The location explains its importance. Well placed on the old Lagos-Benin expressway is the Nigeria Postal Institute, Egor, a suburb of Benin, the Edo State capital. Its planners must have intentionally located it in the quiet and sleepy community and not within the hustling and bustling Benin metropolis because of the role it was designed to serve: training of personnel and manpower for postal offices in West Africa, especially the English-speaking ones. The planners also must have been mindful of accessibility when they established the place on the old Lagos-Benin Road, so that trainees and facilitators alike would not have problem getting there.
The large expanse of land the institute sits upon is another pointer to the expansionist thinking of the designers of the place. Everything on the ground that houses the institute points to the fact that the place was designed to serve a big purpose, only that the purpose seems, however, to have been defeated.
Like other numerous projects of the Federal Government that are scattered around the country, the huge compound in Egor is littered with beautifully designed and gigantic projects that were never completed. Now, the buildings have been left alone to battle with cold in the night and sun in the day until they perhaps give way to the weakening weather condition of the swampy forests.
The complex truly has everything in place to serve the purpose it was created for only that none of them was ever completed. First is the uncompleted major hostel, which according to the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Institute, Mr Charles Eke, was designed to accommodate at least 700 people.
Not far from the hostel is another theatre-like building. The building, despite its fairly tall height, has been almost overgrown by weeds and grasses such that one may easily conclude that there is no building there. The roof is almost lost if not for a few roofing sheets that are still remaining. Even the iron protectors that cover its side have been taken over by weeds, using it as stairs to reach the supposed roof.
There is also the large conference hall/auditorium with its pillars still showing no sign of giving way to the cold weather, something that gives an indication that it was well built. A stone throw to the auditorium is the dining hall, which according to the PRO, now serves the dual purpose of auditorium and cafeteria. He explained that the authorities now make use of the supposed hall that was designed to serve as dining hall as hall to train NIPOST staffs from different NIPOST offices across the country and sometimes from other countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia.
Such was the condition of the complex, according to the PRO that at a point, the weeds overshot the complex in height. He said that on a particular day, an animal came out of the bush while training of personnel as ongoing. “That very day some years ago, we were having our training when an animal, a grass cutter I think, came out of the bush and ran into the hall. The participants ran helter-skelter, thinking that it was a wild animal. There were occasions when reptiles, especially snakes became common visitors in the hostels and quarters,” he said jokingly. He, however, praised the contributions of the present Director of the institute, Ishaya Musa Diwa, whom he said had really changed the face of the institute despite the uncompleted projects that littered the premises.
Speaking on the condition of the institute, Diwa, said the challenges he met when he came on board were enormous, yet he has been able to make the place functional within the resources available to the institute. On the overgrown weeds, he said the development had been controlled through the use of chemicals. No wonder that, despite the uncompleted and dilapidated buildings at the institute, the entire premises has witnessed a significant improvement in terms of contolof the weeds. Diwa added, “We have renovated the Hostels, changed the beddings, curtained it and provided the basic facilities needed there. Three new rolls of hostel blocks have been added to the existing number with rooms that are well equipped to standard. The institute today now has hostel facilities that can house about 300 course participants in a stretch as against less than 70 before I came on board.
“We also now have two well-furnished guest houses for our visitors. They are essentially there for the use of our facilitators, who often come here to train people. We have also been able to improve on the makeshift hall such that the basic things are now there. We have improved on our classes and we will still upgrade them to international standards. We now have tables, chair and everything needed for conducive learning there.”
He, however, said the nation had lost substantial revenue owing to the non-completion of the institute making Kenya to gain in the process. According to him, “Initially, the intention of this institute was to take care of the whole of the West Africa sub-region or the English-speaking West African countries. But along the line, the purpose was defeated, as the government could not complete the partnership funding and the place could not be developed to the standard that the Universal Postal Union (UPU) required. What happened was that they shifted the institute to Kenya. That country was taken because they had the needed facilities.
“However, in the last three to four years, because of our big brother status and the quality of our postal administration, the UPU realised that we were better placed in terms of manpower and content of activities to take up that challenge. Unfortunately, our infrastructure is not the best, though we are trying to move despite the challenges. As it is now, we still perform that function of training officials of the national carriers, especially, the English-speaking West Africa countries. In the first quarter of next year, we are proposing to train people from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia,” Diwa stated.