Staff of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation on Tuesday led a protest against the Permanent Secretary, Dr Didi Walson-Jack for alleged high-handedness and non-release of project funds.
The workers chanting, ‘the permanent secretary must leave our ministry, ‘we are tired of redundancy’, we are tired of hunger’ said in the last three years, nothing was working in the ministry.
A staff, Harisu Bukar, alleged that Walson-Jack had deliberately left all files attended to, approving contracts for her allies alone, thereby limiting the implementation of programmes for water resources development.
He noted that the workers made the decision to protest following poor work conditions and delayed activities and programmes to reposition the ministry.
According to Bukar, “In my department of water quality control and sanitation, all files for training and workshops have deliberately failed to be approved, nothing is happening.
“Monies are not released for projects to be completed, we are tired of same thing happening for three years now, people are angry and frustrated”.
The staff urged the Head of Service to redeploy Walson-Jack from the ministry, and bring a new person with commitment to reposition the ministry in line with the Renewed Hope agenda of President Bola Tinubu.
Another staff of the Water Supply Department, Chimezie Aduba, alleged that Walson-Jack’s decision to halt programme implementation had led to hunger in the ministry.
“People are not being paid their entitlements, files are thrown out, junior officers are begging to eat, we want her to leave, that’s why we are protesting”.
Another staff in the Clean Nigeria Campaign Secretariat, Mrs Yinka Salami, noted that the office was stifled and lacked the resources to function effectively.
According to Salami, files were not approved by the permanent secretary, leading to a delay in implementing programmes to address poor sanitation and hygiene issues in the country.
She said the campaign secretariat had suffered neglect, with many project staff members not being paid, thereby dampening their morale and slowing down the open defecation free Nigeria target by 2025.
Responding, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Prof. Joseph Utsev, appealed for calm from the protesters.
He said all grievances were noted and would be resolved sooner than expected, saying he would continue to place priority on improving staff welfare.
“I want to appreciate every staff member and thank you for your patience, when I heard this, I quickly called the leader of the protest that I don’t want noise, you people should be calm and peaceful.
“I will meet with your leaders now to decide the way forward”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that at the last town hall meeting of the ministry’s staff with the new Ministers, chants of ‘the perm secretary must go’, rented the air.
NAN reports that members of the amalgamated Unions were not part of today’s protest.
As at the time of filing this report, the minister and his junior counterpart, Alhaji Bello Goronyo are currently meeting with five representatives of the aggrieved workers.