BEING TEXT OF AN ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO OF KOGI STATE TO THE STATE’S WORKERS ON MONDAY, MAY 1 (MAYDAY), 2016.
The Deputy Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency, Honourable Simeon Achuba.
The Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Honourable Umar Imam
The Chief Judge of Kogi State, My Lord Justice Nasir Ajanah
Secretary to the Kogi State Government, Her Honour Mrs. Ayoade Folashade Arike
The Chief of Staff to the Governor, Honourable Edward Onoja
The Head of Service (Acting), Kogi State Civil Service,
Political Appointees and Members of Government.
Leaders and Members of the Nigerian Labour Congress
Leaders and Members of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria
Great Nigerian Workers!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
May 1st every year is a testimonial to the indomitable spirits of men and women, the Workers, who play the most invaluable roles in the Development of any Society. It is a day set aside by the World to pay deserved tribute to the people who constitute the Engine-room of every Society. These people, individually and collectively, labour, often without recognition and commensurate remuneration, to oil the wheels of progress in every Administration.
On this day, on behalf of the People and Government of Kogi State, we salute Workers all over the World. We salute you, Great Nigerian Workers. Above all, we salute each and every person who is a part of the Kogi State Civil Service at any level. Thank you for your Labour and Contribution. We acknowledge that Governments and Societies, including ours, are helpless without the Workers.
The ideal Workforce is the one in which Workers are consistently improving in skills and salaries. It is one in which the operating environment allocates dignity to human beings and rewards merit. It excludes redundancy and stagnation by a smart process of job placement and transfers. It provides continuous learning through training and retraining. Above all it works seamlessly to generate maximum productivity. It is our aspiration as an Administration to build that Ideal Workforce in Kogi State. However, reality shows we have a lot of work to do.
We cannot deceive ourselves that all is rosy with the Worker, whether in Nigeria or here at home in Kogi State. We inherited a Kogi State in which unpaid salaries and general atrocious working conditions were the norm. All sorts of tricks were devised by previous administrations to short-change the Kogi State Worker. The worst is of course the scourge of ghost-workers. Thousands of non-existent ‘workers’ paid from Kogi State coffers thus bringing it under undue strain and leaving the real workers either totally unpaid or only receiving meagre percentages of their wages.
I was a former Federal Civil Servant. I was never owed salaries during my time in service. When we came into Office, Kogi Workers were already on strike for at least 6 weeks, fed up with the then PDP Government’s kleptomania, lack of transparency and disastrous policies. It hurt me that a so-called Government could receive all the Federal Allocations due to it and still find the heart to leave workers unpaid. I decided that my Administration will be different. We remain committed to improving the lot of our Workers by eliminating every scheme in the system designed to exploit and cheat them.
Accordingly, the ghost-worker syndrome is an evil this Administration is committed to eradicating forever. The first line is the Screening Committee we set up soon after our Inauguration, led by Brigadier-General Paul Okuntimo (Rtd). General Okuntimo is a fine officer and an incorruptible gentleman. The Screening Committee is scheduled to conclude her work within the next one week and we shall thereafter expect to have only genuine workers on our payroll.
No more will people sit in Pay Offices and fabricate thousands of names, add them to the nominal roll and siphon Kogi State resources with them on a monthly basis. No more will people sit down in Lagos, Abuja, even abroad, and receive bank alerts for salaries from the Kogi State Government. No more will Kogi State pay salaries to ghost-workers who are ‘serving’ in non-existing institutions discovered all over the state by the Screening Committee. We are dismantling all of that satanic infrastructure. Our people will no longer be robbed.
On this Workers’ Day I must also seize opportunity to sound a timely warning to every genuine Worker in the Kogi State Civil Service: ENSURE THAT YOU ARE SCREENED. If the Screening Committee has somehow missed you, seek them out and do the needful. Once the Screening Exercise is done, we will only be paying salaries to Workers who have gone through the process. If you miss this train, you will have only yourself to blame.
Let me state that nothing happens without somebody knowing about it. We are therefore encouraging whistle-blowing. See something, say something. Everyone is encouraged to reach the Screening Committee or any of my appointees with information that will help us to completely sanitise the system. We will shortly set up a Call Centre so that those who prefer anonymity in this regard can put a call across and not have to fear detection or persecution.
In any case, I personally guarantee protection and maybe, some token reward, to every whistle-blower but only for giving us actionable intelligence.
