Introduction: It once stood as first of its kind and magnitude in the entire landscape of the country; a source of pride and reference, built whe
It once stood as first of its kind and magnitude in the entire landscape of the country; a source of pride and reference, built when the rest of Nigeria looked up to Rivers State for inspirational leadership; the construction of the Rivers State Secretariat Complex was a strong statement at the time, that Rivers State is a trail blazer in the art of modern governance.
Over four decades after it was built by the administration of Navy Commander Alfred Diette-Spiff (rtd), only the Federal Government Secretariat in the new city of Abuja has a comparable presence. No State government in the entire federation, has been able to equal this indelible imprint of the very first administration of Rivers State created in 1967.
The Rivers State Secretariat Complex is a cluster of five high-rise buildings made up of three 7-storey buildings called Block A, B and C; a 10-storey building called the Podium Block and a 17-storey building called the Point Block, which though built before 1975, remains the tallest building in the whole of South-East and South-South of Nigeria.
The Diette-Spiff administration had started a sixth high-rise building before the government was overthrown in 1975 and no administration after it could complete the building until the Odili administration put a roof over what was on ground. It is the new Rivers State Ministry of Justice building.
The Rivers State Secretariat Complex as the seat of government administration was a beautiful sight to behold, a tourist attraction and a source of pride to every Rivers man and woman. Its landscape was adorned with exotic flowers, well-paved driveways and parking slots. All the buildings had central air-conditioning and multiple elevators. The complex had giant electricity generators and constant water supply. All the facilities in the complex were properly maintained and they functioned perfectly.
All that is now history as the Rivers State Secretariat Complex is in a deplorable state characterized by dilapidating structures, filthy environment and dysfunctional facilities. Gone is the once radiant glory of the Rivers State Secretariat Complex. The central air-conditioning in the buildings have since gone bad and replaced with several window units of air conditioners that hang dangerously on the walls of the buildings. The elevators stop working once there is no public power supply and the taps have gone dry and rusty. The combination of filth and chaos casts a dark aura over the horizon as most workers grope and loiter like mourners.
The Rivers Ijaw Voice sent its senior correspondent, Abraham Ebini to unveil the sorry state of the Rivers State Secretariat Complex in order to attract the attention of the state government to its deplorable condition. His report paints a sad picture of how the buildings have been allowed to decay over the years. It is a commentary of how low governance has fallen in a once vibrant Rivers State. His report:
Gone is the glory of the Rivers State Secretariat Complex
The Rivers State Secretariat is the administrative power house of the Rivers State government which houses more than 80% of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) yet workers work in an adversely polluted environment.
My investigation took me three days as I scrutinized the entire environment and my findings were clear indications that the once beautiful edifices have been subjected to a state of dismal disrepair. It is no exaggeration to compare the secretariat complex to a sprawling marketplace as garri and meat sellers lurk around the entrances.
Grasses had grown into disgusting sizes, shapes and heights. Heaps of refuse were seen dumped all over the vicinity with no facilities for proper disposal. I saw men and women slip behind the buildings to urinate and defecate as the inbuilt toilets are in disuse.
I saw security guards at the entrances of the Secretariat Complex clad in worn-out uniforms or with no uniforms at all. They had no communication gadget to interact among themselves.
Most of the workers at the state secretariat were unwilling to make any comment on the development. Many of those approached said they had been instructed not to speak on issues bordering on the condition of the secretariat.
I however got some workers to speak who said that the State Governor visited the Secretariat Complex immediately after his historic victory at the Supreme Court and promised to make life comfortable for civil servants at the secretariat complex but they are yet to see him keep his words.
A worker at the secretariat who simply introduced himself as Mr. Sunny said:
“The current government is not doing anything to maintenance the secretariat complex; you can see the dirtiness of the complex with your eyes. As for the payment of civil servants’ salary, the governor is not doing so badly. Until this week, there was no electricity supply at the Podium block for more than two months because of god-knows-what reason. At the time, workers only came and stayed on the ground floor and returned home without entering their offices. Even as I am talking to you, the Lifts (elevators) are not working because there is no public power supply from Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED).
“The only time His Excellency, Nyesom Wike visited the Secretariat was when he secured victory through the Supreme Court as the elected governor of the state, during his thanksgiving service after the victory, he promised us a work-friendly environment which we are yet to witness. He also visited last two weeks, when the Head of Service together with him walked around the complex. The last two week visit by the governor is the reason why the compound is not as dirty as it used to be”. He lamented.
Workers and visitors to the Rivers State Secretariat Complex are worried. They say that the poor condition of the secretariat has negative effects on their health and performance. They call on the state government to urgently rehabilitate the secretariat and return it to its old glory to enhance productivity.
It was revealed that for over three years now, no meaningful maintenance work had been carried out by the government in any of the buildings inside the secretariat complex. Workers are now raising concerns about the structural integrity of the buildings as many facilities no longer function in the complex. In fact, the buildings have not been renovated since it was last refurbished by the Dr. Peter Odili administration.
