The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, on Sunday traded words on Twitter over the forced eviction of NIDCOM staff from their office at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
While Dabiri-Erewa, in a series of tweets, accused Pantami of being disrespectful to women, the minister, who tweeted back, called the NIDCOM boss a liar.
The scuffle between the duo started after the former House of Reps member, in a video posted on NIDCOM Twitter page, accused Pantami of ordering armed men to chase away her workers from their office.
She noted that the office was given to them by the Nigerian Communications Commission, lamenting that the working tools of the staff had been locked up.
She said in the video, “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 a 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.”
However, the minister, in a tweet to the video, called Dabiri-Erewa 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 wrote.
The NIDCOM boss, while quoting Pantami’s tweet, said he chased the workers away because he did not respect women.
“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 wrote.
She then posted 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.
Pantami retweeted supports from some of his followers, who urged him to take legal action against Dabiri-Erewa for defamation of character.
He also shared a statement from the NCC, which had also absolved him of blame in the matter.
The agency’s Director of Public Affairs, Henry Nkemadu, said NIDCOM was not forced out of the complex.
“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,” the statement said.