While some offices offer skeletal services, others have become shadows of their former glory
Until early 2000, the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) played a significant role in facilitating communications among Nigerians. This was however truncated by technological evolution that saw the introduction of mobile phones in the country. Since then, the more than 3,000 post offices across the country have continued to struggle for survival with some of them abandoned and rotting away, while others have been leased out to other companies which maximize them for different purposes.
Mini post office now Indian hemp smokers’ den
Mini post office, Tudun Wada, Kaduna is now a shadow of its former glory as it now bestrides an abandoned structure left to rot away. It has simply become an Indian hemp smokers’ den.
During its days of glory it served the residents of Tudun Wada, Sabon Gari, Zango and Kabala West communities in Kaduna. In youths who have passed the age of 30, the building located behind LEA Kagoro Road Primary School in Tudun Wada, Kaduna South Local Government Area, and the only primary health care centre in the community, evokes childhood memories of a functional postal service in the 90s.
Before it became the present ‘hunted house,’ it had remained an uncompleted structure that existed from the 1980s but was later completed and converted to one of the mini-post offices of the Nigeria Postal Services (NIPOST) in the state. There are about 39 post offices across Kaduna’s 23 local government areas, including the general post office along Yakubu Gowon Way which beams with activities. But many of the mini-post offices appear dormant, while others have been converted to shops and banks.
Aliyu, a resident in Tudun Wada, told Daily Trust on Saturday that when he was attending Kagoro Primary School in 1986, the structure which was uncompleted was later completed in the 90s. Letterboxes were fixed and the building was put to use. The operation lasted for only a short period as the office was later closed down for undisclosed reasons.
Aliyu said: “After it was closed down, the place was completely abandoned and overgrown by grasses for many years. Miscreants take advantage of the place to smoke Indian hemp.”
Another resident, Umar Ibrahim said: “I used to collect letters from this place in the late 90s. Later, they withdrew their staff and abandoned the place. Some of the letterboxes were yanked off from the walls by miscreants before a security guard was stationed to protect the property.”
When our reporters visited the building, the premises was deserted. It was only an individual believed to be a local guard that was seen sleeping on a mat in front of one of the offices.
At the Kawo post office, along Divine Avenue close to WEAC office Kawo, Daily Trust Saturday’s checks indicated that though skeletal services were being provided, the offices were empty. Only one female staffer was sitting behind a glass wall. The letterbox section looked abandoned and obsolete. Ibrahima Yakubu, a resident of Kawo, recalled that the building was in full operation in the 80s when he used to send letters overseas.
“It is sad that the place is now history because it’s no longer functioning. I think the coming of e-mails and mobile phones contributed to the neglect and eventual collapse of the Nigerian postal services to an extent,” he said.
Another post office along Ali Akilu Road is in a good shape with a big post office signboard still hanging on top of the building. But the frontage has been converted to rented shops.
Post offices converted to business centres
In most states, except for the NIPOST sub headquarters which remain active, most mini-post offices have been leased out to other businesses for use. In Benue State, the sub headquarters remains active with a lot of commercial activities going on within the premises.
It was observed that the organization’s Express Mail Service was being patronized by customers at the NIPOST situated along Bank Road in Wadata area of Makurdi. The NIRSAL Micro Finance Bank now inhabits a section of the post office where letters were being formerly posted. Also, the ultra-fine food company now occupies another office complex in the building. Petty traders also carry out their businesses within the premises of the sub NIPOST headquarters.
However, the territorial headquarters of the NIPOST along Makurdi – Gboko Road in Makurdi metropolis which has been abandoned for long has now been taken over by a private company.
The edifice that used to bubble with activities but later abandoned and overgrown with weeds now houses a cold room and grains storage. Several sections of the edifice have been converted and fitted as fridge and cold room containers.
One of the workers at the premises told our correspondent that the palatial space is now being used as a cold room for yoghurt, fish and storage for sorghum as well as several other items.
Other NIPOST offices in Otukpo and other smaller towns have been reportedly converted to banks, restaurants and other business ventures.
In Plateau State, the headquarters of the Nigerian Postal Service located along Ahmadu Bello Way is still active, except other mini post offices, especially in the hinterlands.
One of the offices around Jos Central Mosque is partially functional. Though a large portion of the land has been leased to a businessman for 25 years to set up a printing press.
It was also observed that a significant percentage of the main building was demolished, while almost all the mailboxes have been detached from the main building. Most people who have their address boxes in the office and complained to the state headquarters have been reallocated new ones in the main post office.
