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How Kogi workers’ screening opened can of worms

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How Kogi workers’ screening opened can of worms

By John Akubo

Kogi state may well be called a microcosm of sorts of the nation, Nigeria.
Just like Nigeria, it has three dominant ethnic groups struggling for dominance.
Just as the country is grappling with monumental corruption, Kogi’s public service ranks high in corruption index when compared to its contemporaries.
Not that Kogi has much in the name of industries and service firms to boost its revenue.
The Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited that would have fit in as source of such wealth has been lying fallow so the only cash cow has been the civil service where the actors have been fleecing the state of its limited resources.
The conduit pipe has been through an obnoxious planting of ghost workers, considered by some as the largest among the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory which has become a veritable tool for such civil servants to inordinately increase their wealth depending on their resilience and dexterity in the ghost-worker planting business.
The result of their thievery is obvious in the beautiful houses owned by civil servants in parts of the state, especially, Lokoja, the state capital amidst high level of poverty that has been ravaging their fellow citizens.
There have been revelations of top and medium-level civil servants appropriating salaries of over 20, 30, or even 40 ghost workers they planted on the pay roll.
Saddled with an over-bloated wage bill and the economic recession that has shrunk the revenue base which mainly has been the Federal allocation, Governor Yaya Bello on assumption of office, unveiled his plan to carry out a holistic workers’ verification and screening exercise.
Even though successive administrations identified the ghost workers syndrome as the bane of the state’s development , their efforts did not yield much positive result.
The Alhaji Ibrahim Idris administration, from 2003- 2012 employed Sally Tibot as consulting firm to unravel the mystery over bloated wage bill while Captain Idris Wada (2012-2016) also enlisted the services of Mrs Deborah Ogunmola staff audit, yet the problem remained, all efforts, a wild goose chase.
However for the incumbent it would not be business as usual as he has zeroed in on the youths within his own age bracket of 40 as the major drivers of his new direction agenda paving way for withdrawal of the elderly he believes are behind the socio economic problems of the state.
Bello could not comprehend how the civil service made up of about 70,000 people-less than two percent of the 3.5 million citizens in the state demand more than 100% of the state’s share of Federal Allocations each month.
According him: “This was both disproportionate and not sustainable, and the choice before us was clear – reform the Service or let it continue to deform our socioeconomic indices and distort our growth projections.”
He said salaries and pensions of genuine workers cannot constitute a problem to his administration
Hence in keeping with his promise to reform and reposition the state civil service for top quality service delivery, he inaugurated Staff Verification and Screening Committee on February 22, 2016.
Though the exercise was bogged down in controversies, Bello vowed to use the report to help him to get rid of the ghosts.
Hence the recent public presentation of the reports of the verification and screening exercise threw up more issues , especially with the damning report on the role of labour , the leadership of the committee and conduct of the technical partner appointed to give support to committee which failed to impact positively on the committee.
The Auditor General for Local Government, Usman Ahmed Ododo played an audio recorded clandestinely in the screening room which alleged to have exposed the under hand dealings that involved the technical partner.
Ododo explained that the partner was discovered to be arguing with a representative of labour over how to slot in ghost workers’ names even after a good job had been done.
The State Auditor General Alhaji Yakubu Yusuf Okala who presented the report indicated that the field work was extensive and thorough; adding that the integrity of data tested could be adjudged to be very high.
“However, the second aspect of the Staff Screening and Verification Committee work, which was desk review was marred with substantial fraud and high level of irregularities.
“It appears that these irregularities were deliberate effort by some enemies of the state who may have infiltrated the screening committee to manipulate and embarrass the state government for their selfish interest.”
Some of the irregularities according to him included their inability to capture Biodata of 14,947 employee.
“These civil servants represent those with or without issues, which were not captured in their report. These categories of staff were unjustly excluded from the screened staff list.
“By implication, a total of 14,947 civil servants spread across the state would have been unjustly declared as ghost workers without their data captured in the submitted Committee’s Report under the leadership of Dr. Jerry Agbaji.”
He said during review 10, 101 out of the 14,947 were given a clean bill of health, while 1,016 Employee Biodata Forms were muddled up in Ministries, Departments and Agencies(MDAs) different from where the civil servant is currently working.
‘It took over 20 days by about 20 ad-hoc staff to sort and rearrange these forms by MDAs and the respective local councils.’
According to the auditor general, civil servants across the MDAs and councils numbering 1,060 were found to be wrongly classified or wrongly cleared in the report submitted by the Staff Verification & Screening Committee.
The implication he said would be like returning to square one as the ghost workers and intended beneficiaries were returned as cleared workers while those who were cleared were removed.
According to him, Screening Guidelines and Procedures agreed to by government and organized labour were violated.
He cited irregular signatures and deliberate refusal to sign Employee Biodata Forms on the part of the committee adding that where the forms were signed, the signatures were deliberately made to be irregular so as to make it difficult to trace the member of the committee that signed.
Other irregularities thrown up include employment before the creation of Kogi state in State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
People were said to have been employed by SUBEB in 1986 as Teachers in Ofu Local Council whereas the state was created in August,1991.
“The letter head used for their employment between 1983 to 1991 was that of Kogi State Government, Lokoja. How this was possible is still a mystery.”
The screening exercise he indicated, unraveled one underage Nefisatu Abubakar among others.
“Nefisatu was said to have been employed in July 9, 2008 by Ankpa Local Education Authority whereas, according to records available to us, she was born on May 7, 1996 .
She was employed at the age of 12 years, when ordinarily she was supposed to be in Primary School. She has no Primary School Certificate, but finished Senior School Certificate in June 2014.”
He indicated that the committee reports also uncovered diaspora employees who claimed to be in the employment of Kogi State Government, taking salaries but are residing outside Kogi state and even outside the country.
He said some officers within the state were found to be drawing multiple salaries from either state, local or Federal Government as well as private companies.
“This discovery was revealed through interfacing with Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS) where the Bank Verification Number (BVN) of the individuals concerned revealed that about 19,195 employees of the state and local councils had BVN related irregularities .They were earning salaries from more than one source.”
Another fundamental issue raised by the report touches the soul of basic education whereby it was discovered that the entire state LGEA offices were bloated with many redundant senior officers ranging from Grade Level 12 to Grade Level17 who had left classroom for offices thereby leaving the schools without experienced teachers as at today.
Another startling revelation was of dubious persons who have been claiming the employment benefits of deceased civil servants for more than a decade, such as Joseph Inikpi, an employee of Dekina Local Council who was confirmed to be late but whose identity was taken over by a woman who started enjoying her.
The report disclosed that the state had lost over N213 billion to ghost workers in the state in 13 years.
The breakdown of the report indicated that the government was losing N16 billion yearly and N1.3billion monthly to ghost workers and unintended beneficiaries.
The chairman of the back up committee for the analysis of the screening, explained that no fewer than 88, 973 people were on the payroll at the time the screening exercise commenced with a monthly wage bill of N5.84 billion.
He however said upon the conclusion of the screening exercise 63, 870 workers were cleared, reducing the wage bill to N4. 443 billion.

