From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
In Akure, the capital of Ondo State, some workers are in a mournful mood. They are federal workers whose offices are located at the Federal Secretariat, situated along Egbatoro Road, Akure.
Right now, stakeholders in the state, particularly the workers, are worried. They claim that the poor condition of the secretariat has negative effects on the workers.
The secretariat was built in 1990 by the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. But today, it is in a sorry state. The facility is dilapidated, and the federal government has closed its eyes to the condition of the complex, doing absolutely nothing to rehabilitate it. And many people in Akure believe that, if only to enhance the productivity of the workers, the Federal Government should urgently rehabilitate the secretariat and return it to its old glory.
Findings by the reporter indicated that, for over 27 years, no meaningful rehabilitation work has been carried out by the government in the secretariat building. Right now, a lot of structures have become faulty, while many facilities no longer function in the complex.
Many of the workers have no space to function, just as some have no basic equipment needed to work in their offices.
Investigations by the reporter revealed that the facility accommodates over 80 per cent of workers of federal establishments in Ondo State. The secretariat houses many of the federal ministries, departments and agencies in the state. But it has become an eyesore, as it has not been renovated since it was constructed in 1990.
The secretariat today lacks a number of functional amenities necessary in a good working space. Air conditioning facilities and fans are lacking in many of the offices at the secretariat, just as many of the offices lack functional toilets.
Also, the windows in many of the offices are without nets and burglar bars, which make the documents in the offices unsafe.
A walk round the federal secretariat complex also shows that many of the buildings need rehabilitation, even as the entire building needs to be repainted to make it more attractive.
It was gathered that junior workers in the federal establishments working in the state are the ones mostly affected by the situation, as many of them are not given offices to function. For instance, drivers in the federal secretariat, it was gathered, use their cars as offices, while many mostly hang around the premises and return to the cars when their services are needed.
It was learnt that many of the workers using the federal secretariat now stay away from the facility as a result of the development.
A staff of the Federal Ministry of Works, who simply identified himself as Mr Seun, noted that the situation had made working cumbersome for federal government workers in the state using the secretariat.
He told the reporter: “The air conditioners in most of the offices are not working. Except for the offices of the directors, no other office in the entire secretariat has a functional air conditioner. There are no fans in some of the offices also, and this is not helpful to us.”
He also lamented that the staff of the ministries working at the secretariat have been spending their personal resources to repair many of the facilities in the secretariat, especially the toilets, many of which, he noted, were not functional.
A female worker at the secretariat, who described herself as Mrs. Kate, decried the deplorable condition of the secretariat and its neglect by the federal government. She stressed that the poor workplace conditions that the workers were being subjected to was unfavourable to them.
She pointed out that the intercom, which was supposed to serve the entire secretariat had been disconnected, even as the authorities of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), which supplies power to the facility, have been threatening to disconnect the secretariat from the grid.
she also lamented the absence of a functional elevator at the secretariat, noting that the situation had made movement from floor to floor very difficult for staff and visitors to the complex. She said the situation was not the same in other states that had federal secretariats, and called on the federal government to urgently intervene so as to make life comfortable for federal workers in Ondo State.
In his view, a gardener who gave his name as Bayo Babawale explained that the government had no incentives in place for low cadre workers, even as he complained that there were no pesticides and other chemicals used to kill grass and weeds, so the gardeners still use cutlasses and other manual tools to clear the weeds around the secretariat.
The Ondo State chapter chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mrs. Bosede Daramola, decried the poor state of the federal secretariat and called on the federal government to ameliorate the sufferings of the workers.
Mrs. Daramola attributed the situation to poor maintenance culture in the country, noting that government at all levels must do something fast to reverse the poor condition of service in order to boost workers’ productivity.
Another labour leader in the state, Mr. Sunday Adeleye, who is also the Ondo State chairman of the Nigeria Civil Service Union, called on the Head of Service of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to urgently ensure the renovation of the federal secretariat in Akure to boost the morale of federal civil servants using the building.
Adeleye lamented that poor treatment of junior workers was more worrisome, as drivers and other junior workers have no offices to perform their daily duties. He urged the federal government not to wait until the workers take to the streets before doing the right thing.
In his submission, the state chapter chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Mr. James Sowole, charged the federal government to look into the accommodation problems confronting many federal establishments that have offices in the state.
Sowole advocated an increase in budgetary allocations to the ministries, departments and agencies, especially the federal government-owned media establishments that are also affected by the problem.
However, most of the workers at the federal secretariat were unwilling to make any comment on the development. Many of those approached by the reporter said they had been instructed not to speak on issues bordering on the condition of the secretariat.