The water taps in the buildings have since gone dry, as workers buy water from water vendors, popular called “Meruwa”. As a result, most of the toilets within the secretariat complex are unhealthy for visitors and workers to use and this situation has forced some workers to defecate in the open and leave their urine and faeces unattended.
Many of the workers have no office spaces to function, just as some have no basic equipment needed to work with. The secretariat today lacks a number of functional amenities necessary in a good working space. The state secretariat complex needs urgent rehabilitation; the buildings need to be repainted to wear fresh looks.
It was gathered that security men working in the state secretariat complex have not been given new uniforms in the last eight years. They have no communication gadgets, not even torch lights. There is no electricity to power security lights at night and to charge their personal phones for communication. The secretariat is in total darkness at night.
Most workers now stay away from office as a result of the poor state of the buildings, they blamed the poor attendance to the pitiable state of the secretariat complex.
A staff of the State Ministry of Education, who simply identified himself as Mr Amadi, told us that the situation had made working cumbersome for workers in the state, he complained that:
“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 and this is not helpful to us.
“The generator plants that are supposed to service the secretariats are in total disrepair. Whenever there is power outage, many of us can’t get to the top floors as the Lift (elevators) cannot function without power supply. Though, the lift at the Point Block functions because that building has a functioning electricity generating plant. That is the block that houses the Head of Service, I don’t know if that is the reason, the generating plant is functioning there. ”
He also lamented that workers at the secretariat buy water from water hawkers and sometimes they still could not have access to the toilets because they are locked even during official hours.
A female worker at the secretariat, who described herself as Mrs. Barisi, decried the deplorable condition of the secretariat and its neglect by the state government. She stressed that the poor workplace conditions were unfavourable to workers. She pointed out that the Internet Service introduced by the administration of former Governor Amaechi, which served the entire secretariat had been disconnected, even as most of the offices do not have electricity supply.
She also decried the absence of a functional elevators at the secretariat whenever public power supply is unavailable, saying 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 like this during the previous administration, and called on the state government to urgently intervene so as to make life comfortable for workers in the complex.
I saw a well-dressed man rush behind the Block C building as though he was being chased. I followed him to a point when he began urinating. I engaged him in a short conversation and found out that he is a staff of the state ministry of commerce, he pleaded anonymity and complained in a sad tone:
“There is no water supply in my office here at the secretariat. The toilets are locked; I mean, both the public and official toilets in almost all the buildings at the secretariat are locked and so, I have no option than use this place instead of urinating on myself and become a laughing stock. Last week, an elderly man defecated on himself at the Podium Block as a result of lack of toilets”
He pleaded with Governor Nyesom Wike to take urgent and adequate step towards remedying the situation as the outbreak of water and air borne diseases at the secretariat is imminent. He said:
“Sincerely, ‘Mr. Project’ needs to come to our rescue before visitors and workers at the secretariat contract diseases. See where I am urinating, you can see human waste (faeces) all over the place”.
He blamed the Head of Service for inaction.
“Very annoying, none of the generator plants here are working, when we asked the workers in charge of maintenance of the plants, they said, the generators only need servicing and the Head of Service says that there is no money to maintain the plants.”
“All the toilets are locked because there is no water. The former Head of Service, Barrister Samuel Long-John, built about three public toilets but today, the toilet keepers lock them immediately it is 3pm and this why everywhere is polluted with faeces and urine”.
On her part, the Press Secretary to the Head of Service (HOS) refuted claims by workers and visitors that the state secretariat complex is not well maintained by the current administration. She argued that the toilets are functioning perfectly and water supply is steady in all the blocks of the secretariat. She took me to her toilet and showed me the toilet in her office that is in perfect condition with running water. She said that the condition of the toilets in some buildings was as a result of improper usage and abuse of the facilities. She denied the allegation that the elevators are not working, saying that the Point Block elevators are functioning and there was power supply beside public electricity.
But as was about to conclude this report, a news item on 92.3 Nigeria Info fm forced itself into my ears. It said that:
“Civil servants at the Point Block of the Rivers State Secretariat queued to use the only functional lift to access their offices in the 17-storey building. This is because four of the six lifts in the high-rise building are said to be faulty while one of the two functional lift is only used for very important personalities.
“Some civil servants that spoke to our correspondent said they returned from Edel Kabir on Tuesday (05/09/17) to meet the situation. Some others expressed fear that the only lift may breakdown because of its overuse. Efforts to speak with the Rivers State Head of Service, Rufus Godknows and the Permanent Secretary proved abortive”.
My efforts to speak with the Head of Service (HOS) in person was also unfruitful and attempts to speak with the Nigeria Labour Congress Chairperson in Rivers State was rebuffed as she declined making comments on the issue.
As the once radiant Secretariat Complex begs for attention, the question on the lips of Rivers people is, when will Governor Wike pay attention to the cries for government to rehabilitate the complex and restore its lost glory #
More pictures on the sorry state of the Rivers State Secretariat Complex: