The governor, after discovering that the wage bill of the state was over-bloated, decided to look into the books of the state. In that process, he set up an in-house committee within the civil service which labour and the civil society were represented. The wage bill at that time was about N1.2 billion and the governor was not comfortable with it. At the end of the day, the exercise failed; instead of the wage bill reducing, it increased by N400 million! From N1.2 billion, it went to N1.6 billion, the governor said that can’t be possible when the state government did not embark on any fresh employment and there has not been major promotions.
So, that exercise failed woefully. He tried it the second time, it was the same result but this time around, with the present economic crunch, the governor decided to take the bull by the horns. So, he decided to engage an internationally-acclaimed private firm to look at the wage bill. In that sense it is a contract; a contractual agreement was signed and the private firm was engaged to carry out an audit. You don’t expect a private firm which is paid to do a job, to bring in civil servants and labour, who are going to be investigated, to participate in that exercise. The governor is not participating and no one is participating from even the office of the governor. The private firm was given the free hand to carry out the audit so that at the end of the day, we will come out with a good result.
Those states that have earlier embarked on this kind of exercise saved billions of naira and ours will not be an exception. Shortly after the exercise took off, revelations were made that there are a lot of ghost workers, including civil servants that have died several years ago, are on the payroll. Those who have retired when we were in Kwara and Benue states are also on the vouchers! At the end of the exercise, we hope that a lot of money will be saved for the government to use to enhance the living standard of the people. We will not allow a few individuals who have formed a cabal to feed fat on the collective resources of the people of Kogi state.
Labour is also saying that the exercise is being used to witch hunt workers that were employed by Governor Ibrahim Idris’ predecessor
This is far from the truth. The essence of this exercise is to sanitise the system. Every right thinking Kogi person should encourage what is happening because the governor has vowed that at the end of the exercise, there will be no ghost worker on the payroll of Kogi state government. He has vowed that no single person is going to be laid off so far as you are a genuine worker of Kogi state. But those that are not genuinely employed by the state government, those whose names are being used by accounts clerks and cashiers to feed fat on the state, should go. The exercise is not meant to witch hunt anybody; it is a very simple exercise. When you are called, you show your letter of employment, letter of employment confirmation and you will appear physically before the audit panel, they verify, they go through the list, tick your name and give you your pay. That’s the table payment that we are embarking on. So, it is not meant to witch hunt anybody, it is not political, it is meant to streamline the economic resources of the state, in an effort to provide more dividends of democracy for the people.
But why were some labour leaders arrested, is it because of their resistance to the exercise?
Let me be specific. Unfortunately, some of the labour leaders that are making noise today are the ones who have been discovered to have also benefited from this fraud. They have called out workers three times on strike and the workers refused because the genuine workers of Kogi state have realized that the exercise is meant to enhance their livelihoods. They discovered that the labour leaders are now being selfish because of what they fear will happen to them at the end of the day. For example one of the labour leader’s business centre was discovered to be issuing fake appointment and confirmation letters. Security men swooped on the business centre and they recovered hundreds of such letters and sister of the labour leader who was the head of that business centre was arrested. Because he wants to save his face, he is afraid that at the end of the day they will get at him, he is now determined to scuttle the exercise, trying to instigate workers to go on strike or to disrupt the exercise. The police orderly that was attached to the firm that was doing the staff audit was injured; his three fingers were cut off. The police cannot fold their arms and see people injuring others. Theywere not arrested by government, they were arrested by the police who have charged them to court for attempted culpable homicide.