http://guardian.ng/features/how-kogi-workers-screening-opened-can-of-worms/

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Flood disaster: Kogi braces for another round of misery

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Flood disaster: Kogi braces for another round of misery

By John Akubo, Lokoja

Many victims of the 2012 flood disaster in Kogi State who are experiencing another round of displacement are apprehensive over a possible repeat of 2012 scenario, when many partås of the state and country were ravaged by floodwater.

As the ominous signs crystalise, the apprehension is palpable in the state because the tributaries of most small rivers in the northern axis, empty themselves into the River Niger and Benue at the confluence, in Lokoja.

At least 623, 690 displaced persons were accommodated in 87 camps across the state during the last flood disaster. And six years after, the continuous rise of water levels is forcing many residents that live close to the riverbanks to relocate as their houses are already submerged.

According to the Executive Secretary, Kogi State Emergency Management Agency, Alhassan Ayeggba, by the last count, about 45, 000 persons have been displaced, and are camped in various IDP camps across the state, aside from those who elected to put up with their relatives.

The absence of health facilities at the different camps, is already posing dire medical challenges to the IDPs who need medical attention. But matters recently got worse with the birth of three babies at the Koton Karfe IDP camp. Ayishat Zakeriya from Adamogu Community delivered a baby boy; Maryam Ishaq from Akpaku Village delivered a baby girl, and Sakinat Musa, also from Akpaku Village delivered another boy.

However, many in the state fear that the damage this year may be worse compared to that of 2012 should Camerounian authorities discharge water from the Lagdo dam.

At the moment, according to Ayegba, “the water level is 10.30 metres, and this has exceeded the normal level. The situation in Ibaji Local Council is worse as there are no high lands in the area, hence the people have been advised to move to the IDP Camp at Idah

The Secretary to the State Government Ayoade Arike Folashade, who was at the camp on a routine visit, donated food items, and cash to the victims and mothers of the newborn babies, as well as, commended them for the courage they displayed in the face of obvious challenge.

A youth leader at the camp, Abubakar Isah, appealed to the government to assist them as they have lost all their crops to the flood, while the meagre assistance they have received from public-spirited individuals “translates to a few bags of rice and cartons of Indomie Noodles.”

Seidu Akowe, a victim of 2012 flood disaster at the Lokoja IDP camp, was forced out of his home at midnight six years ago without picking any property. This time around, he said he moved to the IDP hostel in Lokoja when his house was overtaken by floods to avoid losing all his belongings.

