Why the Staff Audit?
Kogi State have been paying a humongous heap of wages and salaries to workers, thousands of whom were unintended and unmerited salaries. The numerical implication of this is that we paid nothing less than one billion naira to ghost workers or unintended beneficiaries every month.
Sanctioning a Staff Verification would not have been envisaged by a typical Nigerian politician, who craves political safety above people’s welfare. Litigations against his emergence were legion. Many were also working with the possibility of having another election.
Confronting the ghost workers cabal in the system is one of the patriotic decisions of the present administration. It was a decision that emanated from statesmanship rather than a political mind. Politicians think of the next election while a statesman think of the next generation. To save the next generation and build a new Kogi State, it was necessary to stop the flow of billions of naira into unintended pockets.
Who is a ghost worker or unintended beneficiary?
Throughout the Staff Verification Exercise, we had to contend with the constant explanation of what constitutes the army of ghost workers or unintended beneficiaries. Some names on the payrolls are completely non-existent. That was why thousands of “workers’’ did not even turn up for the exercise. Some were not properly employed. Improper employment involves, but is not limited to, giving appointments without due process.
Also, some workers falsified documents relating to their educational qualifications, age and other information. We also have people who were earning multiple salaries. This would not have been possible with a digitalized payroll, which is one of the objectives of this noble exercise. The exercise has also been able to check “diaspora workers” – people who claim to work for Kogi State were staying and working in other cities like Abuja, Kaduna, PortHarcourt, Kano and Ilorin. Some even have appointment letters bearing Kogi State since 1983 when the state was only created in 1991.
Our Window of Justice
Governor Yahaya Bello did not institute the panel to sack workers, but to ensure that only genuine workers are on the payrolls of the state.
The head of the first panel was changed when Labour had some misgivings against him. The Governor acted decisively to retain the confidence of Labour and the people of Kogi State in the process. A new Chairman was appointed. However, in his wisdom, the Governor went ahead to constitute a back-up team to ensure a successful exercise. Ghost workers syndrome is a powerful institution of corruption. It was expected to fight back.
After the submission of the reports of the panel, the Governor went ahead to setup an Appeal Panel to look into the complaints of affected workers. The panel are also through with their assignment and their reports will be publiced soon. Any affected worker will continue to have the opportunity of complaints as the exercise will be a continuum. All of these were put in place to ensure that the workers have access to justice under the New Direction Agenda.
Who benefits from the screening exercise?
The Staff Verification Exercise is a win-win situation. It will free funds for infrastructural development, which will serve the over 90% Kogites who are not on the payroll of government. This is key to economic development and amelioration of poverty.
The exercise will also help genuine civil servants enjoy regular payment of salaries. It will help us to determine the duty schedule of civil servants and restructure the service for efficiency.
For example, it was discovered a public hospital with only one medical doctor has over two hundred staff in the Accounts Department. There is no sense in that structure. The primary responsibility of a hospital is to provide healthcare, not a cash centre.
The reports of the screening exercise will be an excellent and veritable tool for planning. The State Government is also going to achieve a fully digitalized payroll that will have mechanism for checking graft in the system.
The period of hardship
The Governor is a street leader. He is not confined to his office or the allure of his home. He is with the people. He feels their pulse. He feels deeply sorry for the few months we had to stop payments in order to block the leakage. We got the reports of what the people went through. It was a period of sacrifice by our great workers. The Governor will reward your steadfastness.
And the deafening alerts
In the past few days, Kogi workers have been receiving salary arrears of between 4 to 10 months, depending on when the workers were cleared. This is in line with the promise of the Governor to ensure workers are paid all their salaries, including the December salary before the 20th of December. Twice last week, the Governor was at the screening centre until 2am, not because he does not trust the committee, but to assure the committee he is behind the assignment. The fruits of his labour have started manifesting. He has delivered on his promise.
Is the exercise credible?
Very credible. Screening to appeals and then to quality assurance. Governor Yahaya Bello is already looking beyond the exercise which reports have been subjected to forensic tests by experts. The panel has also worked out the cost of providing social safety nets for ‘’innocent victims’’ of the exercise. This is being handled by Actuarial Scientists.
The Governor has a big plan for those who are affected and who want to work. He will unfold that soon. That was why I said it is a win-win situation. Many of the unintended beneficiaries are Kogi indigenes. As a responsible Governor, Alh. Yahaya Bello will not just throw them into the dungeon of uncertainty and poverty. He has developed a plan to empower them to become employers of labour. Areas of labour shortage will also be filled, giving opportunities to job seekers. The glorious days are ahead of us.
The pundits of doom
Governor Yahaya Bello did not go into the exercise with a feeling of avoiding attacks. He has taken the ‘’bullets’’ to save the economy of the state. In the next few years, he will be applauded for saving the state from imminent collapse. He was attacked. We were attacked. The committee was attacked.
We know where the attacks were coming from. Corruption fought back. Those who were benefitting from the syndrome kept sponsoring critics against the government. We were undaunted by the armchair critics. We remained focused. But, we felt for those who were made to go through hunger by the action of ghost workers, unintended beneficiaries and their powerful promoters.
When the Governor promised to clear all the arrears owed to civil servants, many Prophets of doom said it would not happen. Some of them inhumanly and hypocritically prayed against it happening. They are the real enemies of the Kogi workers. We cannot be condemned by the criticisms of mischief, but we can be condemned if we refuse to take the stance of a patriot and save our dear state from the ruins.
Thanks to our constructive critics
I remember a particular post on my Facebook wall. A certain man said if we refuse to pay, I will suffer an untimely death like my mother. My family was worried. I also remembered when a certain political leader gave thugs money to some Koton Karfe boys to call our Governor unprintable names. These are the hazards of good decisions. We are amenable to constructive criticisms. They make us better. We appreciate the concerns of all. The end has finally justified the means. We must trust the policies and judgements of our leaders.
New Direction is not an emergency lifestyle but a well thought out culture of excellence, conceptualized by the owner of the vision himself to reposition Kogi State.
New Direction cares.
Evangelist Kingsley Femi Fanwo is the Director General, Media and Publicity to the Governor of Kogi State.
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