Disquiet in Ondo over move to build new governor’s lodge
In recent times, the 18 local councils of Ondo State had been awash with news that Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu was making efforts to build a new and more befitting Governor’s Lodge in the premises of Government House, Akure. But many political analysts discountenanced the information as frivolous, saying the governor would not venture into such extravagant project in view of the economic hardship in the country and the state, which is taking a negative toll on payment of workers’ salaries.
However, the 100 Days Planning Committee drafted to reel out activities for Akeredolu’s second term in office, at a press conference a few weeks ago, confirmed the news, saying that the governor would lay the foundation for the new edifice.
The Chairman and Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Princess Oladuni Odu, disclosed that the present Governor’s Lodge is obsolete and not habitable due to some structural defects that are beyond redemption.
There were series of reactions from the general public that the construction of a new N2b Governor’s Lodge is an elephant project at the expense of the people. They observed the current economic situation does not justify it.
But while laying the foundation of the new project, the governor explained why he is building the expensive new lodge, and why the current one may no longer be fit for the State’s first citizen.
Akeredolu recounted that “the old Governor’s Lodge was originally a modest three-room duplex of timber flooring, built for the Colonial District Officers. This historic building went through a lot of modifications, restructuring and renovations since the creation of Ondo State in 1976.”
Whereas the current administration did not disclose the cost of the new lodge, there have been guesses that the construction would gulp more than the estimated N2billion, spent by the immediate past Governor, Olusegun Mimiko in building the current Governor’s Lodge within the Government House, during his second term in office.
IN its assessment of the project, Ondo State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Fatai Adams, flayed the governor for the construction of a new lodge pegged at over N2 billion, saying it is at the expense of workers’ salaries.
Adams, who also decried the alarming spate of insecurity in the nation and the resignation of 105 medical doctors in the state hospitals, described the governor as wasteful and insensitive to the yearnings of the people.
According to him, the present administration should have deployed the money proposed for use in building the new Governor’s Lodge for the payment of backlogs of unpaid salaries and emoluments of workers.
“This is not only ridiculous but the surest evidence that the Governor has completely lost direction. Dr Olusegun Mimiko, Akeredeolu’s predecessor built a very befitting Governor’s Lodge in 2013, a few years before Akeredolu assumed office. To spend N2 billion of taxpayers money on another Lodge at this time is the height of callousness and wastefulness.”
The PDP scribe wonders how the one built by Dr Mimiko in 2013 could have become so uninhabitable that a new one is now inevitable. “Considering the terrible economic situation and hunger in the land, is it proper or reasonable for a government to embark on an N2billion project that will only serve very few individuals when millions of people are languishing in penury and dying without basic healthcare service delivery?”
He argued that “if a society is not fully informed of the atrocious and pernicious nature of the party in government, the people may always be cajoled or beguiled through a well-oiled and orchestrated propaganda machinery, into believing that the government is working in the interest of the people.
“We wish to assure the people of Ondo State, that the good times they once savoured under the PDP administration are almost here again. We shall not give up or be overwhelmed by the suffering and hopelessness foisted on us by the APC government because we can already see light at the end of the tunnel.”
According to findings, Governor Akeredolu and his family have been residing at the Presidential Suite, which sits at the centre of the Government House.
In justifying the new construction, he said the outcome of the assessment on the current lodge revealed that it has series of infrastructural defects. He said it was expedient to build a befitting lodge for the state.
He recounted that “When we came in February 2017, we met the old Governor’s Lodge building, fabrics and furniture in acute dilapidation and utter state of abandonment. Also, the Governor’s Lodge Annex that was built by the immediate past administration, had issues of structural defect.
“Our first reaction to the ugly development was to involve the best of cost-effective steps to put to good use the facilities. In pursuant of this, qualified and experienced building experts were invited to work with our in-house professionals to carry out due diligence and survey on the structures.”
According to him, “The objective of our action was to have a concise report on the adequacy of spaces, snags, building health and cost of remedial works. The report submitted by the experts revealed a humongous cost of putting the old lodge in a befitting status and yet it will not adequately compensate for the value of money to be spent.”
He stressed that in pursuance of his commitment to the REDEEMED agenda and to leave a good legacy, a committee was saddled with a responsibility to construct a befitting lodge for the state government.
“This project was conceived with the best expectations of any Governor’s Lodge you can find in Nigeria. The structure sits on approximately 2,000 square meters of land and measures about 18 meters from the ground floor to the tip of the iconic roof. The facilities will house a Banquet Hall to sit about 250 guests, basement parking, indoor and outdoor kitchen, swimming pool, sitting lounge, atrium sitting room, bedrooms and other functional spaces.
“Information Communication Technology (ICT) software and gadgets will be applied in the finishing of this edifice while the entire environment will be adorned with both soft and hard landscape. Let me state unequivocally, that this project is another landmark testimony of our commitment to the REDEEMED agenda. In the last four years, we have been able to make bold footprints in the building infrastructure sector.
IN addition to the ultramodern structure for the new Governor’s Lodge, Akeredolu said his administration was working on other laudable projects across all sectors.
Since the creation of the state in 1976, the present administration scored a high point on infrastructural development by constructing the first flyover and interchange bridge in Ore, the headquarters of Odigbo LGA, a multi-billion Naira project that put an end to incessant accidents in that axis.
Governor Akeredolu listed other projects to include constructions of ultra-modern Internal Revenue Service Headquarters, modern guest chalets in the Government House Grounds, UNIMED Teaching Hospital facilities in Akure and Ondo Complexes.
Aside from these, he noted that there would be restructuring of the Governor’s Office area within the complex to make for a befitting office for the Governor and his aides. He listed renovations of TESCOM Headquarters, the Library Board, public buildings across the state, restructuring of VIP chalets, facelift of the State House of Assembly Complex, modern office block for ODBPP and Multi-Lateral Relations Agency.
Akeredolu added that there was the completion of the Accountant-General Headquarters Complex, the construction of a modern office for the Ondo State Contributory, Health Insurance Scheme in the pipeline.
“We shall continue to focus on our core mandate and promises for the good people of Ondo State, hoping for grace and capacity to do more. I will like to thank all stakeholders who made it possible for us to commence this project, and for their passion so far towards its realisation.”
For the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, “It is a conceded fact that an opposition party is at liberty to criticise any government, including, of course, the indiscretion display of ignorance on issues of governance,” he stressed that the major opposition party, PDP, was only being mischievous to link the new construction to workers unpaid salaries.
“It becomes immeasurably uncanny considering that the party in question left the stage with the most uncharitable legacy of ‘unpaid seven months salaries,” he said.
Explaining how the state would source for funds for the project, Ojogo said: “Perhaps, PDP deserves to know that the envisioned Governor’s Lodge is among the plethora of iconic projects targeted with the yet-to-be-fully accessed bond. Suggesting, therefore, that government should ‘shelve’ the project for salaries clearly shows a gross lack of knowledge of how bonds work. They are special-purpose means of funding developmental initiatives, inconvertible to cash, hence undrawable by anyone.
“Rather than abandon the welfare of workers for months without remorse under any guise, the Ondo State Government, led by Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, shall, at all times, evolve ingenious means to address the issue of salaries in the face of excruciating global economic challenges.”