Gov Bello on Collision With Kogi Ghosts Workers

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By Mary Amodu, Lokoja.

While the issue of ghost workers affects most states in Nigeria, it is safe to say the ghost worker syndrome has assumed an epidemic situation in Kogi State.

This sad situation is largely caused by the elite, politicians and non-politicians, who were entrusted with public positions but abused the office. The greedy elite over the years injected names of their friends, children and relatives into the wage bill of the state and local governments. Names of children, friends and relatives of top government officials, political party stalwarts and traditional rulers who are still students in school and some working outside the state are on the payroll of a particular LGA and only come to the LG when there is screening exercise!

Over the years, the unfortunate trend became a norm and successive governments have had torrid time coping with the over-bloated and unrealistic wage bill in Kogi State.

The ghost workers syndrome has to be killed! Government must know the exact number of workers on its payroll and should be able to estimate their take-homes at every given time. This demands a lot of discipline from those at the helms of affairs. Budgetary discipline is a sine-qua non for nipping the ghost workers syndrome in the bud.

It is curious, however, that all governors in Kogi State have carried out screening exercises in a bid to rid the state of ghost workers but it seems none of the past effort is as thorough as the one recently undertaken by the incumbent Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

During the reign of Governor Ibrahim Idris, the state government brought in a consultant, Sally Tibot, to screen out ghost workers in the state. The 2008 screening exercise ended in controversies.

Under the immediate past governor Idris Wada, another screening exercise was conducted and about 10,000 local government staff recruited in 2010 were allegedly flushed out of the system. The exercise was not applauded as many claimed the government lacked the will to implement the report of the Ogunmola-led screening committee.

The incumbent Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, made it clear immediately after assuming office that the status quo cannot be allowed to chain the destiny of Kogi state. He constituted a committee to conduct staff verification exercise after few months of assumption of office and reports from the field suggests that the market is over for the ghost merchants who have held sway over the years.

The exercise has recently being criticised by those who feel the screening was a threat to their existence in the service. This screening exercise was conducted due to short fall in the monthly allocation in the State.

Inspite of all the hullabaloo about democratisation and independence, the average Nigerian will be quick to admit that our problems since independence has been nothing more than economy. It has become a common place that what matters to us since independence has been establishing structures without foundation. The economic management calls to mind immediately, the destruction of our own civil service structures, where workers are owed for several months after working ” work without pay” and government applying for bailout to survive while the economy of the State cripples.

The ghost merchants are the set of capitalists who see profit as ultimate, the group that are never bothered if many die due to their profiteering. To this group of people whether the right proportions of meals are taken is immaterial. If the peasants, the bulk of the citizenry, are dependent entirely on carbohydrates for months without a pinch of protein, it still qualifies for a meal. They are the same calibre of Kogites who believed that the cause of hold ups on our roads was due to the fact that every Tom, Dick and Harry was riding a car while right in their minds what they meant was different. What they meant was that with many people riding cars it was difficult to differentiate between the rich and the poor. Car loan has to be scrapped to make the difference. Corruption is not just a word anymore in Kogi State or Nigeria at large, it has eaten and destroyed every hooks and crannies in our civil service, healthcare system, education structures, etc.

Today, placards are displayed in the name of protesting against the civil service reform by Gov Yahaya Bello. The Governor, in reaction to the protests, held  an interactive session with journalists,  debunked the recent rumour that almost 7, 000 staff have been retrenched, saying there is no reason for tension because no genuine worker will be retrenched. He added that those who have been benefiting from the rot are clearly unhappy with the obvious outcome of the screening exercise. The governor asked those who are genuine workers but affected to forward their complaints to the right quarters and it will be looked into.

In the course of interaction, Governor Bello hinted that government will ensure that she deduct the correct amount from the salaries of workers as Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE).

He assured the citizens that his administration is working on the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR).“On produce, a spot which used to remit 2 million to the coffers of the government, when we got task force to work, we got 11 million. That is one spot. So we are improving on IGR because we must invent new ways to get money to carry out our projects for Kogi”, he said.

Meanwhile, the present identification exercise should be pursed with vigour. However, identifying the ghost workers is not just enough. Appropriate punishments should be meted out to them.

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