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Fmr President Jonathan Commissions World-Class Civil Service Secretariat Complex in Edo, Lauds Gov Obaseki’s Visionary Leadership, Minimum Wage Increase

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  5. Fmr President Jonathan Commissions World-Class Civil Service Secretariat Complex in Edo, Lauds Gov Obaseki’s Visionary…

…Obaseki says upgrade of workplace, personnel key to attracting private sector investments

…to pay June salary on Friday June 14 in commemoration of Sallah celebration

By John Ewah & Violet Obamwonyi

The civil service, the fulcrum and engine of government, the unseen force behind the day to day activities of government, that neutral convergence of professionals, through which the red tape takes measurements and bureaucracy functions; the workforce, the force of work, the concatenation of brains, brawns and expertise which drives the machinery of governance, and for which extended metaphors are insufficient descriptions and dead metaphors come alive, remains the ever constant factor in the successes or failures of any government in power.

Leaders who understand its place in nation building have leveraged its permanence to drive dreams that transcend multiple administrations and socio-economic dimensions; legacies that leave prints on the sands of time; enduring policies and programs on which a state runs.

The story of the Edo State civil and public service is one of human values; a story of concern and welfare; one which attempts to demystify governance; a tale which solves the riddle of a precarious working condition, portraying the need for good governance, the finesse of work, the dignity of labour; the deeds of Governor Godwin Obaseki.

The journey of the past seven and a half years in Edo, one can say, has not been a smooth ride, at least, not for the Governor who had to step on toes to accomplish his vision of reviving a moribund service and resuscitating the nearly comatose working conditions and dead morale of workers in the state. Should one recount the chronicles of the warfare, it would only culminate in a warfare of chronicles. But to put it simply, Governor Godwin Obaseki plucked out thorns and planted roses in their place.

The commissioning of the Edo State Civil Service Secretariat Complex is one of the deeds woven within the tapestry of Obaseki’s many unwritten tales. He plotted the skies, charted the seas, and mapped the land. Today Edo can be considered as the fastest developing state in Nigeria. All thanks to the visionary, Obaseki.

The Edo State Civil Service Secretariat which was a reference point of what a work environment should never look like; a caricature of what a work premises looks like, today, has become a signature of all eyes.

The secretariat complex, commissioned on Wednesday June 12, 2024, by the former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR, symbolizes the significant investments made by the current administration over the past seven and a half years in rebuilding the state’s institutions.

In his remarks, Governor Obaseki emphasized that the state’s commitment to institutional reforms aims to enhance the effectiveness of government’s bureaucracy, while noting the deplorable state of the secretariat complex before the advent of his administration, culminating in the absence of basic amenities and utilities for public servants.

Acknowledging the challenges of the reform processes which required a comprehensive overhaul of the service operations, Obaseki stressed that the efforts towards its reconstruction and rehabilitation were crucial steps necessary to attracting private sector investments, boosting productivity, and enhancing the efficiency and excellence of the state’s workforce.

According to the Governor, “We do not often do commissioning but since we have an august visitor, we decided to use this opportunity to show him what we have accomplished in the area of institution building.

“What we are doing here today, commissioning the secretariat complex will certainly, as you have seen, transform the landscape of this city. It is not just an edifice, it represents the future of what we want our city and our state to look like; it represents how we want to run our affairs in Edo now and into the future, by prioritizing what matters most; productivity, efficiency and excellence.

“These structures we are commissioning today are also a reflection of the investment which we have made over the last seven and half years to rebuild institutions. This was a painstaking process which have included a total overhaul of how the public service in Edo operates.

“After I secured my mandate to govern the people of Edo State in November 2016, this complex, specifically Palm House, was the first place I visited on the first day I started work, and what I saw was an eyesore. The premises was in a very bad shape, the buildings were decrepit, civil servants were working in hideous places, and their public utilities had all failed.

“That day, I made a pledge to them, to myself and to God, that I would rebuild the infrastructures of this secretariat complex, and today by the grace of God, we are here to see for ourselves, what we have done.”

The Governor reminisced on the very shameful situation where civil servants could not use the bathrooms in their offices, which today has changed, as workers in the state now volitionally spend more time in their offices than they do at home, as a result of the warmth and conducive nature of the work environment, thereby boosting productivity and efficiency.

“One of the biggest takeaways from rebuilding the secretariat, is the fact that it tells us that we can achieve anything that we set our mind to do, irrespective of the opinions of naysayers in any journey.

