The appalling state of facilities at the federal secretariat has become a worrisome development and a lethal blow to efforts at ensuring improved staff welfare and productivity.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that despite the federal secretariat being captured in the budget, most of the facilities, especially toilets are in terrible conditions and, as such, do not offer the users any convenience.
Though government offices are usually faced with premature but steady and rapid deterioration, decay and dilapidation due to lack of maintenance, misuse and, in other cases, poor quality infrastructure, LEADERSHIP Sunday, however, gathered that most of these buildings were not equipped with modern equipment at the outset.
LEADERSHIP Sunday observed that unkempt toilets, roof leakages and plumbing failure remain a disturbing factors.
Some of the facilities lacking or in bad state include lift system/elevators, intercom services, toiletries, fire exits, first aid, furniture, smoke detectors, cigarette smoking areas and nursing mothers’ bay and parking lots.
The federal secretariat also lacks constant power supply, healthy work environment and upgraded working tools that befits a 21st century world where emphasis is placed on digitalised operations; the operations are largely analogue.
A worker at the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the
Federation, Itodo Elloh, complained about poor response to reported faults , especially electrical faults.
He said, “It takes very long period of time for maintenance departments to rectify and fix faults . For instance, Block D, at the ground floor, has been without light (electricity) for the past one month. Our colleagues there have been working without electricity supply. All of these – leaking roof, absence of light, electric fans, among other facilities, hamper productivity. “
Another worker who simply gave his name as Mr. Adams decried the rate at which government facilities suffer neglect. He said that workers were no longer motivated due to hostile work environment, adding that while some offices are congested, computers and other working tools are in short supply.
Adam decried the major infrastructure decay on a daily basis without any maintenance. He said, “We are only here by the grace of God. Some part of these building as you can see, really needs to be renovated and its facilities upgraded. “
“We are still using the equipment used over two decades ago. There is no security of life and property as well. At times when one parks his car inside, another person would block his exit and if you pack outside, your car could be stolen. These are serious issues we are faced with here at the centre of the country. So, we need the urgent attention of our leaders”.
An unnamed official at the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs described the situation at the federal secretariat as abomination.
He disclosed that using the toilets comes with a lot of discomfort such as terrible odours, coupled with the fact that most of the gents are buried on the floor, which makes it impossible for anyone to sit on.
Another Civil Servant who gave her name as Chidubem Destiny pleaded with those concerned to provide and maintain public toilets that respect human dignity and promote health and well-being of civil servants as well as boosts productivity.
She stated that lack of access to restrooms is a serious health issue, adding that since the ministries of Environment and Health are tasked with the mandate to protect the health of all Nigerians, they should set up a joint monitoring team to inspect facilities in government offices.
She said, “They should at least regulate workplace restrooms throughout the MDAs through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Department. They should provide the necessary regulations to ensure that employees “will not suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available when needed”.
Staff members of the Ministry of Science and Technology situated at Block D, Bullet House, gave different opinions on the state of amenities at the block, saying that while most amenities are functional, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP, Aminu Ganiyu, said most of the ministry’s amenities are functional, as the upkeep and maintenance of the facility or other facilities at the secretariat has been contracted out to firms who try their best to keep it up and running.
“The entire building is being managed in collaboration with the Head of Service and Bullet. The facility and amenities within are managed by them but the ministry takes care of routine cleaning of the place. The ministry manages the cleaners, security, power but the facility managers take care of the rest, while the units and departments are in charge of other small details like providing first aid kits and others.”
Similarly, another staff, Kate, a nursing mother, said the ministry’s nursing mother’s bay is functional, noting that the creche operates from 7am to 5pm and gives parents who are unable to finish their work on time an additional 30 minutes grace.
However, a staff who did not want his name in print rated the ministry low on its lift maintenance, describing the ministry’s elevators as quite epileptic.
Narrating his ordeal, he told LEADERSHIP Sunday that on three occasions, he almost fainted while climbing up and down the staircase about fur times in a day.
