Abike Dabiri Erewa and Isa Pantami
By Our Reporter
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) Abike Dabiri-Erewa and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami are currently in supremacy battle and they have taken the battle to the media.
Dabiri Erewa accused the minister of ordering gunmen to throw out NIDCOM from an office given by the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC), an agency under the communications ministry.
Dabiri-Erewa, who spoke in a video tweeted by NIDCOM, said her commission no longer has an office but has been carrying on despite setbacks.
The chairperson said staff were not even allowed to take their property after armed men sealed the office, an annex of NCC’s head office, located at Mbora district in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“In one year, we don’t have an office. The office we got, given to us by NCC but we were actually driven away by the honourable minister of communications and digital economy, Mr Isa Pantami, within two days, they drove us out with guns and what happened? The place was given to us by NCC,” she said.
“You know we all help each other, NCC as an agency of government, said there is a place you can use to settle in, and just as we settled in, I was in Ethiopia when I got a call.
“I thought that it was a joke. I came back from Ethiopia on Thursday, this happened on Tuesday, by Friday when I went to the office, guns, armed men had taken over the place. I thought it was a joke, but here is the thing, I’m a government employee, so is he. It’s a government business.
“I have complained officially but we let it be. He wants the place, let him take it. That place is still there, a whole floor is still vacant. As I speak with you all our items are locked up. I don’t have computer, I don’t have printers, everything has been locked up.
“So after COVID-19 we are hoping that we can get a space and move in. These things locked are personal printers, personal laptops of our very dedicated staff because when you are just starting a lot of things are not there.”
In response to the allegation, The NCC said NIDCOM was not sent packing from its complex.
Henry Nkemadu, NCC’s director of public affairs, said at the time the office space was offered to NIDCOM, the communications commission had already got approval for the inauguration of the complex by President Muhammadu Buhari and these led to some “hiccups.”
“The NCC has not withdrawn the offer but had hiccups arising from the preparation for the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the Communications and Digital Economy Complex and launch of other projects relating to the mandate of government,” Nkemadu said.
“Incidentally, after the offer of the office spaces to the NDC, the Director General, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa had not visited the Complex to take possession of any of the offices and also the Commission had not started using any of these spaces as offices.
“As is usual in ensuring security and accountability before, during and after presidential visits, the building had to be cleared to allow for only known and identifiable persons to have access within the Complex.
“Therefore, the Honourable Minister of the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, could not have sent armed men to drive the staff of the Diaspora Commission out of the Communications and Digital Economy Complex.”
Responding to the statement, NIDCOM insisted that its offices at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) were broken into and items carted away.
In a statement on Sunday, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, NIDCOM’s head of media and public relations, said the commission was given a week to move out of the complex but two days into the ultimatum, they were denied access to the building.
“Unfortunately, on Friday 14th February after the chairman returned from Ethiopia a day before, she visited the complex to shockingly find that offices were broken into and all items including the 140 workstations, personal computers, printers, sensitive documents and personal belongings of staff were carted away. The call centre was locked up,” Balogun said.
While listing files, computers, chairs as some of the items that were carted away, the head of public relations said an agency of government “ought not to be shabbily treated in a dehumanising manner.”
Balogun said the minister should have allowed staff of NIDCOM evacuate their belongings instead of the alleged break-in into their offices.
“The commission still has no access to all equipment, furniture and other items carted away on the instructions of the minister,” he said.
“The commission has since moved on, and put the ugly incident behind it as it looks forward to settling into any available office space after the COVID-19 lockdown.”
Reacting to the allegations, Pantami described NIDCOM CEO’s allegation as “a big fat lie”.
“THIS IS A FAT LIE FROM HER: The owner of the building @NgComCommission has faulted her lies on their social media platforms.
“The minister has never given that directives to any gunman. We need to be very objective in reporting. I have never sent any gunmen there, and I have no one,” the minister tweeted