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Re: The moral burden of a minister

Since the public got to know of the NCC-NIDCOM office allocation debacle, various sympathisers have intervened.

Besides stating the official position of NIDCOM in response to the NCC’s statement on this year’s Eid Fitr day, Sunday May 24, 2020 and the official response to another statement from NCC on Friday May 29, 2020 by Dr. Henry Nkemadu of NCC, this is my first entry on the matter.

In all the comments and writings, no person has questioned what happened from Feb. 11, 2020 when NIDCOM staff were prevented by the armed security guards, guarding the building to May 20, 2020 when the issue broke out through the minister’s Twitter handle deriding a commemorative video of NIDCOM activities.

Sadly and without any compelling logic, the minister dismissed that creative effort in which NIDCOM Chair, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa recounted the major challenges of the commission as a “Fat lie”.

The minister sparked the media exchanges with less than decent expressions to a fellow Muslim and a colleague in the same government and more importantly a woman, a wife, mother and grandmother referring to her as ‘a liar’.

Unknown to many, Abike Dabiri-Erewa on her return from an official trip to Ethiopia with Mr President, summoned all the displaced staff to her one room office at the Federal Secretariat and warned them not to make any public comment on the matter in order not to embarrass the government.

She also advised them since Friday February 14 to go back home and stop loitering around the lobby of the secretariat and be working from home.

All these happened before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in late March. She equally told the staff that all what happened had been documented and presented before the relevant authorities for intervention.

For the record, till date, the Minister did not inform, communicate in whatever form with Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa on why the office allocation by NCC was revoked.

At best, it was an sms message she got from NCC asking NIDCOM to vacate from the premises within one week. This quit notice was given on February 9 and forceful denial of gaining entrance occured on February 11 and it was on the orders of the Minister with deadline. This is a fact.

So when the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubair Dada, who is the direct supervisor of NIDCOM heard of the matter, he called Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa for proper briefing while Hon. Minister Pantami shunned the meeting invitation to resolve the matter but instead asked Minister Dada to come over to his office. By the way, Amb. Dada is not Pantami’s age mate in any way.

When the outburst became public from both personalities, some elders intervened and pleaded with them to sheath their swords and refrain from any Public comments.

It was after that that the minister now sharpened his media war with various undercover writings and opinions in both electronic, print and social media. This to me is unnecessary.  Even, on Friday May 29, 2020 at 3pm, he assembled all the Guild of Editors based in Abuja to a meeting in Wuse, Abuja. The outcome of it we shall be seeing in the next few days.

For a woman of distinction who has spent 15 glorious years at NTA,  three terms of 12 years in the House of Representatives parliament, three years as Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Affairs and now Chairman/CEO of NIDCOM in the last one year. All the records are there for anyone to check that she worked successfully and amiably with her male dominated counterparts.

So, Abike Dabiri-Erewa is not a jingoist or male chauvinist that will be playing the weakling female hater politics to win any sentiment. She has meandered and related successfully between men and women. In a nutshell, Abike Dabiri-Erewa does not need to brag about her achievements. She has achieved so much just as Dr  Isa Pantami has done his bit.

Back to the issue of office allocation, the excuse given by NCC that NIDCOM staff were ejected from the office because Mr President was visiting the 11- year old edifice to commission some projects did not hold water as that was not communicated to Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa as staff of NIDCOM would have even added colour and glamour to the proposed visit since both agencies are under the same Presidency. Not only that, the president didn’t visit the premises until late March 2020 where again Hon. Minister Pantami disrespected President Muhammadu Buhari when he breached protocols and forcefully stopped Prof. Umar Dambatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC from making his welcome speech in a live telecast programme. What a shame and arrogant use of power that is transient.

I really do not want to probe into the activities of Hon. Minister Pantami at NITDA when he was the DG there; I leave that to his lamenting staff to judge.

So the cock and bull stories and tales by moonlight narratives of some paid columnists and political jobbers on Abike Dabiri-Erewa is what I can refer to as balderdash.

In all these, the followings are not in doubt:

  1. An office, fifth floor of NCC annex, was allocated to NIDCOM through the kind gesture of NCC in June 2019.
  2. NIDCOM moved in gradually from October 2019 following major partitioning, renovation and furnishing.
  3. By December 2019, five major departments in NIDCOM moved in following installations of over 140 work stations as well as PABX supported international call centre in conjunction with Airtell Nigeria.
  4. The Chairman/CEO office was in preparation with painting, tiling and plumbing for her to move by mid February 2020 when the evacuation order came.

On the instruction of the minister through the EVC of NCC, NIDCOM chairman was notified on the need to evacuate from the building within one week without any prior notice as the Minister wanted to occupy the same office space and location.

  1. That NIDCOM staff were prevented from gaining entrance into the premises by gun bearing security personnel attached to the building and were disallowed to pick any of their personal belongings in the building.
  2. That on Feb. 14, 2020, NIDCOM learnt that its offices had been broken into and all the items including personal computers, printers, sensitive documents and personal belongings of staff were carted away to an unknown location.

Despite all these challenges, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa was determined to ensure that the work of the commission did not suffer in any way through her doggeness and dynamism.

So, it is expected that those who want to comment on this issue should have the fear of God to either counter or concur with the above assertions and prevail on the Minister to give the same directive to NCC to release all the NIDCOM properties in good condition.

To us at NIDCOM, we have put the office saga behind us and moved on. Enough of shenanigans and distractions to a focused and dynamic commission whose one year in existence was marked with over 41 major landmark achievements.

Abdur-Rahman Balogun is the Head of Media and Public Relations Unit, NIDCOM Abuja

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