GOVERNOR Yahaya Bello, the so-called digital governor of Kogi State, spent the better part of one year and two successive panels screening the state’s workforce for ghost workers. After he brought the exercise he described as staff verification to an inglorious conclusion a few weeks ago, claiming with fanfare to have discovered over 18,000 ghost workers out of a little over 27,000 state staff roll, it was clear he was working to a predetermined answer. The verification exercise was riddled with contradictions and gross ineptitude, salary payment itself is still haphazard, deductions lack arithmetic and financial coherence, and the governor is engaged in a war of attrition with institutions and agencies for the purpose of getting as many workers as possible struck off the payroll, regardless of extant rules and laws.
For a government that claims to groan under a monthly wage bill of more than N5bn (they have dishonestly included LG staff salaries), and whose second verification panel claims to have saved the state government about N2.6bn every month, it is incredible that the state still finds it difficult to pay salaries as and when due, not to say pay all workers full salaries at the same time. Kogi obviously operates outside known mathematical laws. And despite the second panel claiming to remedy what the state government described as the first panel’s shoddy verification exercise, it is remarkable that there are still complaints galore among state workers, some of whom, estimated to be nearly half of the workforce, have not been paid for more than six months.
The governor, it seems, would prefer not to pay any worker at all. Seizing upon the screening panel’s recommendations, but without recourse to either its own terms of reference or the law, the state has asked professors in the state university and chief lecturers in the College of Education, and any other top civil servant, including chief nursing officers in state hospitals, to retire on account of salary and promotional stagnation that have lasted for eight years. In Kogi, the lecturers and directors do not have to reach retirement age, and neither the law nor any other rule matters. What matters is that Mr Bello is obsessed with cutting staff strength by hook or crook or simply not paying them at all using one pretext or the other. He prefers to splurge the state funds on other trifles. The famous roundabouts in Lokoja’s main street that conjured spiritual nightmares in his excitable imagination, and which he destroyed shortly after he assumed office, have remained abandoned. Instead, the restless traveller governor is erecting garish sentry posts on all the access roads to Government House, Lokoja.
Those who imposed this naïve and dangerously inept governor on Kogi can look back with sadistic pleasure at the consequences of their meddlesomeness. Kogi now groans under a power shift of other people’s making, a shift that is in essence humiliating and disruptive. With no development happening anywhere in the state, and with workers hungry, sick and oppressed, Kogites are in a quandary about what to do to survive the next three years until either God or the ballot box puts paid to the impressionable young governor’s clownishness and propaganda.
– Idowu Akinlotan