The mood at Jerome Udoji Workers’ Secretariat, Awka, is one of depression, anger and discomfort. This is no thanks to the three week old power outage that has hit the engine room of the Government of Anambra State. Offices with open windows and doors that are ajar to let in air, are now a common feature of the secretariat that was conceived to offer workers maximum comfort in order to produce maximally. But rather than maximum output, the reverse has been the case lately as workers groan under the prevailing excruciating weather conditions, cannot use the toilets due to lack of water and cannot do most of their jobs, Jude Atupulazi reports.
The current state of the secretariat, Fides gathered, is as a result of the disconnection of electric power to the secretariat by the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company, EEDC, due to the inability of the secretariat to pay its electricity bills.
According to some workers who spoke to Fides, coming to work these days has become a nightmare as the stifling heat prevents them from concentrating on their work. They also claimed that most of the work had been paralysed too by the non-availability of power.
They also complained that the generator powering the offices is used too sparingly to be of any use to anyone.
But speaking with Fides in his office, the Head of Service, Anambra State, Mr Harry Udu, said nothing like what the workers were alleging was the case. According to him, his office was trying to make the most of a bad situation following the power outages experienced at the secretariat.
Thus, he said, the generator which ought to serve as a back up to EEDC was now costing them a huge amount of money as it consumed 90 litres of diesel a day; something they could ill afford to sustain.
He said that even though it had made them to only use it when very necessary, it would be wrong to say that work had been paralysed at the secretariat, as files were still being processed, salaries paid and other vital work being done. He said the only issue was the comfort of the work force.
Mr Udu said however that some ministries had been allowed to use private generators supplied by some of their partners to connect and reticulate power to their ministries.
The Head of Service blamed EEDC for giving them power when no one was in the office, even when the secretariat had no issues with them.
'We don't have any issues with EEDC. We have a very good business relationship, but the supply (of power) is always the problem. They say they have excess thing to supply, yet we don't get to see the excess things. When they will give you light is either when you come in the morning and are yet to settle down or when you leave the office. If you come to work around 8am, there may be light but when the real work begins, they take it,' he lamented.
He however assured that something would be done in the nest week to rectify the situation as according to him, the matter was receiving serious attention both at the level of his personal office and at level of the executive.
When Fides sought the response of EEDC on the issue, the network manager for Awka, Engr Samuel Onuoha, disclosed that the company had cut off supply to the secretariat owing to non-payment of electricity bills for upwards of four to six months.
He said the company had to resort to that action after its repeated appeals to the secretariat to pay their bills were unsuccessful. He said it was a difficult decision based on the fact that the secretariat, as part of the government, enjoyed a good business relationship with EEDC as one of its priority customers.
He disclosed that they had to take the action after the state government told them that it was no longer footing the bills of ministries which, he said, government had given funds to pay their bills.
Onuoha said the only ones the company would not disconnect were Government House and the Governor's Lodge which they could only appeal to to pay their bills
He told Fides that the secretariat was disconnected over two weeks ago after accumulated debts to EEDC and after it had refused to respond to the company's notices, noting that the company's action was not punitive in any way.
For now, as a solution to the power outage is being awaited by the workers, they will have to manage their discomfort.
Efforts by Fides to get the views of the commissioner for public utilities failed to yield fruit.