The Chairman/CEO of Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, has accused Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, of forcefully ejecting the Commission from the building complex of the Nigeria Communications Commission, with the aid of armed security operatives. The veteran journalist and indefatigable Diaspora champion had alleged that the entire staff of the Commission she heads, were in February locked out of the office space they were using, on the order of the Minister. She also disclosed that they were denied access to some of the office equipment in their office and until date they have not been given access to the equipment. Mrs Dabiri-Erewa also accused Pantami of gender bias, saying that he did it because she is a woman. The Minister, however, denied that he sent gunmen to evict the staff of NiDCOM.
NiDCOM disclosed that the notice of evacuation was sent to them via SMS text on the 9th of February this year, and two days later, the forced ejection took place. Below is a video recorded by a staff of NiDCOM as the Secretary of the Commission calmed the nerves of staff converged at a lobby space in the building complex, and appealed to them to go back home until madam (Mrs Dabiri-Erewa) returns to Nigeria from an official assignment.
According to Mrs Dabiri-Erewa, she has gotten over the incidence, but she appeals that the Commission’s office equipment be returned to them.
The chairman of NiDCOM took to Twitter to fight dirty when the minister attempted to deny the allegations. She wrote: “We have since moved on. We don’t need that particular office. Let Dr Isa Pantami just be gracious enough to tell us where he locked up our equipment and release them. After the lockdown, we will settle for some options we already have.”
The Nigerian Communications Commission, in an unconvincing press release in response to NiDCOM revelations, confirmed that they had planned to evacuate some offices. But they denied that they did it with the help of armed security as alleged by NiDCOM. Neither, in the press release, did NCC deny that they only sent notice to NiDCOM via SMS two days before the staff were locked out of their office. Below is the press statement from NCC:
“Diaspora Commission Not Sent Packing from Digital Economy Complex, Says NCC
The attention of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been drawn to a video making the rounds on social media alleging that the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) was ignominiously thrown out of the NCC building.
It is, therefore, important that the general public is acquiesced with what really transpired with regard to the incident leading to the evacuation of the Diaspora Commission from the NCC building.
Following the completion of the NCC building at Mbora, Abuja designated as NCC Annex and the acute shortage of accommodation space for the staff of the Commission in the NCC Head Office at Maitama, Abuja, the Board of the Commission directed the decongestion of the Head Office Building.
Some of the Departments of the NCC had started moving to the new Office Complex of Five (5) Floors when discussions were held between the NCC and the Diaspora Commission to enable the Diaspora Commission also to utilise any free offices within the Complex.
The fifth floor allocated to them had to be used to accommodate other Departments from the NCC Headquarters to ease the congestion.
NCC’s offer to house NiDCOM was predicated on the long held position of the NCC that agencies of Government will achieve more through strategic collaboration, partnership, synergy and sharing to the extent allowed by relevant laws.
During this period, the NCC secured approval for the Commissioning of the Office Complex by the President, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari and the launching of four important projects of the NCC and the renamed Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (FMC&DE).
The projects include the launching and unveiling of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025; commissioning of the Communications and Digital Economy Complex; launching of the Emergency Communications Centre and Toll-Free number 112; and the flag-off of the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training.
These important projects were a culmination of extensive collaboration between NCC and the other Parastatals of the FMC&DE and fittingly the Complex was renamed the COMMUNICATIONS AND DIGITAL ECONOMY COMPLEX in tandem with the new drive of the Federal Government towards a digital economy.
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 other projects relating to the mandate of government.
The Board and Management of the NCC took a decision to ensure that every activity in the building was in line with the Federal Government’s digital agenda.
Incidentally, after the offer of the office spaces to the Diaspora Commission, the Director General (DG), 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.
At this time, only NCC Staff were accredited to have access within this premises as required by the security officials. All the properties belonging to the Diaspora Commission are safely warehoused in some of the Offices in the Complex.
This is contrary to the position of the DG of NDC that the removal of her Commission from the building was punitive.”
This matter is set to ruffle a lot of feathers. There could be both legal and administrative repercussions. Obviously, the last has not been heard of this. Moreover, it is already turning into a serious confrontation especially on the social media, between the south west supporters of the CEO of NiDCOM, and the north support for Dr Pantami. Even as detractors are already making narratives out of it in a way it will favour their own party.
Minister Pantami is one of the most trusted and brilliant professionals in the government of president Muhammadu Buhari, and Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa has been an amiable and hardworking appointee in the president’s administration. Therefore, it is important that the differences are settled quickly before it distracts them from their focus and synergy.