Diaspora Commission alleges intimidation by Pantami

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Chairman, Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission, NIDCOM, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa has disclosed that over 40 office equipment, workstations and files belonging to NIDCOM staff are locked up at the Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC, building four months after the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, ordered the eviction of the diaspora commission from the facility.

The NIDCOM chairman stated that Pantami used armed security men to eject NIDCOM from the offices it was given in the NCC building located at Mbora District, on the Airport Road, Jabi, Abuja.

Dabiri-Erewa, who made the disclosure on a television programme at the weekend, noted that she had complained officially about the ill-treatment by the minister.

It was gathered that the eviction of the NIDCOM occurred on February 12, after the Communication Minister reportedly queried the propriety of housing the commission when it was not an agency under his ministry.

Dabiri-Erewa stated that the NCC duly offered its annex office at one of the meetings held with the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta in June 2019.

Subsequently, directives were said to have been given to the Director of Human Resources, Mrs Maryam Bayi who liaised with NIDCOM staff and delivered the building to the commission.

The commission further said that as part of its goodwill gesture, NCC approved and supplied some furniture items which were received in December 2019.

Responding to a questions on lack of office accommodation by her agency, Dabiri-Erewa stated: “The office we got, given to us by NCC, we were actually driven away by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami. Within two days, he drove us with guns.

“The place was given to us by NCC, we all help each other. The NCC said there is a place we can settle in and just as we settled in; I was in Ethiopia when I got a call. 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.

“Here is the thing: 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. I have written to the appropriate authorities, I have complained officially.”

The presidential aide further said that the NIDCOM was facing severe office accommodation challenge, noting 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 (in the building). I don’t have computers, I don’t have printers, everything has been locked up.

“After COVID-19, we are hoping we can get a space and these things that were locked up were personal laptops and printers of our very dedicated staff,” she added.

But reacting to the allegation in a statement on Sunday, spokesman of the NCC, Dr Henry Nkemadu said Pantami could not have ordered the eviction of the commission staff, adding that the NCC has not withdrawn the offer for the commission to use a space in its complex.

“The fifth floor allocated to NIDCOM had to be used to accommodate other departments from the NCC headquarters to ease congestion.

“The NCC has not withdrawn the offer but had hiccups arising from the preparation for the visit of the President Muhammadu Buhari to inaugurate the building and other projects relating to the mandate of government.”

But NIDCOM in a statement on Sunday, by its spokesman, Abdulrahman Balogun, dismissed the NCC’s claims, noting that about 40 office equipment belonging to its staff were carted away from the NCC building shortly after it was evicted.

It said the missing items 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.