19th March, 2012
In the last few months, civil servants at the Lagos State Government Secretariat have been going through a harrowing experience as a result of the Boko Haram menace in the country.
As the state government tightens security around the complex, civil servants have had to bear the brunt of some of the measures being put in place by government to checkmate the incursion of Boko Haram into government secretariat.
The first was when Governor Babatunde Fashola ordered that all the gates in the secretariat be locked permanently, leaving only two open, one for entry and the other for exit.
Out of the seven gates at the government secretariat, only two are now open for use. The Deputy Governor’s gate, which had been one of the main gates used by motorists is now permanently locked.
Civil servants who work at the Secretariat and for one reason or another wish to visit LASEPA office, the taskforce or the House of Assembly just outside the Deputy Governor’s office will have to trek a long distance through the second gate to get there.
On Mondays, there is a traffic gridlock at the First gate, which is the only gate for entry into the secretariat since the Deputy Governor’s gate no longer in use. Motorists now go through a lot of stress due to this security measure.
Many civil servants have complained bitterly over this measure, saying it made no sense to leave two gates, out of seven open for exit and entry into the secretariat.
Early in February, Fashola issued an executive order that all praying grounds within the secretariat be cleared henceforth. He ordered that Muslim faithful should use the Secretariat Mosque outside the complex for their prayers while the Christians should use the Chapel of Christ the Light for theirs.
In a flash, the two spots where Muslims prayed within the secretariat were demolished because of the fear of incursion by outsiders who might want to capitalise on praying at the secretariat to wreak havoc.
Again, Muslims have been complaining bitterly over this security measure that deprived them the opportunity to call on their God within the secretariat, rather than trekking the long distance to the mosque outside.
The last straw was last Wednesday’s shutting out of thousands of vehicles belonging to civil servants. Those who did not have government official stickers were ordered to park their vehicles in the public car park, where their security could not guaranteed.
Prior to this, Fashola had ordered the Head of Service, HOS, Adesegun Ogunlewe to produce stickers for civil servants to enable them gain entry into the secretariat. The aim was to ensure that non-civil servants, who might pose a security threat, were not allowed to park inside the secretariat.
When the stickers were rolled out, only handfuls were distributed to each ministry. For instance, about 80 vehicle owners in the Education Ministry applied for the stickers, only eight of them got it while 72 vehicle owners in the ministry were asked to use the public car park. The same goes for all ministries.
On Wednesday, confusion set in as officials of the Vehicle Inspection Officers, VIOs, LASTMA and police barricaded the entrance gate and stopped civil servants who did not have the stickers from driving into the secretariat. Naturally, this resulted in a traffic jam on Awolowo Way.
Several motorists spent hours navigating around the secretariat, a situation many civil servants described as madness and an ill-thought policy by the government. That day, the government lost billions of naira as many civil servants did not get to their offices on time. They were all busy looking for places to park their vehicles.
Within minutes, the public car park was filled to capacity. Thousands of civil servants who could not get parking space at the public car park drove around the streets looking for space to park. Some of them pretended they wanted to purchase goods at the Ikeja City Mall, only to park their vehicles there and escape.
While some civil servants parked on the median, others took over a lane on the road around the secretariat to park their vehicles, with the attendant traffic gridlock. LASTMA officials who used to tow vehicles parked on the road could do nothing as they were overwhelmed by hundreds of vehicles parked permanently on the road. As at Friday, the situation was the same.
Many civil servants rain curses on the government for implementing what they called a wicked policy aimed at depriving them the privilege of parking their vehicles inside the secretariat premises.
In the weeks to come, there are insinuations that some unscrupulous civil servants are about to capitalise on the situation to make brisk money as they plan to produce fake government stickers to be sold to civil servants who own cars to gain entry into the secretariat.
It was gathered that since the sticker had no special features, it will be easy to duplicate.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba said government took the decision because of security reasons and to make the secretariat comfortable for all.
He said government wanted to ensure that only people who had business to do at the secretariat, such as civil servants were allowed entry, adding that government had even made a car park available for this purpose.
According to him, it had been discovered that people who were not staff parked their vehicles indiscriminately inside the secretariat.
In spite of all these measures put in place by the government to checkmate incursion of Boko Haram into the secretariat, Alausa Rhythms observed that there are still loopholes in the security measures.
It is appalling that there are no bomb detectors at the entrance and exit gates at the secretariat. Security personnel rely on manual checking of car booths but not inside the car. Some vehicles they considered as belonging to ‘big men’ were not checked.