Inadequate supply of water in Ogun State Secretariat, located at Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, is exasperating civil servants as the entrance of toilets in some ministries are filled with disgusting dirt, producing offensive smell around the corridor; while most of the ministries do not have access to running water in their restrooms.
It was an arduous task moving from one ministry to another, identifying those with good, slightly good, bad, and totally bad restrooms. Hence, it took a total of three nerve-racking days — December 20th, 23rd, and 24th — for Gbenga Odunsi, Editor at Information Nigeria, to observe the poor sanitary condition of the government facility that houses offices of the state ministries, including the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Budget and Planning, and Office of the Accountant-General.
At the Ministry of Environment, there was no water in most of the toilets from the ground floor to the last floor when the journalist visited on December 20. At the secretariat, it is de rigueur for toilets to be locked — to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing it. I observed for hours, how public servants go in and out of the restrooms. At the first floor, I wasn’t allowed to use the toilet. A lanky man — in his mid-40s, thinking I am a civil servant from another ministry — asked me to go back to my ministry to access the toilet facility. I thought of pleading with him, but, one look at him, one would know he is a typical civil servant, donning an extra-large shirt with a black oversized trouser.
Crestfallen, I inadvertently found myself on the third floor. The entrance of the male toilet is unbefitting of a ‘ministry of environment’. Filths littered the entrance and no one bothered about it. The employees walked past the filth like its a decoration used in beautifying the place.
I approached the last man who used the toilet – a short, dark, rotund, middle-aged man.
“Please ‘sar’, don’t close the door, I want to quickly ease myself,” I said.
“From where”, he asks, as he moves to padlock the toilet door.
In Ogun secretariat, “from where?” is the patois for asking a probable toilet user if he is a staff of the ministry.
Knowing I would not be allowed to use the toilet because I am not a staff, I neologized by telling him I came to check on a friend at the Information ministry, annihilating his plans of sending me back just like the lanky man on the first floor did.
“The person I came to check at Information ministry is not around, and I am tired of sitting down, so I decided to take a stroll to other ministries. Please let me just use the toilet.”
After a long anodyne glance at me, “enter”, he murmurs as he paves way for me to enter the ramshackle restroom.
Inside the restroom, the handwashing basin was not functioning, and there was no single roll of tissue paper in sight. The restroom was littered with water storages and yellow jerry-cans used in fetching water.
A ‘risky’ visit to the toilet on the second floor evince the situation is the same as that of the first floor. Here, abandoned stationeries and furniture were dumped inside the male restroom. The roof of this particular toilet is in shambles, and of course, there was no running water.
At the Ministry of Budget and Planning, a public servant, who prefers not to be named, tells me some workers prefer to openly defecate than using the toilet. He says the ministry has no running water, and this discourages some of the workers from visiting the restroom.
“I am only telling you this in confidence; some people still throw ‘shotput’ in this secretariat.
“There is no water. Although a water tanker comes to dispatch water every two weeks.
“But then, the water finishes in one week which leaves workers with no choice than to defecate in the bush or ask an aboki to help them get water.
“In some cases, some use bottled or sachet water to clean themselves.”
N100 to buy jerry-can of water at Ogun State Secretariat
On Friday, 27th of December at around 2pm, a cleaner pulled two jerry-cans of water to the convenience of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, 2nd floor to be precise. When approached, he says he is trying to fill the drum inside the restroom to allow employees make use of it.
“You know say water no dey run here. If water no dey inside the toilet, dem go just use and mess up the whole place.”
Asked if he was doing the job out of concern for employees, he smiles, “Oga, how I go do dis kain tin ‘’just like that’, he exclaimed dramatically.
“Dem dey pay me N100 per jerry-can.
Today, like dis, I don fetch more than 15, and I still get more to fetch
A source at the office of the Accountant-General clandestinely confirmed that whenever there is no water in the restrooms, no one would be allowed to access the facility, as the door will remain locked until the cleaner supplies water. He further lamented on how previous government administrations overlooked water challenges at the secretariat.
“When you go to Governor’s office, all the toilets, from the first to the last floor functions well.
“Even the securities attached to the Governor enjoy a well-maintained toilet than civil servants in the secretariat.
“It has been a long-age problem, we are just confused on how long this is going to last.
I made an attempt to enter the restroom on the 2nd floor of this ministry, but I was met with a toilet oozing with thick faecal stench. I quickly retraced my steps back to the ground floor.
Investigation reveals that an aboki — averagely tall, dark, with scrotal elephantiasis — identified as Isa, supplies water, with the use of yellow jerry-can, to most ministries in the secretariat. He fetches water from an old tap located 100 meters away from Finance ministry, very close to a dumpsite within the complex.
On a sweltering afternoon, I went on a ramble walk around the complex…lo and behold, I found the tap that serves as a saviour to Ogun civil servants.
Disguising as a staff — although no one questioned my innocuous movement within the premises, aside for a group of guys who raised eyebrows at the Ministry of Finance — I sat on a covet few metres away from the tap, observing and pressing my phone, but with eyes and ears wide open. An employee, a not-too-tall man, dressed in native attire with a Yoruba cap, fetched six jerry-cans of water to the brim, and loaded them in his car. By his mien, he wears the aura of a man, who lives a life of simplicity.
Mr. Balogun, as I later found out, works at the Ministry of Information. He came to the tap with another colleague from the same ministry. While fetching each jerry-cans, they both expressed displeasure on how other staff give excuses of busy schedule when it is time for someone to volunteer to fetch water for toilet use. They had these conversations in Yoruba dialect, hence, the need to converse with them the same way.
After some minutes, I approached them and begged for water to wash my feet.
“Ejo se mo le ri omi die fi san ese mi, ema binu o?” (Please, sir, can I get some water to wash my feet?”
“Ah ahn why not. E bu omi ni inu bucket yen, tabi kef a keg yen seyin,” the man in native attired replied. (Why not, you can take water from that bucket or simply pull back the jerry-can from the tap and wash your legs).
After washing, I teased him on why is he fetching so much water. “Daddy, se e nko awon omi yii lo si ile ni? (Daddy, are you fetching and taking all these jerry-cans home?)
He replies “rara o. aan lo fun toilet ni. Se mo pe kosi omi ni ministry odo wa. (No, it’s for toilet use as there is no water in our ministry)
Asked which ministry he works, he gestures, pointing at a direction, before saying “Information”.
“If we don’t fetch this water, how will we use the toilet?
“Or is it possible to leave the office and go home just because to want to defecate?, he says in Yoruba dialect.
“It’s a big problem in most of the ministries, he concludes with a ‘we-have-accepted-our-fate- look.
Further surreptitious survey around the complex yielded no fruitful result, aside the noticeably heaps of refuse decorating the back of Finance, Budget and Planning, Office of Accountant-General, and Information ministries.
Billions budgeted for water supply and maintenance services in Ogun state
Figures from budgets from 2013 to 2020 fiscal year show that successive governments in Ogun state budgeted billions of Naira on water supply and maintenance services in the state. In 2013, the then Governor, Gbenga Daniel budgeted N16.1billion for Ogun Water Corporation, and Bureau of Water Resources.
Also, as part of its capital expenditure in 2019, former governor Ibikunle Amosun budgeted N8.7billion for Ogun State Water Corporation, and rural water supply.
However, in his 2020 budget presentation to the State House of Assembly, on Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, Governor Dapo Abiodun says a provision of N9.823. billion is earmarked for the execution of the various water and sanitation projects in the state.
It remains to be seen if this current administration will tackle the long-age challenge of irregular water supply in the state, and in the secretariat, in particular.