However, the governor dwelt more on civil servants with whom he had been fighting a running battle. Nevertheless, the governor appeared not bothered by criticisms trailing his decision to sack workers in the state as he insisted on pushing through his reform of the state’s civil service which he insisted is good for the state.
Some workers have lost their jobs due to one problem or the other while some have died as a result of hardship they suffered because they were not paid their salaries.
Some parents have withdrawn their children from schools because they could no longer afford the school fees.
Even some workers have committed suicide as a result of the hardship. A case in point was a director, Mr. Soje who took his life while another director, Mr Alphonsis Ameh, 61 year old died as a result of heart failure after he received his sacked letter.
Just recently about 800 workers were discovered to have been working with forged certificates. They included workers on both the state and the local government payrolls
According to the state’s Auditor General, Alhaji Yakubu Okala, government was committed to sanitising the public service sector and make it the pride of the state.
He also gave an assurance that the government would give top priority to the payment of salary this year even as he vowed to pursue programmes and policies that would impact positively on the lives of civil servants.
Bello, on the other hand believes that the biggest challenge facing his administration still remains the paucity of funds to finance series of development programmes.
No doubt, it is clear that no magic solution exists for the shortfalls in liquidity which has hit governments all over the country. But so far, creative governors have managed to pull through without attracting negative publicity that Bello has had to contend with.
One of the viable options before him is to be more creative in maximising existing sources of funds while developing new ones.
However, during his new year state broadcast, the governor asked workers in the state to stop blackmailing him over non payment of salaries. Bello warned that civil servants should not allow themselves to be used by political detractors to blackmail him over non payment of salaries.
He added that welfare of workers remained one of the top priorities of his administration, stressing that his administration, last December, succeeded in paying almost all the salaries arrears owed all categories of workers in the state and that the few ones that were yet to be paid were those having issues with the concluded staff screening exercise.
He expressed surprise that in spite of all his administration did to ameliorate the suffering of workers, some “discredited politicians ” are still using some unscrupulous workers to blackmail his administration that he was owing backlog of salaries and said any worker caught conniving with detractors to blackmail his administration would hence forth be dealt with.
He said: “This information on payment of salaries in relation to the screening exercise is important to dispel the persistent use of alleged non-payment by dishonest and discredited politicians to gain political capital under guise of fighting for Kogi State civil servants.
“It is also important to sound a warning to those civil servants who defame government with claims of long months of unpaid salaries in order to solicit money from gullible people, or evade their own contractual or domestic obligations.
“As the governor of Kogi State, I do not know of any circumstance under which any cleared civil servant, whether at state of local government level, can be owed even three months salaries after several months of being cleared, let alone 6, 10 or more months as some continue to claim.
“Our investigations show that those making these claims were caught in one offence or the other by the screening exercise and were dismissed or suspended from service without pay. In other cases, they were sanctioned for offences, granted pardon subject to regularisation.
“In all of these cases, due process is applicable. While we are making efforts to avoid collecting our full pound of flesh from those who robbed our state in the past through the civil service, we will no longer hesitate to make an example of those we catch compounding their criminal conduct with duplicity in this manner. Government will do her best to pay salaries as and at when due in 2018.”
The governor said as from this January workers’ attendance to work would be strictly monitored through the use of electronic device otherwise known as clock -in, clock- out which he said would finally determine the take home pay of each worker with a view to fish out indolent ones.
While mentioning some of his achievements in the last two years, he said his administration embarked on many projects that have direct bearing with the common man in the streets.
According to him, the agriculture policy introduced by him has brought succour to citizens in the state as the mass production of rice through the Omi dam has forced prices of food items to be reduced as government now sells rice at subsidised rate to the citizens.
He noted that he was pleased with the progress the state had made in agriculture as an alternative source of income and employment.
“Our first harvest from the experimental farm at Omi Dam was hugely satisfying, considering that it is an initial effort. The first batch of Confluence Rice hit the market in December, 2017. This is a source of income we hope to nurture from domestic sales, and if there is a surplus, distribution to other parts of the country and even overseas export.
“Our rice renaissance is traceable to the Agricultural Revolution Programme (ARP) which we launched with fanfare early in 2017 and have been working on since. Similarly, Cashew, cassava, sugarcane and benniseed are some other crops we have big plans for. We have made advanced progress with possible investors to cultivate these on an industrial scale in 2018. By the end of the year, we should be able to attribute at least 15 per cent of our income to earnings from the agricultural sector.“
He stressed that his New Direction Blueprint also contained programmes to start earning some serious money for Kogi State from direct investments in solid minerals.
He claimed that the state had not neglected the potentials of this rich source of Internally Generated Revenue, adding that state-owned solid minerals production company has been undergoing revitalisation to give it a corporate structure which is more responsive to the current realities saying it should be ready to handle transactions from early this year.
According to him, running concurrently with infrastructure development and IGR growth was a programme of social welfare packages which his administration created to reach many people particularly at the grassroots as possible.
He said: “While this may not have reached every person and every household, I am aware that it has reached every ward. This direct distribution of foodstuff, particularly rice, has put food on the tables which will otherwise be empty, especially during festive seasons. We will work to grow this Food Direct Programme in 2018 while expanding the scope to include other essential commodities like medicines.”
Bello also expressed the hope that this year will be far better than that of last year as his administration has mapped out areas to transform the state and create employment opportunities for the teeming youths and urged the citizens to remain law abiding.