Rivers state prescribes virtual work for its 3 million LGA workers, but it’s not what you think

Ejike Kanife
Rivers state governor has directed local government workers in its 23 councils to start working virtually.
Rivers state prescribes virtual work for its 3 million LGA workers but it’s not what you think
Siminalayi Fubara

In the wake of the LGA crisis rocking Rivers State in south-southern Nigeria, the state governor, Siminalayi Fubara has directed local government workers in its 23 councils to start working virtually.  This was a snap decision taken by the governor following protests which rocked the councils upon the expiration of the tenures of former local government chairmen.

The protests soon turned to clashes as supporters of the current governor overran the councils and vowed to prevent the former chairmen, purportedly loyal to former governor and current minister of the FCT, Nyesom Wike.

Subsequently, the state governor has appointed caretaker chairmen to the councils, a move that was countered by the former chairmen.

In the wake of the clashes, the state police commissioner moved in and took control of the council. The police sealed the councils announcing that they would be reopened at the determination of a pending court case. With the police sealing the councils, the state governor directed the caretaker chairmen to work remotely. 

Rivers state prescribes virtual work for its 3 million LGA workers but it’s not what you think
Siminalayi Fubara

While one may not be remiss to think virtual work as prescribed by the governor means working digitally from a conducive place, it seems this is very far from it. According to the chairman of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in Rivers state, Alex Agwanwor, working virtually as prescribed by the governor simply means looking for other locations to act as councils.

Speaking at Arise TV’s The Morning Show, the NLC state chairman, when quizzed about the nature of virtual work directed by the state governor, replied that the governor asked the caretakers to look for spaces where the LG workers will work from. In other words, they should look for alternative offices to operate out of.

Rivers state LGA crisis gives new meaning to virtual work

The Rivers State LG crisis has forced workers to virtual work, giving an entirely different meaning to virtual work.

Virtual or remote work, as it is known, involves using digital means to facilitate work without needing to be physically present. However, Rivers State’s case appears to require a physical presence in a physical space, with no digital upgrades.

Rivers state prescribes virtual work for its 3 million LGA workers but it’s not what you think
Alex Agwonwor with Sim Fubara

It is important to note that virtual work, in whatever format, be it the digital format or Rivers state format, is not suitable for government work.  This is because local government workers are usually hands-on in their duties. 

Furthermore, due to the paper-based style of administration, the workers likely need access to their offices, not necessarily their computers, to muster any form of efficiency. As such, they are likely to be less effective working from anywhere else that isn’t their office.

Indeed the state NLC chairman, Alex Agwanwor noted that services rendered by the local governments have continued to suffer, despite the permission granted to workers to operate remotely. He confirmed that marriage registries for example have not been working therefore there have been no court weddings in the state.

He also noted the same for birth registries, sanitary workers and health workers as community health services, especially those located around councils have been heavily disrupted. 

How many of these people will be able to work from home? They can’t because they must render services,” the NLC chief said.

He, therefore, called on the police to unseal the local government councils so that the workers could have access to their offices where they could continue their jobs of providing essential services to the communities. 

It is yet to be seen how long the caretakers appointed by the governor would be required to work virtually.

The police insist the councils will remain sealed until a court pronouncement. The problem, however, is that these things take years. If this one does, the people of Rivers would have to brace themselves because as we have established, local government work is not virtual.

See also: Virtual Campaign Rallies Won’t Work in Nigeria Yet but Politicians Need to Brace Up for it in the Future


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