POOR supply of water in Nigeria’s Federal Secretariat Complex located in the nation’s capital, Abuja, is frustrating government workers, as toilets within the building are filled with filths, producing unpleasant smell around the corridor.
For two days, The ICIR visited Phase One of the complex and the reporter observed the poor sanitary condition of the government facility that houses offices of federal ministries including the Ministry of Niger Delta, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Aviation, Ministry of Women Affairs and Police Service Commission.
There was no water in most of the toilets from the first floor to the fourth floor when the reporter visited on Tuesday, October 22.
That day at about 11:30 am, a woman in her late fifties was pressed and hurried to the ladies on the first floor close to Wing A, but a voice stopped her. “Madam, no water!”
It was the voice of a woman selling sachet water by the staircase near the toilets on the first floor. she had noticed that the woman going to the toilet had no water with her. Too pressed to bother, the middle-age woman hurriedly bought a sachet of water at N10 before she proceeded to ease herself.
Taking a cue from the woman, this reporter also purchased two sachets of water at N20 and entered the restroom. Inside, water nylons littered the floor and the offensive smell of the lavatory became stronger. The handwashing dispenser was not functioning, and there was no single roll of tissue paper in sight.
“So, if there is no water, can pure water flush anything?,” the woman asked The ICIR reporter without expecting an answer.
The reporter visited the toilet on other floors, and the situation was the same. Some in fact were in worse condition because they have been abandoned.
A federal staff on the third floor where the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is situated told The ICIR there has been an irregular supply of water in the complex for more than a month. When there was water, it never circulated to all the floors, she told The ICIR.
“There could be water on the sixth floor, and not on the second floor,” she said.
“If they should bring it around 7 am, before 9 am it has gone,” she added.
“As I am talking to you now, I want to use the toilet that is why I am holding this tissue in my hand, I want to use the toilets but there is no water. It is not easy,” she had lamented.
Employees contribute money to buy gallons of water from “mei ruwa”
A cleaner at 12 noon pulled a jerrycan of water to the convenience of the Wing B, third floor, holding a bottle containing detergent soap and a small broom. When The ICIR approached her, she said she was about to clean the toilets for the day because some staff contributed money to buy a keg of water.
“We bought the water outside for N150. E don tey since water run for here. Till last month sef. We wash the toilet just once in a day if there is money for water,” she said in pidgin.
She said workers are allowed only to urinate, but not to defecate. “The day we get money, we buy water, the day we no get money, the toilet will remain locked,” she added.
A source who also works in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs confirmed that the workers usually contribute money for the purchase of jerry-cans of water from local sellers of water, popularly called “mei ruwa”.
Every week, he contributes N200, he told The ICIR last Thursday, and most of the toilet structures of the phase were spoilt.
“We have a big challenge,” he said. “All the urinary from the eleventh floor to the ground floor, you will hardly find any urinary that is working”.
Speaking to another source, she said the situation that she could not defecate at work made her neglect being at work on Friday, October 18.
“Because On Thursday from morning till evening I was so pressed, there was nowhere to use,” she explained.
A woman should not to be exposed to bad toilets, she said.
Abandoned toilets, leaking roofs at Federal Secretariat
Of the 20 toilets The ICIR saw at the five floors of the Phase One complex, there were nine of them that have been abandoned, showing various degree of neglect.
At the ground floor, where the police station is situated, the two conveniences near it were wrapped with yellow tape. On it was written: “Police line- Do not cross”.
The barricade tape marked the toilets unsafe. The two restrooms on the other side of the same ground floor were blocked with notice board made of plywoods. The furniture leaned against the doors of the toilets.
Then going up, on the first floor towards Wing A, the two toilets (both male and female) were also closed down with woods. At the other side, towards the Wing B, the male convenience entrance was blocked with a flat wood. Only one was working.
Both the male and female conveniences on the second floor towards Wing B have spoilt with one left slightly opened, the door of the other was blocked with wood.
Most of the toilets had dilapidated roofs. The roof of a toilet on the second floor had broken and a wide gaping hole is visible.
According to Laz Ude, a public health physician, dirty toilets could cause urinary tract infections and genital tract infections,. While both males and females could be infected with UTIs, women, he said, are at higher risk because of their short urethra which allows bacteria to travel quickly to the bladder.
Based on an article of the United States Centre for Disease Control (CDC), many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean running water.
Soap and clean-running water are major provisions for handwashing, meanwhile, nothing of such was at the restrooms of Phase One at the Federal Secretariat.
CDC noted handwashing with soap removes germs from hands. This helps prevent infections like diarrheal-related sickness and respiratory diseases.
Millions budgeted for water rates and maintenance services in four years
The approved budget between the 2016 fiscal year and 2019 stated the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation budgeted a total of N679 million naira for water rates and maintenance services for its headquarters domiciled at the Federal Secretariat.
The Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) is responsible for the leadership, management and capacity development of the Federal Civil Service.
For four years, more than N30.6 million naira was the amount budgeted for the water rates. And 649,211,578 million for maintenance-related services that included maintenance of the offices in the building.
The federal ministries also access monies every year for water rates and maintenance services for their headquarters. The Ministry of Niger Delta occupying offices at the third and ninth floors of Phase One in the complex budgeted on its recurrent expenditure a total of 26.4 million for water rates between 2016 and 2019, while 226 million nairas was for maintenance services.
The Labour and Employment Ministry with offices on the ground floor and the second floor of the complex budgeted N26.4 million for water rates in four years. More than N226 million was budgeted for maintenance-related services.
The Police Service Commission occupying the ground floor of phase one of the complex also budgeted a total of N709,401 for the water rates, and N30 million was for maintenance services. Of these N30 million, 10 million was for the maintenance of office building and residential, and N2.7 million for any other maintenance-related work at its headquarters in the secretariat.