Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Pantami, and chairman/CEO Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, have taken their fight on the use of office spaces in the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) building to the court of public opinion via Twitter, with the latter describing the response to her accusations of forceful eviction of her staff by the minister as lies.
While replying a tweet by TheCable on the NCC’s reaction to her accusations, Dabiri-Erewa tweeted: “Hmm. Dia is God ooooooo @DrIsaPantami @NgComCommission. We have moved on. But the holy Prophet Mohammed (Pboh) abhors lies (as contained in your response) especially as we mark the end of Ramadan.”
Pantami, while responding to a tweet by SaharaReporters “#PressPlay: Nigeria’s Communication Minister, @DrIsaPantami, Asks Gunmen To Chase @AbikeDabiri, other NIDCOM staff from office complex In Abuja,” tweeted “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, & I have no one.”
But, Dabiri-Erewa, in responding to the minister’s tweet, linked her ordeal to being a woman.
“An Islamic scholar should not lie Hon Minister. (Phd)You did that to me cos I am a woman. Your disrespect for women is legendary. Left the ugly incident behind me since Feb. But pls release all our office equipment. Public office is transient. @DrIsaPantami.”
Head of the media and public relations unit of NIDCOM, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, in a statement, said the commission, being an agency of government ought not to be treated in a dehumanising manner by the minister.
“The minister’s claim that the space was allocated for years is definitely false as NIDCOM is just one year in existence. We must, however, thank the chairman/CEO of NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who, despite all these, was determined to ensure that the work of the commission did not suffer in any way, through her doggedness and dynamism. As stated in the chairman’s remarks as the commission marked its one year in office, the minister’s arrogance and utmost humiliation of a government agency is totally unwarranted. However, 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,” Balogun said.
He added that the minister should acknowledge the fact that NIDCOM was not occupying the office spaces in the NCC for personal use by staff, but rather for official governmental functions.
He said Dabiri-Erewa was on an official assignment with President Muhammadu Buhari in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on February 9, 2020, when staff were given one week by Pantami to pack out, but within 48 hours of the notice to quit they were forcefully evicted by security operatives attached to the complex on the orders of the minister on February 11.
The commission claimed 39 items were still under lock and key in the NCC commission and appealed to be allowed to move those items out.