“This is because when we started to build, Block D for example, was a total carcass, just foundation and structures; in fact, the Treasury House was only foundation and was covered with thick bushes. When we commenced the project, many people did not see the big picture, but today, it is clear what we have done”, Obaseki added.

Appraising the infrastructural facilities within the complex and work spaces, and the quality of personnel in the state’s civil and public service, Obaseki stated: “These buildings are some of the most advanced secretariat buildings in our country, with almost 24 hours daily power supply, from our 95 megawatts Ossiomo Power Plant.

“It has a high-speed fiber internet connectivity, which is part of the 2,000 kilometers of fiber optics which we have connected across the state. We have done all these because we believe that government bureaucracy must work if we must make progress as a state.

“If we have to continue to attract private sector investments which is required to develop Edo State, it is important that we upgrade the workplace, personnel and capacity of public servants. This is why we have dammed the consequences to upgrade our service and infrastructures to global standards. We have now built a workforce that will drive change, advancement in pursuit of the core values of our democracy and good governance.

“It is important to state that what you are seeing here today is being replicated in five other locations which we call hubs, across Benin City. We have a similar facility to host all agricultural institutions called the Agric hub, we have the Education hub, Built Environment hub and the Health hub. This is to enable our public servants provide more efficient services to our people.”

He further reiterated the state’s commitment to its workforce, assuring that the recent increment in the state’s minimum wage was born out of genuine and well-planned efforts, stressing that his administration has consistently paid salaries on or before the 26th of each month for the past seven and a half years, and ensuring earlier payments before major holidays, to facilitate festive celebrations.

“I have heard all the accolades about our increase in minimum wage. We want to assure civil servants that it is not a fluke; we are a very deliberate government. You know that for seven and half years, since we came into office, we pay salaries on or before the 26th of every month, and in cases where we have holidays, we ensure that we pay civil and public servants before those holidays, so that they can have money to celebrate. And in that same vein, we will be paying June salary on Friday for the Salah celebration”, the Governor said.

Reflecting on the enduring legacies of late Gen. Samuel Ogbemudia, Obaseki remarked that his administration has fulfilled Ogbemudia’s vision for Edo, as the late Military Administrator and civilian Governor of the then Bendel State, would be proud of the realization of his dreams for the secretariat complex.

On his part, the former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR, applauded the Governor’s unwavering commitment to the welfare of civil and public servants, attributing the Governor’s sustained developmental strides to his visionary leadership.

According to the former President, “Listening to the history of this secretariat complex I now know the power of vision. I want to thank you for the completion of these projects and the renovations of the dilapidated ones. It takes somebody who wants to give his best to his people to do this.

“Human beings need to work in a comfortable environment; even if a civil servant has nothing to do and the edifice is conducive, he will want to stay back. Let me also join the Head of Service and the young first-class graduates that you employed to say thank you. Let me also join the civil servants to thank you for improving their welfare.

“If you go to some states, Governors are busy encouraging criminals because of politics. They encouraged people that will rig elections for them, carry ballot boxes, carry knives and cutlasses to pursue people, but you are encouraging brains in Edo State. You are not supporting these brains because you want to win elections but because you want to build a state. And for you to build a state, you have to build the people.”

President Jonathan also lauded the Governor’s decision to increase the minimum wage from N40,000 to N70,000 amidst diverse excuses from the national and sub-national governments in the country, acknowledging the vision and deliberate planning involved in the execution of such salary increment.

According to him, “When I read that you proposed to pay N70,000, I was worried. I said to myself; ‘This my good friend, I hope he can pay?’ But that is the work of a visionary. To be a leader, especially political, you must be somebody who has a vision; not just I want to be this, and when you get there you do not know what to do with the office. If you have a vision, no matter how challenging things may be for you, you will find a way to do it.

“For Edo people, let me congratulate you. I also want to congratulate Governor Obaseki and I pray that the government that will take over from you will not let us down.”

Earlier in his welcome address, the Edo State Head of Service, Dr. Anthony Okungbowa Esq., thanked the Governor for always prioritizing the welfare of civil and public servants in the state.

Highlight of the event was the official commissioning of the secretariat complex. The event also saw a tour of facilities at the complex and the laying of the foundation stones of the 1,500-capacity auditorium and the creche building within the complex, all performed by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR.

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