Functioning amid low patronage
In Kogi and Kwara states, the Nigerian Postal Services appear active and still maintaining their statutory functions. In Lokoja, workers were going about their duties. An officer who pleaded anonymity, told Daily Trust Saturday that services such as EMS, Speed Post and registered letters were being carried out and delivered within 24 and 48 hours, depending on whether the destination is local or overseas.
He disclosed that a micro finance bank is using their block for a fee and that the volume of posted letters was on the decline. He added that the service was planning to operate its own micro finance bank.
In Kwara State, the situation at the NIPOST office in Ilorin shows that the service is still in business but faced with challenges of perception and doubts about their ability to attend to customers, many of who want prompt service delivery.
Also, the location of the office in the heart of Ilorin’s commercial nerve centre has left it competing with traders. The service has also exploited the opportunity to build several shops at the side of the edifice which has been rented out to people.
Aside the headquarters, there are eight post offices in Ilorin. There are others in Jebba, Share, Kaiama and other local government areas in Kwara State.
When Daily Trust Saturday visited its Ilorin headquarters on Thursday, about five staffers were seen inside the hall, while others were seen attending to customers from the cubicles identified with different inscriptions.
While posing as a customer, one of staffers at the “Philatelic” cubicle said that it might take a week for letters to get to a destination once they got registered, adding that people who considered such duration too long could use the EMS service which takes about three days.
“For the registered parcels depending on the weight, the prices range from a thousand plus to about N2,500 for Lagos and Abuja respectively. Letters that weigh 0-500 grammes is about 500 subsequent grammes after that cost N20,” he added.
Another staffer added that codes were issued to customers who registered their letters for the customers to be able to track the movement pattern of their letter or parcels as well as the duration of arrival.
In Kano State, there are 26 offices of the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) across the state. Though the chief head postmaster in the state couldn’t be reached, Sources close to the NIPOST state headquarters disclosed that all the offices across the state were functioning and had never stopped operations.
We, however, gathered that some of the officers had given out a space to the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) Microfinance Bank. Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has entered an agreement with NIPOST to be utilizing parts of some NIPOST’s offices in the state as their operating offices.
Bompai NIPOST office situated at Independence Road Bompai, Kano, now wears a new look of a NIRSAL Microfinance office with an old NIPOST office operating within the same building.
The Gyadi-Gyadi New Court Road office opens for business with NIPOST staffers present in the offices. But the Gyadi-Gyadi office is not among the ones chosen for NIRSAL Microfinance.
Port Harcourt postal office: Home for the homeless
The magnificent edifice housing the Port Harcourt postal office has become home to the homeless.
The abandoned building is occupied mainly by street hawkers, food vendors, operators of business centres and the homeless.
The postal office which was constructed in the late 80s, was a beehive of activities until it was abandoned as a result of the advent of internet and social media platforms as preferred channels of communication among friends, relations and well-wishers.
The postal office, which is located adjacent to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN regional office, shares a fence with the Port Harcourt High Court, is wearing a relic of abandonment just as the entire premises are dotted with dirt and filths.
Food vendors, computer business centres, hawkers of various items such as stationeries and clothing have taken over the inner premises of the buildings while some homeless persons are using part of the rooms in the building as a temporary shelter.
Some of the traders said the abandonment of the building has afforded them the opportunity to trade.
A cyber cafe operator in the building who simply gave her name as Mary said, “many of us are using this place to do business because it’s an abandoned building. NIPOST is no longer functional and a magnificent building like this cannot be lying fallow. Many of us here cannot afford the cost of renting shops so what we do is to tip those managing the building some cash at the end of the month to enable us to occupy some space for our businesses,” she said.
A food vendor within the premises said that he took advantage of the proximity of the building to public offices such as CBN, high court and the state Secretariat to sell her food.
Efforts made by our reporter to talk with the handlers of the building were not successful.
Mini shops in Abia
The building of the NIPOST office in Umuahia, the capital of Abia State, is nothing to write home about. The ceiling, the furniture is in a state of disrepair as skeletal services are undertaken by the staff.
However, business owners have converted the outer space to mini shops where shoes, roasted yams, clothes, books, and other items are sold. Visitors to the building can’t help but notice the presence of photographers and photocopy machine operators who are busy canvassing for patronage.
Daily Trust Saturday learnt from some of the staff that efforts to get the government to repair the building has not yielded results.
“You can see that we don’t have furniture here. Most of them are damaged. Look at the ceiling and others,” one of the staff disclosed, while noting that patronage of the postal service has reduced drastically.
