The Boko Haram terror group released a new video Saturday threatening to kill Nigeria’s Minister of Communication after the latter stated he would interrupt the group’s lines of communication.
Isa Ali Pantami was appointed Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy last August and recently said that Nigeria needs to take the battle against Boko Haram to the digital sphere.
“It is evident that terrorists are exploiting social media, encrypted communications, and the dark web to spread propaganda, recruit new followers and coordinate attacks,” Pantami said during a lecture on counter-terrorism in Abuja last Tuesday.
“Through the use of Big Data Analytical, Nigeria’s military and intelligence agencies analyse data gathered to understand background, motives, modus operandi and methods of communication of persons or groups of interest,” he said.
“Increase in computing power and machine learning has made it possible to examine huge amounts of data related to crimes and terrorism to identify underlying correlations and causes,” Pantami added.
On Feb. 13, Pantami said it would be “a great injustice to the Nation” for public officials to allow the platform under our supervision and regulation to be used to commit crimes.”
Specifically, Mr. Pantami directed the National Communication Commission (NCC) earlier this month to ensure no Nigerian has more than three phone numbers.
According to the new regulations, use of a National Identity Number (NIN) will be required for Nigerians registering new SIM cards, whereas foreigners will need to use their passports and visas.
Pantami also directed the Commission to sanitize mobile networks of all unregistered SIMs.
Although Pantami is himself a Muslim and an imam, he is Western educated, having obtained a PhD from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, and is therefore despised by Boko Haram, whose name translates “Western education is forbidden.”
On Saturday, Boko Haram released a video in which its leader, Abubakar Shekau, taunted and threatened the Minister of Communication, accusing him of being a bad Muslim and a Western collaborator.
“I am speaking to those who pretend to be good Muslims but they are not,” Shekau said. “God will judge the hypocrites of Islam who use the platform of religion to achieve their selfish gains.”
“This video message is specifically released because of one man, who thinks he has the knowledge and is knowledgeable about religion. Keep this message in your heart until you die if you don’t repent,” he said.
Speaking in Hausa, Fulani, and Kanuri, Shekau said: “From today, you will continue to live in sorrow, because I, Shekau, say so on behalf of Allah, Allah hears us, he is the judge in the hereafter.”
“This warning is for Isa Ali Panatami; don’t think simply because you preach in English or because you are called a doctor, means you have knowledge of Islam. You know nothing,” he said. “Today you have become a minister, and you are feeling you can achieve your selfish ends. You must know that speaking English is not Islam.”
“You said you are going to block phone lines and other means of communication, to frustrate the activities of Boko Haram. But you must understand that we don’t depend on such to send out our messages,” he continued.
“Our messengers are like the angels of God. How dare you attempt to stop the works we are doing for the creator of the heavens and earth, simply because you have become a slave to the western world and the country,” Shekau said.
“I swear to Allah, you are nothing. Initially, we did not bother with you, but now you have become a slave to the infidels; repent now and become a good Muslim. If you don’t comply from now on, death will come to you, Isa Ali Pantami,” he warned.
“I call on my brothers in Africa, in Nigeria, and everywhere to arise and do what is necessary. Let them know that what we did to Sheikh Jafar is just the tip of the iceberg,” he declared, likely in reference to the 2007 assassination of Sheikh Jafar Mahmud Adam, an Islamic scholar shot dead in his mosque.
A close ally of Jafar’s, Muslim cleric Adam Albani who had criticized Boko Haram, was also shot dead in 2014.
“Anywhere you see Isa Ali Pantami, don’t spare him,” Shekau tells his followers in Saturday’s video.
“Even Jafar tried the same thing but we dealt with him; talk less of you that is nothing in Islam. And from today on, you would not have peace of mind because you have dared Allah, his prophet and the religion of Islam.”
The spokesperson for the Communications Minister, Uwa Suleiman, said in a statement that Mr. Pantami is not afraid of threats made by Shekau, adding that the minister will not take any special precautionary measures to protect himself.
“The minister is not scared,” she said.