He said, “The lift is on and off. At times you wake up and see it working but it is not working most of the time. The ministry has most of its offices on the fourth floor but there are still other ministers sharing their offices on the same block, which has eight floors. They have to climb the stairs up till they get to their own floor. This is still the case with the next Block E, which has 11 floors and workers are forced to climb up to the floor each day.
“The government or facility managers should make those lifts functional because it is invariably affecting output in situations where members of staff would have to climb the stairs all the time to get to their offices. They get exhausted and thrown off balance in terms of efficiency and productivity.”
Sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tafawa Balewa House, who pleaded anonymity said, both foot gates and vehicular entrances to the building are fortified with scanners that are capable of detecting metals and explosives.
They noted that all scanners placed at the main entrance are functional, but decried the poor state of the lifts.
“There are two Lifts in the eight storey building. One is dedicated to the honorable minister and visiting dignitaries, especially members of diplomatic community. The second lift is open to staff of the ministry and other visitors. But the lift is grossly inadequate for the large number of staff of the ministry. Most times people have to wait for longer time to use the lift. But whether there is power supply or not, the two lift will be working”, one of them said.
On the deplorable state of toilets and sanitary facilities, another staff of the ministry said, “There are two toilets on each floor of the building, each consisting of five urinating tub and five WC for defecation. Water system is working perfectly but there are always no toiletries. On each floor, are private company cleaners who maintain the toilets”.
Speaking on electricity, they another staff of the ministry said, “Power supply is average. When Abuja Electricity Distribution Company light goes off, the place remains in darkness and it is only when very import dignitaries come visiting that generators are powered”.
At the ministry of Education, some staff who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday under condition of anonymity described the ministry’s structure as one of the best in the secretariat.
They said that contrary to complaints by other ministries, they have no challenge of furniture or space, as all these have been taken care of by the ministry.
One of them said, “The former permanent secretary changed the face of the ministry. He made sure that everything was put in place. You will notice that we are one of the best in the secretariat. If you head to the Ministry of Information which is supposed to be the face of all ministries, you will understand what we are talking about.”
However, a staff at the ministry who gave his name as Ademola was bold enough to reveal that the ministry is faced with the challenge of lift, as only one was working.
“This is very frustrating. So, we just don’t wait for it. Of three or the four lifts, I think it is only one that is working in this entire wing of the federal secretariat building housing countless ministries and departments. It is the only thing I know that needs to be taken care of,” he said.
Recently, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, announced plans to remodel as well as upgrade the Federal Secretariat Complex through Public Private Partnership (PPP) to ensure safety of staff and boost productivity.
She made the announcement while signing a Memorandum of Understanding on Pilot PPP with Alpha Mead Development Company Limited in Abuja.
She said that the MoU is to enable the company remodel the ground floor and the car parking lots of block ‘A’ Federal Secretariat Complex, Phase II.
Oyo-Ita noted that the state of the building was no longer conducive for workers, hence the partnership to give the office a face lift.
She said, “For years we have been seeking for funds to work on the secretariat. So, we decided to think out of the box and go into PPP to resuscitate the federal secretariat.
“Everyday members of staff come to these offices that are in a deplorable state. If you give staff a good working environment, they would be encouraged to put in their best. This is a pilot project. If we are able to succeed in this we will expand the project to all the phases of the secretariat”.
On his part, Group Managing Director of Alpha Mead Development Company Limited, Mr Femi Akintunde, said that productivity enhancement was achievable with a conducive environment.
He said that the pilot project, which will take six months to complete before it is inaugurated in January 2019, would start with the Ground floor of Block A where over 1000 office spaces would be created and 800 car park spaces to ensure safety and sanity of staff.
“Partnering with Government is usually slow but I have seen speed and determination in this project on the part of the Head of Service. We want to create a serviceable and maintenance workspace that will meet world standard.
The federal Secretariat is the engine room that drives the nations economy and must be conducive. We are looking at taking limited resources and turning it into something great,” Akintunde said.