Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Chairman/CEO Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ali Pantami have taken their fight on office space to Twitter, with the former describing the response to her accusations of forceful eviction of her staff as lies.
While replying a tweet by TheCable on Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) reaction to her accusations, she tweeted: “Hmmmmm. 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.”
To which Dabiri-Erewa responded: “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 eguipment.Public office is transient [email protected]”
According to a statement, Head, Media and Public Relations Unit NIDCOM, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, the commission insisted an agency of government ought not to be shabbily treated in a dehumanising manner.
The commission also said the Minister, should have acknowledged the fact that the aim of NiDCOM for using the office spaces was not for personal functions but rather for governmental functions with regards to Diaspora engagements.
It added that Minister should have seen the need to give the Chairman of the Commission audience so as to let the Commission staff evacuate their belongings by themselves rather than breaking into the offices without their consent.
The Commission added it still has no access to all equipment, furniture and other items carted away on the instructions of the Minister.
It said: “The Hon 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, Hon. 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 Hon. 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.”
The Commission insisted that Dabiri-Erewa was on official assignment with President Muhammadu Buhari in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, on the 9th of February, when the staff were given one week by Pantami to pack out but within 48 hours of the said quit notice, they were forcefully evicted by security operatives attached to the complex on the orders of the Minister on February 11.
The commission listed 39 items still under lock and key in the NCC commission.
The statement read in parts: Our attention has been drawn to a statement signed by Dr Henry Nkemadu, Director of Public Affairs of Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) on Sunday May 24, 2020 describing the forcing out of the staff of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) from the occupied fifth floor of NCC Annex Mbora as mere “allegation”.
The fact of the matter is that the said fifth floor was allocated to NIDCOM by NCC Management since June 2019 and handed over by Mrs Maryam Bayi, its Director Human Resources.
But due to lack of basic facilities in the complex, NIDCOM staff could not move in gradually until October 2019.
But while our Chairman/CEO Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa was on official assignment with Mr President in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, on the 9th of February, the staff were given one week by the Hon. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ali Pantami to pack out but within 48 hours of the said quit notice, they were forcefully evicted by security operatives attached to the complex on the orders of the Minister on February 11.
On the allegation that NIDCOM did not move into the offices when allocated, this is untrue, false accusation and contradictory to the statement of NCC to the effect that NIDCOM properties were warehoused and intact in the annex.”
The commission said it is in possession of a video recorded on the 11 th of February when the Secretary of the Commssion was addressing the staff during the shock quit notice.
Below is our story:
The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) offered its annex office located at Mbora District Abuja to NiDCOM. This offer was made at one of the meetings held with the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta at Maitama, Abuja in June 2019.
Subsequently, directives were given to the Director Human Resources; Mrs Maryam Bayi who liaised with NiDCOM staff and delivered the building to the Commission. Furthermore, as part of its goodwill gesture, NCC then approved and supplied some furniture items to NiDCOM which was received in December, 2019.
The furniture supplied were similar to those supplied to NCC, so as to fit into the design of the building.
Meanwhile, NiDCOM upon taking delivery of the building made provision of some furniture’s, equipment’s and infrastructures in the building. It proceeded to install workstations for over 140 staff of the Commission which was completed by November, 2019.
It also went ahead to install a PABX supported International Call centre in conjunction with Airtel Nigeria Ltd. Likewise, since the executive offices were not tiled, ceramic tiles that were already bought were installed the same week the evacuation notice was given. That is, the Commission commenced the installation of high-quality ceramic tiles in the offices of the executive’s officers on the 5th floor which was occupied by the Commission. This went on alongside painting works, general plumbing and fixing of doors handles etc.
Prior to this, the Department of Technology Transfer & Innovation of the Commission and some staff of Finance department , and administration ,moved into the building at the end of October 2019 while the other departments followed subsequently.
The executive chairman’s office was also in preparation for her to move by mid-February 2020. This movement into the building required that several computing and electronic devices as well as many sensitive documents and personal belongings were also moved.
On the 9th February, 2020, the Chairman of NiDCOM was notified by the EVC of NCC on the need to evacuate the building within one week without any prior notice. This was said to be on the instruction of the Hon. Minister of Communications & Digital Economy who also want to occupy the same office space & location. The Chairman was at that time on an official Predidential delegation to Ethiopia.
By Tuesday 11th 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.
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.
The NiDCOM staff obliged on the instruction of the executive chairman of the Commission not to resist the directive and complied on the condition that no items in any of the offices will be tampered with until the management of the two agencies are involved and modus-operandi agreed upon.
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 work stations, personal computers, printers, sensitive documents and personal belongings of staff were carted away. The call centre was locked up
For the avoidance of doubt, the following is the list of some of the items which NiDCOM believes have been carted away.
Two units of single face data ports; 24 port patch panel; 1 Mikrotik RB 750G router; 1 Mikrotik cloud router switch; 2 Headsets with microphones; 2 Digital PABX; 1 4u Server racks; Patch cables; 3 UPS; 1 HP desk jet 1012 all in one printer; 1 HP desk jet all in one printer (brand-new with the Carton); 1 Mercury UPS (brand-new with the Carton); 1 Ellington extension cable (brand-new); 2 3meter extension boxes; Data Antenna; 7 HP All in one desktop; Camera tripod; Cannon 700 digital camera; Xenon laptop; 144 Work stations & 144 Swivel office chairs; 2 Meter mini conference table; 6 Conference table chairs; 3 Meter executive office furniture set; 1 Executive sofa set; 4 Executive office furniture set; 12 Executive office visitors’ chairs; 5 4-seater work stations; 2 Reclineable executive chairs; 4 Ergonomic executive office chairs with lumbar support; Technology Transfer & Innovation department files and documents; Legal department files and documents; Accounts department files and documents; Secretary to the Commission’s office entire files and documents; Admin department entire files and documents; Diaspora relations department entire files and documents; Media department entire files and documents; Roll up banners; Staff personal belonging such as printers, UPS, extension cables, stationeries (cartons of Chamex papers, staplers, pins, notice board) files & documents & toiletries etc, 140 work stations.