A Special assistant to the Governor of Abia State on Media, Mr Ugochukwu Emezue said though it is not within the purview of the state government to fund the agency, it will be open to collaboration if requested.
He said the government has supported other federal government establishments such as Immigration service, NYSC in the past.
He jokingly asked our reporter if Abians still go there to send letters.
Leaking roof, low patronage in Lagos
The seven-story building housing the Nigerian Postal Service annex in Obalende, Lagos is a shadow of itself.
The main gate is often blocked by commercial buses while its fence is surrounded by hawkers.
Inside the once bubbling edifice are operational vehicles belonging to NIPOST while the first four floors of the building are occupied by NIPOST bulk courier, e-commerce logistics, and the maintenance department.
The fifth and the sixth floor have been rented out to law firms and estate agents.
The roof of the seventh floor is seriously leaking and not habitable, hence it is not being put into any use.
When Daily Trust Saturday visited the office yesterday, it was discovered that it is in need of support staff such as cleaners and gardeners as the compound has been taken over by weeds.
The security guards are also making frantic efforts to check the excesses of hoodlums and commercial bus drivers from encroaching into the compound.
The story was not different at the Marina office when our correspondent visited.
A good portion of the facility has been rented out to booksellers, communication companies while its view has been covered up with displays of wares, like clothes and other merchandise by the dealers. Only a signpost on the first floor indicated that there is a postal service within the facility that was cynosure of all eyes in the past.
Our correspondent also observed that only two customers visited the NIPOST office within 90 minutes that he was there.
The Deputy Zonal Manager, Corporate Communications, Lagos, Mrs Valerie Ekeogu declined comment on the dilapidation of structure and skeletal services in some of the offices in the zone. She referred our correspondent to the headquarters in Abuja.
Duty Stamp centre in Imo, low capacity in Ekiti
In Imo, our correspondent gathered that there are more than 70 post offices scattered in the 27 local government areas of the state.
While most of them, especially those in rural areas, have become dysfunctional as the offices have been abandoned, others have been overgrown with weeds.
However, those located in government establishments, offices and local government witness skeletal services. They are often patronised by those buying duty stamps or collecting parcels.
For instances at the NIPOST office located inside the Federal Secretariat, Owerri, our correspondent gathered that the staff come at will
When our correspondent visited the office on Thursday, it was under lock and key as no staff was on duty.
A staff of Nigerian Immigration Service, who spoke to our correspondent, said, “I can’t remember when last I saw the office open.”
The NIPOST office in Ado Ekiti is operating at a low capacity, though it is located close to the popular Oja Oba market in the state.
One of the customers to the facility, Mr. John Bolarinwa, said NIPOST in recent times, is a shadow of itself as Nigerians no longer patronize the agency.
He, however, said that the agency still has some functions to perform.
He called on the leadership in the country to redesign and give a new mandate to the agency to enable it to be economically viable.
Good News in Osogbo, Uyo
In Osogbo, Osun State capital, the NIPOST building near Orisunbare market is in good condition as construction work is ongoing on parts of the building.
Some shops in the premises which were recently gutted by fire have been demolished.
Inside the main building, the normal daily activities were ongoing when Daily Trust visited.
No illegal occupant in the premises except the petty traders who displayed their wares in front of the building.
Some of the petty traders said they chose the front of NIPOST office to display their wares because it’s a busy area due to its proximity to Orisunbare market.
Mrs Silifat Akande who sells vegetables said “since this place is very close to the Orisunbare market, I decided to stay here to sell because I could not get a space inside the market.” Akande said she was not paying NIPOST for the space.
The NIPOST office in Uyo is a beehive of activities as postal and courier services are still operational there.
The office, which is located around the popular plaza area in Uyo, has a regular flow of customers sending or picking up their deliveries on a daily basis.
It has also become an avenue for job seekers to seek out employment notices, as vacancies are regularly posted there for interested persons.
The central location of the office has its economic implications, as many other petty businesses take place there on a daily basis.
Mohammed I. Yaba and Abdulkadir Shehu, (Kaduna), Ibrahim Musa Giginyu (Kano), Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi), Adama John (Lokoja), Ado Abubakar Musa (Jos), Mumini Abdulkareem (Ilorin) Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Linus Effiong (Umuahia), Jude Aguguo Owuamanam (Owerri), Hameed Oyegbade (Osogbo), Iniabasi Umo (Uyo), Raphael Ogbonnaiye (Ado-Ekiti), Adelanwa Bamgboye & Ibrahim Kegbegbe (Lagos)