Another victim, Hajia Meimuna Akawo, who recalled that in 2015, many organisations were showing support to displaced persons in camps, said this time around, apart from very few individuals, including the Commissioner for Environment, Sanusi Yahaya, who gave them two bags of rice and water tanks, the IDPs were starving.

She also said the sanitation situation has become deplorable, even as she fears the outbreak of an epidemic.

Lending credence to the people’s fears of a likelihood of the 2012 flooding, NEMA’s Director of Planning, Research and Forecasting, Mr. Vincent Owan, while on a recent visit to the state advised residents of flood plains to immediately move upland or to the state’s IDPs hostel at the Flood Estate, built by the Governor Idris Wada-administration.

According to him, “My first impression is that the flood situation is quite devastating for the fact that all the indices that manifested during the 2012 flood disaster are here with us today, except for the release of water from the Lagdo dam. Most of the people that have been affected by the flood today have been relocated to higher grounds particularly the IDP hostels at the former Governor Wada Flood Housing Estate.

“We are going collaborate extensively with Kogi State government to ensure that displaced persons are well catered for. I have communicated with the director general of NEMA, and very shortly you will feel the presence of the agency in the state,” the NEMA chief stated.

He also called on the state government to ensure that SEMA discharges its statutory function before seeking external help.

“When incidents like these happen, state governments just run cap-in-hand to the Federal Government for assistance, but the Federal Government wants to see what the state has done before calling for external support.

“Once the Federal Government sees what the state has done and the efforts put in place, it will say okay, having seen what has been done in the face of the challenge that you are facing, which is beyond your coping capacity, the Federal Government will then come in with full force to support you.

According to him, SEMA should never be the type of government agency that should be running around looking for operational vehicles to use when emergencies occur, “and that is why we call for functional state emergency agencies that are fully empowered to ensure that they carry out their statutory responsibilities.”

The Environment Commissioner, Yahaya, who noted that the water level was not receding, equally appealed to residents of “flood-prone areas to move to higher grounds immediately because we don’t know when the water from the Lagdo Dam would be released. When it is released the situation may be worse than the 2012 flood disaster.”

The Director of Engineering Hydrology, Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NHSA), Abuja, Clement Nze, who recently described the state as the “headquarters of flood in Nigeria,” said the meeting of two major rivers to form a confluence in the state makes the flood disaster in the state worse when it happens.

While on an assessment tour of areas so far affected by flood in the state, Nze said the state’s peculiar disposition was the reason why the agency was more interested in what is happening in Lokoja.

“We are measuring downstream of River Niger and River Benue and taking the reading there everyday to make comparisons with the past.

“On September 29, 2012 it was 12.84m and we have about three more weeks to September29, 2018. So, if the rise continues as it is going now, the situation might be worse. Yesterday, the difference between the water level to the highest in 2012 was 2.7m, today it has narrowed to 2.59m, tomorrow it might be 2.5m moving to meet up with the value of 2012 that was so critical 12.84m,” he said.

He recalled that in the Nigerian Meteorological Agency Seasonal Rainfall Predictions release in March this year, the agency said “that the earliest time rain will seize in the northern part of Nigeria, including Sokoto and Katsina is September 28, which means we still have about three weeks or thereabouts of rainfall, but in the southern coastal cities it would be around December.”

“Going by this record and most of the flooding that occur between July, August and September, the period of heavy rainfall in the northern parts of Nigeria is here. We are expecting that the rains will continue and the water levels will continue to rise.”

“The safety net that we have now is that Camerounian authorities have not released any water from the Lagdo dam yet,” he stated, adding that the flooding that has been taking place in Adamawa, Benue, Taraba are caused by water from rivers in Nigeria because there are many of them that are feeding into River Benue and River Niger.”

Called from the Guardian

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CAN in Kogi joins national protest

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CAN in Kogi joins national protest

The day of prayer and protest declared by the national the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) was observed in Kogi state yesterday.

Though the protests were marked in low key as it was restricted to each churche premises in the state, members displayed placards to express their displeasure with the ongoing killings across the country.

The leadership of CAN in the state had written to the blocks in the chapter on the mode that the protest was expected to take.

The Kogi state chairman of th body Bishop John Ibenu, told newsmen after the protest in his church in Lokoja, that the protests were peaceful in the state.

He however said there was the need for the federal government to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission over the menace of herdsmen attacks in the country.

Ibenu said, “It is a national day of prayer and protest, Christians don’t protest, if we have to that means the issues have reached the peak, we spent time to pray for the nation and Kogi state and also for the future, Kogi state CAN in obedience to the directive of national CAN observed the day in our church premises

“In the process of protesting we should also keep the peace and stability of the nation and that is why we said it must be within the church premises because we want to do the best that we can to bring down the tension number two we want governance to go beyond promises tp practicality.

