By Charles Ebube – Abuja
Barely a year ago, this news media in her public service to the community and through her investigative work unravel how the ECOWAS Court with Diplomatic status concludes arrangement on relocating the unwilling staff to GUDU area of ABUJA FCT known to be a very criminally and violently volatile area and raises concern as to why anyone would conceive the idea without considering the safety of the international Diplomatic staff.
Despite all warnings and obvious rejection of the location by the staff, the project of relocation to Gudu still continues till date and one begins to wonder why a court will insist on relocating from WUSE to such an area.
Latest investigation update reveals that the building in question has some structural defects raising fears of the safety of the staff given the spate of building collapse this days all over the country.
Investigation further revealed that the structural state of the building raised a serious concerns to the extent that the Abuja Development Control Agency have issued stop work orders twice but such notices were eventually evacuated in a mysterious way and work still continues.
Given the staff strength of over 140 working in the Court, our correspondent gathered that the building is not only smaller than the presently occupied one in Wuse but was not designed to carry such huge weight.
More disturbing and raising more concerns on health and safety is the fact that, the building in question was allegedly built on a sand-filled area and has been abandoned for over 15 years before the Court management decides to opt for the building; preferred it over their own permanent property bought for them by the President Obasanjo administration through the dogged effort of the former President of the Court Honorable Justice Donli.
The public should wonder the interest involve and how a landlord will abandon a safer and more conducive building to go and rent a more expensive, unsafe, smaller, health and safety concern building in Gudu area.
More questionable is the further structural compromise going on at the renovation stage making the building more weak and potentially dangerous for the would be occupant; for example, we understand that the building which was not structurally designed to carry the weight of a lift has been altered and two lifts installed, resulting in a crack on the building and raising more serious potential hazard.
The issue of bogus contract inflation, awarding contracts to relations and circumventing bidding procedures is a topic for another day as our concern is more on the safety of life of the staff as we foresee imminent building collapse if the appropriate authorities does not intervene.
One wonders and question why Nigeria government will not abide by the headquarters agreement of finding a SUITABLE OFFICE ACCOMODATIONS for ECOWAS Court of Justice but rather take them away from a more suitable permanent location in WUSE to a temporary more expensive rented one in Gudu, which is known to be unsafe and where you can rarely find any international agency presence around that location.
It is a public knowledge that whenever concerned Staff registers their worries about the general safety of the area and the structural defect of the building, they get bullied and reprimanded by the management as our investigation further reveals.
In a recently leaked memo from the Staff Representative to the management of the court raising concerns on the already discussed issues and security concerns of the area; the Outgoing President implicated the Nigerian government with the following response to the memo of the Staff Representative in a better quoted verbatim text as follows:
“IM HAVE STATED BEFORE THAT THIS IS WHAT NIGERIA HAS OFFERED TO US AND ANYONE WHO DOES NOT WANT TO GO THERE TO WORK, HAS A RIGHT TO DO SO AT THE RISK OF HIS OR HER JOB “
It did not end there, the staff through their Representative was also given a very comical response about their enquiry on the office setting arrangement which is very crowded with open space setting and open toilets facilities; in which the outgoing President of the Court was quoted verbatim in the leaked memo in our possession as follows:
“NO ONE IS GOING TO HAVE A CUBICLE TO HIM OR HERSELF APART FROM DIRECTORS AND HOD, STAFF MUST BE IN OPEN SPACES TO WORK. WORKING ENVIRONMENT DOES NOT NEED PRIVACY IT IS NOT ANYONE’S HOME. SAFETY AT WORK IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY AND IT MUST BE ENSURED.”
In the light of all the above development and the safety concerns of the staff of the Court and the blame game between the management of the Court and the Nigerian authority which has been implicated; this publication is calling upon the Federal Government of Nigeria in her spirit of transparency and public interest to investigate fully the project in question and clear her name; as to why they will allocate an unsafe area to a Diplomatic ECOWAS Court mission contrary to the headquarters agreement which expects Nigeria to find a suitable office accommodation location for ECOWAS institutions?
The public is waiting and the community tax payers money been wasted on a building that raises health and safety issues needs to be accounted for and addressed transparently; as to why a rented GUDU location is to be preferred over a permanent building location bought by Nigeria Government for the ECOWAS Court in WUSE 2 Abuja FCT?
The question remains, why would a landlord abandon his own permanent property and prefer to go and rent a smaller and less conducive one in an unsafe location?
This question is begging for an answer by both the Staff of the Court and the ECOWAS community whose tax payers money is been drained on the Gudu relocation project.