Dabiri-Erewa, Pantami in war of words over alleged eviction of NIDCOM staff/

The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, have engaged themselves in a war of words on the social media over alleged forced eviction of NIDCOM staff from their Abuja office.

In a heated controversy on Sunday, Dabiri-Erewa, had in several posts on Twitter, slammed Pantami for ordering eviction of her staff, noting the action was indicative of his age-long disrespect for women.

The former House of Reps member said the working tools of her evicted staff were locked up, adding that the office was given to them by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

In a video posted on Twitter, the NIDCOM boss had said: “In one year, we don’t even have an office. The office we got, given to us by the NCC, we were actually driven away by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami. Within two days he drove us out with guns and what happened? The place was given to us by the NCC.

“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 government business. Do I go on the street and start fighting. No. So, I said I would take the moral higher ground.

“I have complained officially, but we let it be. He wants the place, let him take it. And 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 a computer; I don’t have printers, everything has been locked up.”

Reacting to the allegations, however, Pantami described Dabiri-Erewa as a liar.

“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 directive to any gunman. We need to be very objective in reporting. I have never sent any gunmen there, and I have no one,” he replied. 

The NIDCOM boss also fired back noting: “An Islamic scholar should not lie. Hon minister (Phd), you did that to me because I am a woman. Your disrespect for women is legendary. Left the ugly incident behind me since February. But please, release all our office equipment. Public office is transient."

She would later post a video of the stranded NIDCOM workers who were being addressed to stay calm.

“To refresh you sir, despite your denial; the secretary of the commission seeking calm after staff resumed for work and denied access to the 5th floor office of NIDCOM based on your instruction. Turned back by armed men! Haba!!!!” Dabiri-Erewa added.

Meanwhile, the NCC in a statement issued through its Director of Public Affairs, Henry Nkemadu, denied claims that NIDCOM staff were forced out of the complex.

The statement read: “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.

“Incidentally, after the offer of the office spaces to the NDC (NIDCOM), 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."