dennis Amachree, has said the secret police screened the embattled communications minister before his confirmation as minister in 2019.
Amachree spoke on Wednesday while featuring on PUNCH Online interview programme, The Roundtable.
He, however, said the minister must have sailed through DSS and Senate screenings due to a lot of factors including federal character balancing.
Pantami, a former director-general with the National Information Technology Development Agency, is the only member of the Federal Executive Council from Gombe State.
Speaking on the PUNCH Online programme on Wednesday, the ex-DSS director also said the minister should resign as it was difficult to change someone of his kind.
He said the DSS has information on all individuals of interest, adding that the minister’s past extremist views were communicated to the Federal Government and the legislature.
Amachree said, “There is no information that escapes the DSS, we have all of it, all. When I was working there, we keep a catalogue of anybody of interest that comes up to limelight in this country.
“During the vetting process for anybody to be appointed a minister or commissioner or anything, your name is sent to the SSS for vetting. They check your background up to the extent of your grandmother. They check your schools up to the extent of your primary school. And of course, they keep a tab on you online and offline. We get a lot from open source intelligence and I can tell you that in Pantami’s case, we have it.
“But there is a political angle to it. When somebody is being appointed, if the security agencies see that there is something wrong with his name, they will send it to the appointing agency. The appointing agency will now decide amongst other variables either religious variable, federal character balancing variable, or political variable and say that, ‘Oh, yes, we know that this guy has this and that but let’s appoint him.
“So, the political decision is not taken by the SSS. Even when you go to the Senate for confirmation, there is party by party and you can see that there are some political candidates that the opposition party will say that this one will not be appointed but because he belongs to that party, they will appoint him. So, these are political and federal balancing where they will say that there is nobody from this place that has been appointed, so let’s appoint him.”
The ex-DSS director further said the United States was gathering information on the communications minister.
Amachree said, “He (Pantami) has just submitted his name into US database. The cataloguing of people is not automatic, it comes in drips and drops. Now, people are talking about him and that has come to the attention of the United States Embassy in Nigeria already. Now, they will do a deeper dive into his background. They will catalogue him and now they will start watching him and if it comes to a very critical level, they will place him on a no-fly zone.”
Opposition Peoples Democratic Party has also called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to fire Pantami if he fails to voluntarily resign like ex-finance minister, Kemi Adeosun. The PDP also wants the Department of State Services to probe the communications minister.
The Nigerian Twitter community also said Isa Pantami could not be trusted with the data of Nigerians, especially with the ongoing National Identification Number and Subscriber Identity Module integration exercise under his watch.
The hashtag, #PantamiResignNow, has since been trending online for days.