“The killings have continued unabated and it has been taken to the church, there were no grasses for cattles to eat in the church when the Fulanis invaded the church and killed worshippers, so what has started on the farm came to the village and has entered the church.

“Government must act to make sure that this was not something aimed at the church but started in the farm, we are being proactive by calling for attention before it degenerate, we do not want to be pushed to a point where we will start using the pulpits to tell everyone to look for available arm to defend themselves”.

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NAOS Election:Jacob emerges new President

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NAOS Election:Jacob emerges new President

Comr. Abraham Damilare Jacob, a student of Kogi State University (KSU), an indigene of Mopa-Amuro Local Government Area of Kogi State, has been elected as the National President of the National Association of Okun Students (NAOS) 2017/2018 Session.

The election which was conducted during the National Association of Okun Students 2017/2018 National Convention on Sunday in Aiyekunle-Gbede, also produced other National Excos of the association in a free, fair and peaceful environment.

A statement by the Secretary of the Electoral Committee, 2017/2018 NAOS National Convention, in Lokoja, Comr. Prime Abubakar, said that the NAOS 2017/2018 National Convention was a huge success.

“As a law abiding citizens of Okun Nation, we followed due process as regards the earlier announced security threat alert from the Chief Security officer of Ijumu Local Govnment (Host Local Government).

“This caused a little set back as against the planned time for the Convention, as the Electoral Committee, The President and Senate President had to put in the necessary measures for a free, peaceful and fair Convention/Election Process.

“We appreciate all delegates who represented each Local Government Areas for their cooperation and resolution to remain Law abiding as they all exercised their fundamental right to cast their votes.

“Distinguish Naosites both at home and diaspora, permit me to introduce the 2017/2018 National Excos of Okun Students:

“National President- Comr. Abraham Damilare Jacob, From Mopa-Amuro Local Government and a Student of Kogi State University; National Senate President- Comr. Oloruntoba Mosses Juwon from Kabba/Bunu Local Government.

“National General Secretary- Comr Aiyenigba Mercy from Ijumu Local Government

“National Deputy Senate President – Comr. Leke Nihi also from Ijumu, a student of Federal University of Technology Minna.

“All other offices will be announced in due time just before their official inaguration”,
Abubakar said.

He appreciated the presence of all Past National Presidents and Senate Presidents, all representatives of National Youth Council of Nigeria, National Association of Kogi State Students, and all other stakeholders, who had ensured maximum decorum and due process was followed.

In his acceptance speech, the President-elect of NAOS, Comr. Abraham Damilare Jacob, said: “I must as an individual return all glory and thanks to God almighty for granting me the victory”.

Jacob expressed appreciation to His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, and the Speaker Kogi State House of Assembly Rt. Hon. (Prince) Matthew Kolawole.

The Special Adviser to the Governor on youth Empowerment, Sports and Student’s Affairs- Hon. MD Eseyin, Hon Taufiq Isa, the Administrator of Ijumu LGA, who doubled as Kogi ALGON Chairman, other LG Administrators from Mopamuro, Yagba East, Yagba West and Kabba-Bunu respectively.

He also thanked all the royal fathers from Okun Land, for making sure they had an enabling and peaceful environment for a wonderful election amidst all forms of perceived security threats.

He added: “You all have proven that Just like Kogi State is a home of peace, Okunland will always remain a peaceful land.

“NAOS is an association which serves as the umbrella that covers positive benefiting interests of Okun students, as it is enshrined in her constitution. Hence, the protection of the objectives, mission and visions’ statements becomes highly paramount.

“I promise I will not be part of those sugar-coated mouth leaders who will promise heaven and earth, but yet will never make a move to fulfil any. I do not believe in promises that are obviously mirage.

“I have stated clearly in my manifestos that I am only bringing Positive Rebirth, Reformation and Redefinition into NAOS. We can be sure of having Accountability, Credibility, Transparency, and Fair representations achieved as well .

“NAOS is not a one man business and as such, it requires the efforts of all and sundries. Therefore, all hands must be on deck if we must give a positive rebirth, reformation and redefinition of her purpose of existence.

“I want to seize this opportunity to appreciate all NAOSITES and other stakeholders, who gave me their support and encouragement across the length and breath of the state during the course of this struggle.

“I want to leave you at the bench of being the judge to judge me by my activities and achievements at the course of the commencement of our administration immediately after inauguration.

“May I state it categorically that Okun students will always stand firm to protect the interest of the state in as much as it will accelerate the development and growth of the state.

“We are responsible students, we must always be ready to be responsive to the state just like the state must also become responsive to us at our point of needs.

“The unity and progress must and will always remain our chants”.

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