Delta state commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. Austin Chikezie and workers of the Ministry were said to have been chased out and locked out of their offices by the owner of the building, following the inability of the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa led administration to offset the over two years of rent been owed the landlord.
HardReporters correspondent reliably learnt that all efforts by the owner of the building to have all his accumulated debt running into several millions of naira paid to him, have continued to remain unsuccessful as a result, he decided to chase out the commissioner and all workers from the facility and pad locked the entrance to prevent staff entry into their offices.
“For over two years now the state government has been owing the landlord without any plan to offset the debt which we heard is amounted to millions of naira. Since on Monday this week, we were chased out of our offices and the building was put under lock and key by the owner. No worker, not even our commissioner has been to the office since on Monday.” a staff told our correspondent.
A visit by our correspondent at about 12noon, Thursday, to the headquarters of the Ministry located at No 12 Chiedu Ezenyili Street, off Nnebisi road by Access Bank, Asaba, the gate was still under lock and key.
Since the coming of Mr. Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration, over 10 Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), occupying private properties in the state capital, Warri and other parts of the state have been placed on lock and key and staff shut out over rent related issues running between 3-5 years without any payment despite billions of naira coming into the state every month.
It would be recalled that last year the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources was locked out by the owner of the property thereby causing embarrassment to the state government. The Delta State Independent Electoral Commission, (DSIEC) and the Ministry of Housing among others, had also in the past suffered similar embarrassment from their landlords over inability to offset their rent as at when due.
Twenty-five years after the creation of the oil rich Delta State from the defunct Bendel State, the capital Asaba still houses government offices in rental apartments; many ministries and a lot more parastatals are still in rented apartments.
As at today, the Ministries of Justice, Lands, Surveys and Urban development, Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, Water Resources, Local Government Affairs, Urban Renewal, Oil and Gas, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Housing and Energy, Civil Service, Local Government Service and House of Assembly Service Commissions, Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC), Office of the Auditor-General among others are in rented apartments.
For the parastatals, the Hospitals Management Board and Primary Health Care Development Agency, Tourism Board and Council for Arts and Culture, Tractor Hire Agency, Urban and Regional Planning Board, Rural Water Supply Agency, Small Town Water Supply Agency, Pilgrims’ Boards, State Emergency Management Authority, Direct Labour Agency, Waste Management Board, Scholarship Board, Project Monitoring and numerous others are in rented apartment.
Our correspondent reports that last year during the ministerial press briefing organized by the State Ministry of Information in conjunction with the Delta State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), the then Commissioner for Lands, Surveys and Urban Development, Mr. Daniel Okenyi, disclosed that governor Okowa led government spends over N650 million tax payers’ money every year to landlords to offset the rent of 28 Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) of government working in rented properties.