We want the support of Organised Labour on this, especially the Leadership. This is after all for the overall benefit of your members. If we clean up the Workforce and remove those who should not be there, it is Kogi State, and in particular the Workers, who benefits. The situation in the recent past where some labour leaders have opposed the Screening Exercise under guise of the interests of their members is, to say the least, suspicious and unacceptable.
We have also been inundated with allegations of collusion between some labour executives and the past administrations in cheating the very Workers they represent through corrupt practices. We will of course investigate and anyone found culpable will have a date with the Anticorruption Agencies. We are cooking something nice for Kogi People, I know the kitchen is getting hot but I promise you there will be no sacred cows. Let those who cannot stand the heat get out of the kitchen!
Masu gudu, su gudu. The guilty are afraid. Evildoers may run, but they cannot hide.
Like I have repeatedly said, we intend to do things differently. A cardinal principle on which this Administration operates is transparency and open communications. I wish to bring to your notice the following facts:
• We have received four federal allocations since our assumption of Office in January, 2016 out of which we paid full salaries for January and March.
• In January we received about N2.6bn while our salary bill came to about N2.7bn. We paid full salaries.
• In February we received about N2.5bn and applied that the differentials between allocations and wage bills for January and March as well as other pressing needs of the State which has direct impact on the lives of the people, including you, the Workers. You will admit that Kogi State, with a population of about 3.5m people cannot spend all her money to service a Workforce of about 100,000 people. Security, obligations to contractors, rehabilitation of infrastructure, etc are also pressing and unavoidable.
• In March our allocation was about N2.3bn but we again paid full salaries to the tune of about N2.9bn.
• For April, allocation is about N2bn only. Even though the nearly N900m gap between allocation and wage bill is a huge challenge, we still hope to pay full salaries and even start defraying some arrears incurred by previous Administrations.
We put these figures in the public domain in the hope that Organised Labour will have the information they need to match us good faith for good faith. It saddens Government when industrial action is embarked upon in a capricious manner that seems to say that only the interests of striking workers matter. We believe that we can always partner together to manage every situation, including tight financial situations, in order to achieve the best results.
I am aware that almost as soon as were sworn in malicious persons serving evil interests both within and without Kogi State filled the media with rumours that we have accessed and frittered away the Bailout Funds. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality we met on ground at the CBN was that the previous application made on behalf of the State by the last administration was fraught with irregularities and shoddily done. In a word, it was so badly done it could never be approved. We had to start from scratch.
We are glad to announce that our efforts have paid off. This week we received approval to draw down on the first tranche of our Bailout Funds from the Federal Government. This will amount to about N20bn. We will draw down on the balance of about N30bn as we meet the milestones for implementation of the first tranche as set by the Central Bank of Nigeria. I also announce a commitment to use that money for salaries and emoluments of our workers. I am certain that by the time we fully disburse the Bailout Funds, disputes over outstanding emoluments will be over.
I therefore call on the Members and Leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Kogi State University Chapter to call off their ongoing Strike and let our dear Students go on with their education on schedule. In return, I promise them, and indeed all Workers of Kogi State, that there is now some light at the end of the tunnel.
We are also building momentum on our promises to the people in our manifesto. The promise of a New Direction is not ‘One Chance’ by any stretch of the imagination. Our New Direction Blueprint Team has taken our manifesto and produced the Quick-Wins which we are already implementing. I will speak more on that during the 100 Days’ events.
The main Blueprint which identifies planned developmental strides in every year of our 4-year tenure will soon be ready too.
My People, your Government in Kogi State is running with a 4-year Plan, a Blueprint for Accelerated Development of the State in all areas and socio-economic indices within this current term of office. We are focused on this one tenure. Those going around scheming against 2019 should therefore leave us alone. We are not open to distractions at any time. Like power, 2019 and beyond lie in the Hands of God. I trust that when the time comes, God and the great People of Kogi will decide who will lead this State further.
In closing, it is my pleasure to announce a donation by the Administration of two brand new buses to the Kogi State Chapters of the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Unions Congress respectively. The Kogi State Government charges the Leadership of the Unions to deploy these vehicles in the best interests of their members and in service to God and humanity at large.
Once more I felicitate with all Workers on this May Day, 2016. In particular, I felicitate with the Disciplined, Supportive, Resourceful and Productive Workers of the Kogi State Civil Service. I identify with you today, and always, and promise our continued commitment to your welfare and rights.
Thank you very much.
ALHAJI YAHAYA BELLO
EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR, KOGI STATE.