What should people expect from the ongoing staff screening at the end?
The state and local government staff screening exercise had been going on since inception of this administration which came on board in January 27, 2016.
The screening involved the verification of all the workers of state, local government areas, teachers and tertiary institutions in the state.
The verification has been completed and the committee is in the process of collating the reports. I took my time to go over the preliminary report to ensure that the final report of the screening exercise do not go the same way as it did during the previous administrations.
It is also important to re-echo it once again that Mr President had released part of our bailout funds and I do not want the funds to remain in government account for too long.
The screening exercise was very interesting as there were a lot of revelations, a lot of shoddy deals were unravelled. I took my time to visit the collation centre to have first hand information about the exercise and after that I visited some schools in Lokoja to see if what is being collated at the collation centre tally with the reality on ground.
Having met with the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) representatives and various head teachers in the state, I decided to visit some schools within the state capital, particularly Army Day Primary School and two other primary schools.
From my findings in those schools I visited, it was exactly what was being collated at the collation centre. By virtue of the ghost workers discovered during the screening, if we said that we should pay salaries of local government workers immediately, we will pay billions of naira into the pockets of few individuals and it will not be healthy for the state.
It was on my visit to the school when the first list of those who were through with the screening were released and there are some workers who took to the street to protest that their names were excluded from the list.
I went to the venue of the protest to listen to them and I explained to them vividly what the current administration is doing to ensure that the issue of payment of percentage salary will not resurface again in the state.
I equally warned them against doing things that will subvert the law. I advised them to always channel their complains to the appropriate quota.
There is palpable fear among the rank and file of the state and council workers, some people are already saying that 50 percent of the work force will be laid off, how true is this?
There shouldn’t be any fear about the ongoing screening exercise, no single genuine worker of Kogi state will be sacked. If you are a genuine worker you will be screened, paid and you will be in the service of the state or local government.
What is happening now where people are protesting came from those who have been benefiting from the rotten system whereby one person had multiple names on the payroll and those type of people will definitely be affected by the screening exercise and they don’t want it to succeed, that was why they decided to send their cohort to take to the street.
Like I often say, this exercise must succeed by the special Grace of God almighty.
There are few Kogi indegenes who have decided to get the state rotten without recourse for the future of the state and its people. I don’t think there should be tension because after the exercise if any body is left out and has genuine complain he or she can forward it and I want to make it clear that we are not retrenching, we are not down sizing, right sizing or left sizing because it is not our focus for now.
We cannot be intimidated to the point of abandoning the screening. I am particularly aware that the bailout fund that was computed earlier by the immediate past administration was heavily padded and if we should allowed that , the bailout fund is not a grant , it is not a free money, Kogi state will pay back and every kobo that is being paid will affect the economy of the state.
So, few individuals cannot continue to pack billions of naira while the people continue to wallow in abject poverty. If we allow that to continue unchecked we will end up leaving a heavy burden for the generation yet unborn.
So the right thing must be done this time around and I am not ready to renege in my promise to reform the civil service both at the state and local government council, though this effort is taking our time, but we have to painstakingly take our time to remove the ghost workers from the payroll.
Therefore, I don’t think there should be any form of tension or rancour that will arise from this very important exercise which is ongoing in the interest of Kogi workers.
It worries me a lot when some workers especially those at the local government take percentage salaries at the end of every month that was the main reason we are resolute to remove the cause of such hardship on the workers.
What measures are you putting in place to rid the state of criminal element and kidnappers that are now terrorising the state?
Before I took over the mantle of leadership of the state in January this year, the security situation in the state is better be forgotten than imagined as kidnapping and other criminal activities were already at the highest ebb in some part of the state.
I am using this medium to thank and appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase for deploying four unit of mobile policemen , 32 Special Anti-robbery Squard and a helicopter for aerial surveillance across the state.
Also, the newly appointed local government administrators are already organising vigilance group to assist in fishing out the hoodlums at the grassroots and with all these efforts put in place, we will go after the criminals, we will hunt them down to their hideouts, we will pursue them into the bush, smoke them out until the state is free of all heinous crimes.
In addition, as a result of bad system practised in the past where few leaders or individual carted away the wealth of the state at the detriment of the masses whose population is over three million, the attitude of this few people who so much believe in milking the state had thrown the youths who are in their prime age into total joblessness.
To restore hope in the youths of this state, we are planning to go into agricultural programmes where they will be fully engaged to earn a living. Though there are some of the youths who are recalcitrant and they don’t want to do anything meaningful that will add value to their lives, we are appealing to them so that they can be part of government’s gesture to enable them better their future.
Again, those who have been stealing Kogi wealth through over bloted payroll, we will fish them out and recover the money they carted away. We will not stop at that, they will face prosecution to serve as a deterrent to others.
I am assuring the people of the state that there will be no sacred cow in this fight against fraudulent activities that had retarded the development of the state.
In what way is your government going to improve on the Internal Generated Revenue to enable you realise your dream of developing the state?
