Okwe Obi, Abuja
There are some ironies that stare one in the face anytime he or she is in the Ministry of Water Resources, Abuja, and one of them is that you would have to contend with lack of water.
Another thing is that right from the gate, the building has a gloomy appearance. One is accosted by flickering bulbs from the ground floor to a section of the third floor. Civil servants are forced to strain their eyes. They make use of the light from outside. The ground, which has a visitors’ toilet, stinks. The stench that emanates from the restroom forces people to use whatever is in their hands to cover their nose.
The toilets are old and dirty. There is no good toilet seat. They don’t have basins either. The doors are worn out and the toilet door is left ajar with an eerie creacking sound. What is found in abundance are naked wires snaking all around the place.
Curiously, the ministry that is in charge of the nation’s water often does not have water to keep its environment clean. When there is water, they micro-manage it. The pipes that connect the toilet are broken and begging for replacements. Those who use the toilets can’t flush them. They are compelled use a cup to scoop water from a decrepit bucket after making use of the dilapidated system.
Aside from the poor state of the toilets, some corners of the staircase are an eyesore. The staircase that leads to first floor has become a resting spot for cleaners. Cartons and utensils are littered around the dark corners.
Those who use the staircase for domestic purposes justify it on their poor condition. Daily Sun spoke to one of the security guards who claimed that their salary was N20,000 and, most times, they are not paid at the end of the month.
The guard, who pleaded for anonymity for fear of being vicitmised, claimed that, “The ministry pays our company more than N1.2 millionbut we are paid N20,000 monthly. Not only that, we don’t ‘get alert’ at the end of the month. In fact, our May salary was paid in July. The situation affects our savings and planning.”
Whether it is deliberate or accidental, the wing taken by most staff is hygienically different from the wing of the minister. The minister’s wing is well lighted. The air-conditioning systems are functional. The walls are sparkling.
Director of press in the ministry, Margaret Umoh, did not contest the fact that some parts of the ministry’s edifice were begging for rehabilitation but was quick to rule out neglect. According to her the minister is doing everything to renovate the dilapidated structure.
She said, “You are talking about the toilet, I think the toilets are being renovated as we speak. When the minister came on board, one of the first things he looked at was the environment of the office and also the working condition of the office.
“The second floor was done in last year’s budget. If you had seen the conference room before, it was nothing to write home about but now it is wearing a glowing look, which was made possible with the 2016 budget.
“In this year’s (2017) budget, all the toilets have been earmarked for renovation. During the renovation of the second floor, some pipes were damaged by the contractors so that affected some places in the ministry, including my office. But I was shocked to see water running in my office because it was on which I didn’t know. Before the end of this year you won’t see what you are seeing. The 2017 budget is sufficient to give the building a befitting look.”
Umoh debunked claims that the ministry was owing any security guard. On the number of security guards in the ministry she said she did not have accurate figures of security guards in the ministry.
“I am not in the position to answer that question. But I know that they are being paid as at when due. Talking about number, I don’t have an accurate number of them. If you had given me the questions ahead I would have done my investigation and give you the accurate number. I also think that the number security men are even more than enough. Because we also have policemen. If you look outside you will see a police post there. So I believe there are more than enough.”, she explained
Speaking as to why people sleep under the staircase, she responded: “We don’t have accommodation for them. And also there need to be on standby. There are not visitors. There are among us.”