Emmanuel Ukudolo, captures the sight and sound of the first meeting civil servants would be having with Governor Akinwumi Ambode, a man they describe as their own having being an ex-Accountant-General of the state.
Civil Servants in Lagos State are obviously not happy with former governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola. Their sadness, we gathered is not borne out of his personality but some of the policies he adopted while he held sway as governor of Lagos State. The civil servants who are seeking a better deal saw the meeting as a golden opportunity to unburden their minds in the first encounter they had with the new Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
During the meeting, the brand new governor listened carefully to their pleas in his quest to give them a better deal and the people of Lagos State in general. Topping the list of things they detest about the Fashola era was the proliferation of consultancy services in Lagos State. Consultancies were prominent in the area of information management. For instance, the Lagos State government has a functional studio with qualified personnel who hold their own in the area of documentaries and film production and sound but these services we learnt were outsourced to private individuals who are alleged to be friends of the former governor.
Professor Wole Soyinka is a prominent consultant during the Fashola era. He consulted for the Black Heritage Festival that often culminates in Lagos Carnival and Boat Regatta. Cultural troops for similar occasions were out sourced even when the there is a full fledge Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture. For the civil servants, this is an aberration too many that they want the Ambode Government to apply the brakes since they have those among their fold who have been adequately trained to perform such jobs. “We want you to discontinue the use of consultants so that we can do our jobs. We want to prove that we are able and capable”, one of them told Ambode. A more touching aspect that many of the civil servants who spoke at the forum urged the governor to improve on are their welfare package.
Topping the list is leave allowance, which the previous administration halted for no justifiable reason. They also canvassed for regular local and foreign training, which they said, was put in abeyance by the Fashola administration.They reminded the governor to work for the masses who elected him into office. Here, many who had pined away at what they called the elitist programmes of the Fashola era, want a swift reversal so that suburbs, which were largely neglected by the immediate past administration in preference to highbrow arrears, like Victoria Island, Ikoyi and even Lekki areas in the state would be fairly treated in the provision of amenities and facilities.
Some of them were not happy that the former governor built Lagos HOMS and shops that are far beyond the reach of civil servants and the ordinary residents of Lagos State. For instance, under Fashola’s Lagos HOMS project, prices ranged between N4.2 million for a one-bed room house, usually referred to as self-contain and N4.10 million to N9.08 million for one bedroom flat depending on the area; two bedroom flat ranged from N6.22 million to N18.61 million in Gbagada, while three bedroom flat sold from N9.96 million at Hon Shotomiwa Estate, Igbogbo, Ikorodu to N32.53 million the highest in Gbagada Phase II.
Speaking on the housing scheme, one of the civil servants said: “During Jakande time, he built houses that common people like civil servants could afford. When you build houses, construct market, you have to ensure that the common people whom the facilities are meant for are able to get them. Most of the ones done by the last administration did not get to the people who needed them”. According to him, it is of no use to build shops and houses that are beyond the reach of those who need them.
On salaries, they also alluded to the Jakande era and posited that during that time, salaries and emoluments of civil servants in Lagos State were at par with their counterparts at the federal level and in the private sector. They however expressed optimism that the return of Ambode will take the state to greater heights and give them a sigh of relief. While reacting to some of these issues, Ambode adopted the slogan of President Muhammadu Buhari who said he belongs to nobody, stressing that he will work to ensure that they are well remunerated to enable them stand side by side anywhere in the federation.
The governor vowed to fulfill all his electoral promises but pleaded with the workers to have a change of attitude to work vis a vis resumption resumption and closing time adding that his decision to move into Ikeja House was to ensure prompt response to state matters. He said his administration would focus on building the capacity of staff, which will enhance their productivity on the one hand, and prepare them for a worthwhile life after service on the other. He said his vision is to build a public service devoid of discrimination and inhibitions. “My dream for the public service is to have an establishment that would prepare you for a worthwhile life after service.
What happens to each and every one of us when we leave the service is what I am after in the next four years. There are a lot of opportunities, but you must work for it. I desire a public service where there would be no discrimination or where your circumstances will inhibit you from progressing”, he said. He added that in the last few days, his interactions since his inauguration has centred on his desire to harmonise the public service in a manner where each public servant would be able to rise to his or her potentials. “We would not discriminate to say this is your own career path or this is where you belong.
We must have good sense of harmony where people in the parastatals or in the local government service or in the mainstream are at par. So, that plan has a future for everyone, so, we would have a civil service that we can exchange expertise and that is where the future of the service is going”, he said. He pledged to show leadership by example and also bring back everything that God has endowed him with to bear on the public service He expressed his readiness to meet the Joint Negotiating Council and resolve all issues relating to workers’ welfare stressing that he desires to see a harmonious relationship between government and the various unions. “The major vision is that I want a better civil service; I am ready to address issues that relate to welfare.
I know that whatever I am today, it is through the kind of training that I have received in the civil service, so I would base major emphasis on capacity building and training”, he said. For him, creation of new ministries does not amount to increasing the cost of governance adding that realigning existing ones will create the new ministries, hence the number of ministries will remain at 24. He sought the support and cooperation of all the public servants, promising to do everything possible to make life easier for them. “I will accord you the respect that you deserve, I am ready to reward hard work, merit and professionalism, that is all that I gained from this place and so long as you are good, the top is your seat”, he told the civil servants who hailed every of his utterances and only hope that Ambode will match his utterance with action.