In it is no longer news that what comes from the federation account as allocation on monthly basis is very low due to the fall in the price of crude oil.
We are going to rely on Internal Generated Revenue (IGR). Plans are already on to widen the scope of our IGR generation in the state.
Let us take it from Pay As You Earn (PAYE). It will interest you to know that from the computation that we received from the Education Secretaries (ES) and other submissions made by the workers. In the payroll chat we have basic salary, some allowances, still on the chat we have union dues, and we have PAYE and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) among others.
We discovered that in a particular school that a submission was made by one of the Education Secretaries, he short changed the state from the tax and what they normally do over the years was to submit salary wage bill and the deduction from there will be less which they used to secure approval.
But, when they go to pay the teachers, the Education Secretaries will deducted the appropriate tax and the balance entered their private pockets and even when it is was time to remit the tax to the Board of Internal Revenue, they will not care to do it on time and accurately. This nefarious method of cheating had been lingering for long at the detriment of the state.
So I was able to make the calculation just on the spot when I received the head of teachers and members of NUT in the state and we found a difference of over N210 million from one school and if you multiply this by the number of primary schools in the state, the money will be running into several billions of naira.
In fact, even the N210 million can conveniently pay the salaries of 15 schools including allowances. These are the leakages we are out to block and the perpetrators are not happy.
What are your plans for the disbursement of the bailout fund, will there be any committee to that effect?
To the best of my knowledge, the bailout fund is meant to pay the arrears of workers’ salaries and other allowances they were entitled to collect but not paid to them in the past.
Government does not need a committee to pay monthly salaries and as such we will follow all the process that normally leads to payment of workers salaries using government machinery.
Involving a committee for that purpose will mean that we have to pay their allowance and we don’t even have money for that.
We have the list of genuine workers government is owing salaries both at the state and local government levels, the record of various unpaid salaries and the months are there, once the screening exercise is completed, we will disburse the fund through government machinery the way and manner monthly salaries are paid to the workers through their various bank account.
I am also assuring the workers that no kobo will be paid in cash, it will it go through bank transfer so that the disbursement can be audited by any body.
We will make sure that the disbursement is properly done so that we can also access the balance of the bailout to put smile on the faces of Kogi workers especially the local government staff who for long have been collecting percentage salaries.
In addition, I have said it time without number that this administration will not spend a kobo belonging to the state without recourse to accountability. This state has suffered enough in the hands of fraudsters who do not believe that Kogi state should grow.
Therefore, whoever that is willing to work with me should have it at the back of his mind that he is not coming to serve to siphon the state resources because such characters can never go on the same train with me.
Besides the screening exercise what other things are you planning for the state in terms of development?
First and foremost, we met a state that is already decayed in all sectors. The resources which ought to have been used to effect positive development are being carted away by few opportunistic individuals, again who do not have the interest of the state at heart.
We are ready to recover those stolen funds from all the projects that are executed in the past. We are not only concerned about the issue of salary, we will extend our tentacle beyond that and that was why we will block all the loopholes that have been established in the past.
We are going into serious IGR drive in order to generate enough funds because no meaningful development can take place without enough funds.
We have cardinal point we will look into such as education, health and agriculture among others. Even the civil service reform will not stop at the screening, we will also go into how these workers can be trained and retrained for effective service delivery.
Infrastructure such as road, water, power will also be given consideration by this administration because these are areas where government’s effort can touch the lives of the masses directly.
For purpose of emphasis who are the genuine workers in the state?
A genuine worker is some one who applied for a vacant position through the state government advertisement of vacant positions, urging interest and qualified candidates to apply.
The applicant under goes interview and issued a proper employment letter having satisfied the necessarily requirements. This person should be in the service of the state or local government and draws salaries, he enjoys promotion and increment of salaries over a period of time and he had proper documentation which qualifies him to be regarded as a genuine worker. In addition the person must have a bank account through which he receives salary on monthly basis.
But there are some people whose names were inserted into the payroll by some scrupulous elements, some are fictitious names while some are given employment but you can never see them at their place of work. These categories of people are not genuine workers and we cannot pay them a dime as salary.
Where are you drawing your inspiration from, to govern the state considering the cultural and traditional attitude and practice of our people?
My inspiration, encouragement and confidence are drawn from Almighty God who guides and protects. I am being encouraged by the person of our President, Muhammadu Buhari who has been leading by example and I don’t intend to deviate from his style of governance.
And gain looking at the faces of the people of Kogi state who have been impoverished, who have been held down since the creation of the state over 25 years ago, I don’t think I should be afraid of any body to liberate the people of Kogi state.
It saddens my heart that those who are at disadvantage are the majority and it was just few that looted the state treasury. So when I look at the faces of the downtrodden that are being denied of basic necessity of life I became uncomfortable.
I am highly optimistic that when I am leaving the state after my tenure, I will leave the state far better than I met it. So I don’t think I should look back on my quest to develop the state.