By Lawrence Njoku
When Enugu State nursed the idea of building its Government House (Lion Building), part of the plan was to have a canteen. Located directly opposite the Deputy Governor’s office (currently being refurbished), the canteen, which opens Monday to Friday, provides food and drinks to staff and visitors at pocket-friendly prices.
Sadly, however, the facility, like many things government, is dying slowly; it has become a symbol of neglect and lack of a maintenance culture. The building, originally white, has become a ‘coat of many colours’, as a result of decay. And while other Government House structures have undergone renovation (the old Lion Building was pulled down and rebuilt last year), the canteen waits to fall apart.
A visit to the canteen leaves one wondering whether the state government really cares about the health and welfare of the staff that patronize the place. Run by a private hand, it is an eyesore, to say the least. The roof leaks. The chairs, tables and windows are broken. Simply, the place yearns for urgent facelift. The facility, which has a section for senior Government House staff, has broken floors with plants growing on the wall. The louvres have turned brown, and only two of the four ceiling fans in the general hall work.
The Guardian gathered that no maintenance work has been carried out on the building in the past nine years. Under former Governor Chimaroke Nnamani’s administration, it was one of the first points of call for staff and visitors to Government House. But things went sour for the place when the last administration turned its back on it, apparently due to various food vendors contracted to make supplies during activities at the Lion Building.
According to a source, certain highly placed officials in government were comfortable patronizing caterers outside Government House, and felt little concern about the staff and their welfare. The implication was that several staff no longer use the canteen, despite the low prices of food served there.
A staff, who confided in The Guardian, said: “The place is part of the deceit going on in the government of Enugu State. One thing that might interest you is why nobody talks about the situation of the canteen. You can imagine the condition of the place where human beings have to eat. The problem is not with the caterer; it is neglect by the government. How can they refurbish every other building without looking at what is happening at the canteen?
“I stopped eating there three years ago. It was not because the food is not good. The woman who runs the place is doing well. The problem is with the nature of the building and its environment. Cows reared in Government House defecate around the surrounding, giving the premises an offensive odour. It is the same situation with goats; people in the living quarters allow the animals to move around freely. But for junior workers, how many of the senior staff patronize the place? They have all run away because it stinks. We now have to move as far as Presidential Road or even New Haven to find food, something we could easily have done here, were the place convenient. The condition of that building is a shame on Enugu government.”
The staff added that several caterers brought in to run the canteen declined the offer when they saw the state of the place. It was also gathered that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, during a tour of Government House, expressed shock at the condition of the canteen.
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Uwakwe Abugu, who acknowledged that the building was really in a “bad shape”, said the governor wants to give the entire Government House a facelift.
“Under four months, the governor has rebuilt the Protocol Unit, which was an eyesore when he came to power. Work has advanced seriously and is continuing everyday at the new Government House. The office of the Deputy Governor is being reconstructed, among others. The Government House canteen is one of the buildings that needs attention and we agree that it is dilapidated.
“My assurance to you is that the governor is aware and is working very hard to ensure that Government House wears a new look in the near future. People should not just look at the ones that have not been done but also at what have been done, so far. This government will not shy away from any challenge, especially the one that affects the overall interests of the people,” Abugu said. (The Guardian)