Dabiri-Erewa, Pantami disagree over alleged eviction of NiDCOM from office space
Nigeria’s communication and digital economy minister Isa Pantami is alleged to have evicted staff of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) out of their office space in Abuja.
“The office we got, given to us by NCC (Nigeria Communications Commission), we were actually driven away by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami. Within two days, he drove us with guns,” NIDCOM chairman Abike Dabiri-Erewa said on an NTA Network programme, The Diaspora.
“I came back from Ethiopia on a Thursday, this happened on Tuesday, by Friday, when I went to the office, there were guns, armed men had taken over the place, I thought it was a joke.”
Dabiri-Erewa said office equipment, workstations and files belonging staff of the agency were locked up at the Nigeria Communications Commission building, four months after the forced eviction.
A tweet posted on the Twitter handle of the agency said its staff were served a notice of evacuation via a text message on the 9th of February, 2020 and locked out of their office on the minister’s order on the 11 February 2020.
“Just two days after the initial notice which gave one-week ultimatum, the staff of NiDCOM were denied access into their offices by armed security men from the NSDC who ordered them not to go into the fifth-floor office of the commission,” NIDCOM spokesman Abdur-Rahman Balogun said in a statement on Sunday.
“Thereafter, the Director Special Duties of NCC informed NiDCOM staff that he is acting on the instruction from the Hon Minister Pantami to evacuate/refuse them entry into the building until further directive is given.”
Dabiri-Erewa said that the NiDCOM had accommodation challenge and expressed displeasure that the fifth-floor offices in the NCC building from where the commission was evicted are still vacant.
“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 computers, I don’t have printers, everything has been locked up,” Dabiri-Erewa said.
“I’m a government employee, so is he (Pantami). It’s government business. Do I go on the street and start fighting him? So, I said I would take the higher ground. I decided that I’m not going to raise any dust about it.”
The NiDCOM chairman said she has “written to the appropriate authorities, I have complained officially.“
NCC defends Pantami
Reacting to the allegation in a statement on Sunday, NCC spokesman, Dr Henry Nkemadu said Pantami could not have ordered the eviction of the commission staff because NiDCOM has an official existing offer to occupy the office space within its complex.
“The NCC has not withdrawn the offer but had hiccups arising from the preparation for the visit of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to inaugurate the building other projects relating to the mandate of government,” Nkemadu said.
“The fifth floor allocated to NiDCOM had to be used to accommodate other departments from the NCC headquarters to ease congestion.
Disagreeing with Nkemadu, Balogun said the claims made by the NCC’s spokesman were not true and blamed the situation on “the Hon. (Pantami) Minister’s arrogance and utmost humiliation of a government agency” which “is totally unwarranted.”
The missing properties of NiDCOM, Balogun said, include two units of single face data ports, 24 port patch panel, Mikrotik RB 750G router, Mikrotik cloud router switch, two Headsets with microphones, two Digital PABX, 4u Server racks, Patch cables, HP desk jet 1012 all in one printer, files and documents.
Balogun stated that the commission has since moved on and put the ugly incident behind it and looks forward to settling into any available office space after the COVID-19 lockdown.
In his response to a media report on Dabiri-Erewa’s claims, Pantami said, “this not a true story.”
Pantami tweeted that he “has never sent any gunmen since the building is not directly under him, but NCC” and urged the media outfit to “balance a story before reporting.”
The minister upheld NCC’s earlier statement where Dabiri-Erewa’s claims were dismissed.
Pantami, however, did not provide a detailed explanation of events that led to the alleged eviction. He also did not speak on the allegation that NiDCOM’s working equipment was locked up in NCC building.