The state secretariat was once the centrepiece of the Port Harcourt skyline evoking memories of the good old days, when the young military governor, Alfred Diete-Spiff held sway as the helmsman of the old Rivers State. It used to be a beauty to behold.
Alas, today the Rivers State Secretariat is a shadow of itself. As it were, it has received the beating of a lifetime. A beating punctuated by tales of decay and sheer neglect. The Rivers State secretariat is now more of a monstrosity than the beautiful state secretariat residents often showed off to visiting friends and relatives, over the years.
The ugly, dilapidated Secretariat buildings are a perfect foil for the state of mind and reality of physical decay of many civil servants in the State.
The workers had had their hopes of succor raised recently by some civil servants having been interviewed for promotions in the past few months. Further, the hearts of the civil servants had leapt with the statements offering hope by the State governor Wike in his Workers Day, May 1, 2023 declarations.
Represented by Tammy Danagogo, Secretary to the State Government SSG, during the May Day celebrations this year, Wike had raised the hopes of civil servants in the state that long years of being treated with contempt by succeeding administrations in the state especially those of his predecessor, Chibuike Amaechi and himself, were coming to a final end. Wike directed the Civil Service Commission, to issue the beneficiaries with their promotion letters immediately, assuring that the entire promotion exercise of other categories would be completed before the expiration of his tenure.
Wike who commended the workers as a vehicle that delivers the action plans and services of the state to the people, urged them “to work together to protect and advance the social economic interest of the state and the citizens”.
He assured that his administration will clear all the challenges facing the civil servants in terms of pension and gratuities, while seeking workers’ patience and understanding.
One salient question on the lips of many civil servants and other Rivers men and women is that, bearing in mind these statements, why did the Wike administration leave both the civil servants and the secretariat which ordinarily should be the engine room of government, to rot away.
Our reporter, who went to the State Secretariat in the course of his investigation to get a clear sense of the concerns of the workers, returned with a chilling feedback. “The State Secretariat is like a ghost town. The morale of civil servants is very low. I had to use the torch of my phone to climb and descend the staircases. You have to be very careful so that, you don’t bump into other people . Not so fortunate people that are compelled to use these staircases with many broken steps, had consigned themselves to use the dark staircases, even when there was no sign of electricity within the Secretariat premises”.
More worrisome is the issue of lack of water in the Rivers State Secretariat. The stench of unflushed human waste, hangs heavily on all the floors of the blocks in the Secretariat.
Hausa cart pushers are hired to get water for civil servants in jerry cans. Fourteen jerry cans cost about N1,000. The men from the North are doing brisk business, with a little nudge from the people at the helm of affairs in Rivers State.
What is even more galling is the propensity of successive administrations to turn a blind eye to the wellbeing of the hapless Civil Servants.
The civil servants approached to speak on their sorry condition, during the visit declined to speak or even stand for a few minutes for fear of being victimized. One of them who agreed to speak anonymously, noted that, ”We are reliably informed that our counterparts in Bayelsa State receive their promotions promptly. These promotions are not phantom promotions. Immediately they receive their promotion letters, payment commences”.
This is a far cry from what obtains in the Rivers State Civil Service. The recent announcements by the outgoing administration of Governor Wike stated the government’s resolve to promote and effect implementation of the promotions. This brought many smiles to the workers who felt used and dumped by the state. Indications that all was not well trickled in, in the course of the May Day celebrations. The secretary to the State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, who represented the governor at the occasion, stated that over 4,000 civil servants had been promoted. He directed that their promotion letters should be given to them immediately. Three weeks after this directive, many Rivers civil servants are still jostling to be given their promotion letters.
Reports making the rounds indicate that some civil servants have received their promotion letters. These people claim that not only have they seen the letters, but that the financial benefits accruable to the Rivers Civil Servants will be paid from January 2023 to date. That means that the beleaguered and endangered species, the Rivers State civil servants, will be entitled to arrears once the implementation of the promotions commences.
It would be recalled that during the May Day celebrations, Dr. Danagogo who represented Governor Wike said that with regard to other categories of civil servants, like teachers, the Governing Boards that will conduct their promotions have not been constituted and as a result, these categories of staff have to wait until the Governing Boards responsible for their promotions are established or constituted.
It is rather interesting that teachers who were not adequately informed were celebrating prematurely without taking proper stock of what the Secretary to the State Government said at the Workers Day celebrations. Other teachers embarked on a frolic of their own, deceiving themselves into wishful thinking and unfounded faith that their promotion letters were waiting for them somewhere.
Further investigations at other Boards (names withheld) corroborated that they had not done their promotion interviews and could not in any way benefit from the promotion exercise.
A holistic analysis of this promotion saga gives one the impression that Governor Wike, having good intentions for Rivers State Civil Servants set up the State Civil Service Commission, gave them a mandate and time frame to tidy up the promotions.
However, it appears that the time given to the commission was not sufficient. This has been corroborated by the non-constitution of the Governing Boards of some government parastatals like the Hospital Management Board, the Universal Basic Education Boards, etc.
One thing is looming large on the horizon. Rivers state civil servants may smile. When these smiles will be activated is not entirely clear. But what is becoming clearer by the day is that the Governor-elect, Sir Siminalayi Fubara may likely be the messianic figure that may do the magic.
Speaking on the occasion of the May Day celebrations, Governor Wike said, “Fortunately, the Governor –Elect was a civil servant and belongs to your constituency. I assure you; he will do well and make your constituency proud. All that is needed is your co-operation, prayers and support. State building is a continuous process.”
Speaking in synergy with his mentor during the last Worker’s Day, Sir Fubara stated: “As a civil servant, I was part of you and I will always remain so. I will always identify with you and work with you to improve the system. Although no society can adequately pay for your sacrifices and loyalty to the state and the nation, I will ensure that you get the right benefit you deserve.”