Owner of the rented property occupied by the Delta State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources has locked up the premises over failure of the government to pay the N4.8 million annual rent.
The property is located on Chinedu Ezenyili Street, Asaba.
The action of the property owner came as a rude shock for workers at the ministry as they could not access the premises on resumption of work.
But the state Commissioner for Lands and Surveys, Mr. Chika Ossai, who confirmed that the state was owing N4.8 million as rent for the property, frowned at the action of the landlord, and added that hopefully the premises would be unlocked on Wednesday.
“The landlord is unnecessarily being stubborn. What we are owing the landlord is just one year rent, and I don’t think that is enough justification to lock up the premises,” he stated.
Ossai denied that staff of the ministry were out of work, explaining that their jobs were mainly field work.
He lamented that the present administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa inherited a debt of N1 billion as unpaid rent for properties occupied by government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Ossai said the Okowa administration has been able to offset part of the rents leaving a balance of about N100 million indebtedness.
Barely a year ago, landlord of the property occupied by Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) locked up the premises located along the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha expressway over failure to pay rent.
The embarrassment on the state government as a result of frequent locking up of rented official apartments may have necessitated the plan to construct another secretariat complex to accommodate other MDAs outside the two existing complexes.
Governor Okowa has already approached the state House of Assembly for approval to take a loan of N10 billion for the new complex, a move that is generating criticism from stakeholders in the state.