Penultimate week, the kogi state government went to town , hands –on –head , blaring alarm signals to alert Nigerians of the discovery –via painstaking pension audit , a humongous unappetizing variety of malevolent freestyle assault on the state’s staff pension by the two successive administration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). As a result, the government declared that a huge chunk of the state’s pension fund -calculated to be in the neighborhood of N4.3b, have been diverted to private pockets. Characteristically swift with seeming righteous rage –the state PDP issued a rebuttal -wailing with all the strength she could muster, that her virgin innocence has been assailed with a cocktail of lies concocted by Gov Yahaya Bello to hide his failure on the payment of staff salary.
Notwithstanding the usual histrionics and finger- pointing, the PDP must go beyond the present serenading specter and lamentful hysteria and prove her innocence on this issue because Nigerians aren’t sufficiently uninformed of the antics and activities of our political actors – nor do they need fresh tutorials on the sorry tales and unpleasant narratives often associated with pension funds in the country. As a teasing appetizer to what is set to become the worst case of reported embezzlement and looting of public funds since the creation of kogi state –the allegation thrown by the Bello at the previous PDP administration is not particularly strange , unusual and uncharacteristic of the defining elements of unaccountable governance . Curiously, this high –end swindling techniques targeted at public funds are replicated at the federal level and in other states before the coming of the APC –the facts are already in public domain.
The Abdul Rasheed Maina pension saga, beyond evidence and facts is the biggest case of pension fraud in the nation’s history and is no coincidence that it happened under the PDP regime. The pungency and the mess of its ugly odour outlived the regime. Even when it made a fainthearted attempt to wear a new robe and different name under the current regime, the level of public outrage was a huge embarrassment to the current APC regime for losing sight of such unpalatable come- back bid. On the issue of ghost workers, the Federal Government recently declared to have saved over N185 billion since the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) after weeding out 65,000 ghost workers from IPPIS. Delta state, also declared that 26,000 ghost workers have been weeded out of the state’s public service via biometric verification process, ditto Kaduna and Bayelsa states weeded 13000 No 28000 ghost workers from the state’s payroll. If all these are relics of payroll system abuse inherited from the PDP, one wonders what makes Kogi state an exception. The scenario quoted above from Benue state governor marries a portion of acrobatic style and drama in mischievous devices perfected to bring the state on its knees by a clan of rampaging syndicates in states civil service which consequently compromises and injures the state’s ability to perform its basic duties to the people.
Nigerians may have become jaded with sensational headlines of looting of public funds perpetuated under the PDP but the news from Kogi post a strange brand of macabre novelty in style, audacity and collaborative impunity of the then political authorities- stretching over an unbroken period of thirteen years. This is contained in the yet to be published report of the staff screening and verification exercise conducted by a panel of experts constituted by Bello on his resumption of office. Such unconscionable systematic ripping apart and dismembering of vital resource organs and economic livewire of the state for well over a decade leave a horrible scar on the state’s fiscal virility and the already traumatized citizens who had been under the grip of relentless onslaught of bad governance. Surely, this is not what Bello bargained for –considering that he is the new on the tough terrain of kogi politics –a greenhorn who carries the flag of the creeping celebrated fad of youthful leadership that the nation yearns for simpliciter
Guilty opponents of the regime would readily latch onto the kogi salary saga as a defense and attack weapon to conceal their leprous complicit hands that almost brought kogi to its knees. The perfect condition for the kogi salary quagmire had been created before the APC regime in the state. With an inherited N33billion debt, 3 months unpaid salaries, unpaid salaries, pension, unpaid leave allowances and sundry payroll abuse alleged by the Bello regime, coupled with shrinking federal allocation -the inexorable slide is a fait accompli
Prior to this –the federal government was already owing workers salary. The then minister –Okonjo Iweala told the world that the federal government had to raise its borrowing level from N570 billion to N882 billion to enable it meet its financial obligations to workers and contractors in the N4.493trillion appropriation bill preceding the Buhari regime. Is the PDP aware that during this period kogi was among the 18 states reckoned as chronic salary defaulters?
Bello has alerted Nigerians that beyond the polemical ballyhoo of no-salaries, Kogi state civil service had long been colonized, plundered and vandalized by a clan of resident vicious salary cum pension vampires. The salary leprosy and its ugly pigmentation contracted by Kogi state have a long history and the conditioning historicity, the PDP should stop playing the ostrich. Bello must move fast an unwind the tricky response of the PDP which aimed at throwing back the dirt at him by making the report public –else, the masterminds and other opponents of the regime who had already flooded and saturated the Nigeria public space with loud orchestra-hit that he is a chronic salary defaulter would get hold of this jaded symphony to portray his regime in bad light. In other words, Bello should write his own story and must not allow his opponents to seize the initiative with one storyline.
But even before the PDP wriggles out of the allegation made by Bello –she must be ready for far more damaging revelation because l learnt the kogi government is set to make public the report of its investigation on the scope and scale of plunder and pillage of the state payroll by a clan of entrenched cabal in the state civil service over an uninterrupted stretch of thirteen years that unearthed a record –breaking pool of ghost workers numbering almost 23, 000 with annual back-breaking implication of N26billion annually. Invariably, a whooping N339 billion that would have been deployed to critical infrastructure development was diverted to private pockets. The invaders assault weapon on the state civil service payroll identified several dubious but clever techniques, ranging from falsification of employee,’s age that ensures continous salary intake even after the age of sixty, impersonation and identity theft –using of someone else’s certificates, arbitrary staff promotion, double employment, double pension, pensions to dead persons, taking pension and salary at the same time and other sundry contrivances with heavy financial implication. Alarmed by the scale of plunder and predatory onslaught on the state pension the government has called for a thorough audit of the Local Government pension. In the wake of Bello’s discovery – the previous PDP administration has a lot to prove that it is not in any way complicit in the whole dirty scheming which arrested and subsumed the state’s competitive capacity and made to lay prostrate to the insatiable looting appetite of a clan of fraudsters in the state civil service. Why did the previous administration never deem it necessary to conduct a staff audit?
Can Bello navigate through the woods of inherited salary cum pension vanadalisation after the initial hiccup unavoidably experienced during the prolonged staff screening and verification exercise?. With the claim by the regime that it has settled all genuine outstanding salary and pension claims up to the month of July and a promise to settle the rest in the next few weeks , opportunistic harshest howlers should be shifting uncomfortably on their seat–a migrant and less poignant status for the salary genie
–Yakubu is Coordinator, Front For Middle Belt Expression. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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