With more revelations on the ongoing Kogi state workers verification exercise, Governor Yahaya Bello, set up a new 32-man committee tagged Appeal and Complaint Committee. OYIBO SALIHU in this piece takes a look at the anomalies the new committee has unraveled so far
Following the final report on the staff screening exercise in Kogi state and the series of complaints trailing the unclear list and omission of names of some workers that were earlier cleared by the committee, the state Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, set up a 32 -man committee tagged “Appeal and complaints committee” to address genuine complaints as part of his resolve to ensure that no bonifade staff of the state and local government is unjustly sacked.
When Kogi state was created in 1991 from the old Benue and Kwara states, the aim was to bring development closer to the people. But sadly about 26 after, the state civil service which ought to have served as the engine room to drive the expected development to actualization remains stagnated for reasons some observers describe as “cesspits of corruption”
Before the emergence of Bello as the fourth executive governor of Kogi state last year, the civil service was characterized by various scams and it was alleged that some high-ranking civil servants planted names of ghost workers on the payroll resulting in one person for instance, collecting the salary of about 40 workers, while some disgruntled elements in the system falsified their age to enable them remain in service when they should have retired.
Apparently, the system was buffeted by entrenched decadence such that underage persons were recruited to continue from where their parents stopped to enjoy the benefits of grade levels meant for their deceased parents while they are yet in secondary school.
However, these behaviours of some opportunistic senior civil servants was said to have been noticed by previous administrations in the state , but lacked the courage and the fear of stepping on toes of political fathers and supporters dissuaded them from taking drastic actions.
Briefing newsmen recently on the ongoing staff screening exercise by the Director General on Media and Publicity to the Governor, Kingsley Fanwo , said the appeal committee had uncovered a secondary school certificate holder who was employed as a Medical Officer by the former Deputy Governor of the state , Chief Philip Salawu and placed on Grade Level 13, stressing that she collected salary with the grade even four years after the administration’s tenure expired, adding that the act is a risk to the society.
According to him, a person who replaced a dead worker who had been trained to handle certain specialized jobs, will surely be incapable of functioning effectively, stressing that a compromised civil service is detrimental to growth and development of any tiers of government.
He lamented that even those in charge of pensions who diverted over N225 million meant for the payment of pension through connivance with some staff of micro finance bank had been detected by the Appeal Committee.
Fanwo said this act which may be one out of many had denied pensioners who have spent 35 years in serving their father land to benefit what they have laboured for.
According to him “Another case that is also worrisome is that of one Mr John Momoh Atabor who takes salary as well as pension and succeeded in siphoning over N4.3 million annually before he was uncovered”.
However, the DG pointed out that the introduction of bio-data for all the state workers and the proposed daily electronic time machine to ensure that workers are on their duty post , will go a long way in reforming the state and local government civil service.
“Governor Yahaya Bello is already looking beyond the ongoing screening exercise.
He is already making moves to digitalize the service. The State Government is already working on a digital register that will be linked with our e-payment platform. The Clock-In-Clock-Out system will check the menace of truancy and diaspora ‘workers’ who know they are not entitled to salaries from the Kogi State Government. This process is aimed at overhauling the civil service for better service delivery where workers can take their salaries as at when due.
“When our e-payment takes full effect, workers will begin to appreciate why they have to go through the sacrifices of this moment. Even those that will be confirmed to be unintended beneficiaries will still be catered for by the government through other programmes and initiatives. Workers won’t be afraid of retirement if they are sure of a reliable and effective pension administration. Government is working on all these issues to motivate and energize the civil service to help deliver the New Direction Agenda to Kogi people”.
Even the State Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Onuh Edoka attested to the fact that the ongoing screening exercise in the state though not completed but had brought sanity in the system.
Edoka who made this assertion when he led other key members of the union to pay a courtesy call on the state governor , said “now workers of Kogi state have known that using different date of birth and certificate forgery among others to gain promotion are criminal act which he noted are against civil service rule.
He however appealed to governor Bello to pay the salaries of workers who had been cleared to enable them attend to the needs of their family.
“Some workers have never taken a dime since the inception of the screening exercise, we are appealing to the governor to pay them. Some have terminal ailments which they need money to solve”
Also commenting on the screening exercise, the former Acting Governor of the state, Chief Clarence Olafemi said “No doubt there are problems associated with the civil service in the state, but it did not started in January 27 , 2016 when Bello took the mantle of leadership as the governor of the state.
“These problems did not start with the immediate past governor, Captain Idris Wada neither does it start with former governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. It all started from day one when Kogi state was created from the old Benue and Kwara state in the month of August, 1991. At that time people were loosely directed to go back to their state and people move from Benue and Kwara to form the new civil service in Kogi state without proper documentation.”
Olafemi added that “People had to go back and started perfecting their documents through forgery to justify the grade they claimed to belong. There was no data base and no files to a certain the number of civil servants moving from the old states to the new state called Kogi”.
Lamenting further, the former speaker of Kogi State House of Assembly said the system was highly polluted as criminal act were openly done without recourse for the future of Kogi state.
According to him “People who are not even civil servants came with claims that they are in the service. Some claimed level 12, but no evidence and there was no transfer of files from both states to authenticate genuine staff. Some people even conjoined certificates, conjoined promotion, degree certificates were being used by some people who have never went to the four walls of universities. They did all of these without bearing in mind that a day of reckoning may come our way”.
“These uncivilized behavior led to over blunted civil service in the state and there was no administration that did not notice this problems, but the political will to address these issues was seriously lacking not until God Almighty brought Alhaji Yahaya Bello , the youngest governor the state has ever produce, who believed that without sanitizing the system , the state can hardly move forward”
Speaking further, Chief Olafemi, cautioned the people not to be too sentimental about the civil servants that are suffering because of the screening exercise, saying people should also bear in mind that in a war those that suffered most are not always the ones that causes the war.
Apparently, Governor Bello at many fora had said that his administration is not insensitive to the plight of civil servants especially the hardship occasioned by staff screening.
Bello who reiterated the statement at the inauguration of a 32-man staff screening complain and appeal committee few weeks ago, charged the committee to look into complaints arising from the exercise, assuring that no genuine worker or pensioner of the state would be shortchanged in the effort of the government to reform the civil service.
The committee however is expected to scrutinise the cases of workers who were not cleared but ought to have been cleared as well as those with genuine complaints.