Bogged down by the state’s inability to pay salaries, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is taking steps to address the problem, writes Yekini Jimoh
 
Today, the workforce in Kogi State is about 30,000 with a total wage bill of about N3.2billion on a monthly basis. Until April/May last year, when the allocation came down to about N2.8/2.6 billion, the state workers are said to be the highest paid in the North Central.
Out of the N40 billion earned by the state from the federation account in 2015, and N4 billion from internally generated revenue, bringing the state total inflow to N44.7billion, the state expenditure in the year amounted to N46.8billion; thus leaving the government with a deficit of over N2billion.
A look at the break down of the analysis of expenditures for 2015 stands as follow: Salaries, N22.5 billion, pension and gratuity N4.2 billion, while monthly imprest to MDAs stands at N1.8billion. The state’s overhead and capital expenditure was N11.5 billion and N7 billion respectively.
Kogi was among the first states that applied for the federal government’s bailout. However, despite the CBN’s approval of a N50.9 billion loan to enable the state pay its workers (N5.9 billion at the state level and N45billion for the 21 local government councils), the state’s share was withheld for no reason other than what is seen as political factor.
Several screening exercises had been carried out to correct the over-bloated wage bill but even at that, the past administration failed to implement the outcome of the workers’ screening. 
Recently, in a circular, the state government said all workers in the state must embark on screening exercise to ascertain the work force in the state and also to bring to an end the problem of ghost workers.
Therefore, all the civil servants in the state are expected to come along to the screening center with their Bank Verification number, statement of account in the last two years, certificate of local government of origin, one recent passport, letter of first appointment, letter of confirmation, staff identity card and their last promotion.
According to state government, the policy on data collection in Kogi State Civil Service was primarily aimed at weeding out ghost workers to make it convenient for government to pay genuine and bonafide civil servants. The process was also expected to help government build a database of its workforce for effective planning.
Also, Governor Yahaya Bello has abolished arbitrary deductions from the allocations of Local Government Councils in the state. The governor disclosed this while meeting with local government chairmen at the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs.
Bello, who frowns at the various deductions from the council allocations by the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, said state laws could not override the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He then directed the ministry to submit its running cost to the Office of the Governor and stop exploiting the Local Government Councils.
He urged council chairmen to ensure pensioners and teachers are paid their pensions and salaries this month asking them to ensure council workers are promptly paid their full wages, while also warned against profligacy. He said the chairmen must account for every penny received from the federation account. 
He also called on them to execute projects that will impact positively on the people of the state, reiterating his desire to visit Local Government Areas to commission projects. He canvassed for forensic audit of Local Government pensioners. He also advocated for better supervision of teachers to ensure efficiency.
Just some few weeks ago, Governor Bello directed that all Permanent Secretaries and Directors of Finance and Administration should embark on one month compulsory leave with immediate effect.
Addressing the Permanent Secretaries and Directors of Finance and Administration, the Head of Service, Dr. Moses Atakpa said the directive was from the governor. Although he did not give reasons for the directive, he said everybody must comply with immediate effect.
Others are the Accountant General, Mr. Ibrahim Idakwo, who was sacked from office while the second in command also proceeded on one month compulsory leave. The only exemptions in this category are people on acting capacity and the Permanent Secretary, Government House.
At local government level, all the directors of local government areas, the treasurers, education secretaries and cashiers are also to proceed on one month compulsory leave. 
Speaking on the issue, Bello said the directive requiring all permanent secretaries to proceed on one month compulsory leave was to pave the way for a transparent staff audit of ministries, agencies and parastatals.
 
According to the governor, he could not be distracted from achieving his laudable goals by agents that are opposed to change and therefore, cannot afford to fail the Kogi people who voted massively for the party of change.
“I am prepared to fulfill my pact with the people to remain a fair governor, who is interested in developing the state and its people,” he stated.
Bello also expressed his determination to root out corruption from the civil service to ensure probity, accountability and productivity, stressing that for Kogi to move forward, the people of the state must begin to see corruption as a common enemy.
The governor also reiterated his determination to reposition the state and make it the first destination for development through investments, adding that his leadership will herald a new beginning of the true value of governance. He also promised to “refocus the state to meet the needs of her people through quality education, healthcare delivery, agricultural revolution and a marshaled plan to make the state the industrial hub of West Africa.”
He said his bilateral dialogues with local and foreign agencies will start yielding fruits, pleading with the people of the state to support his administration to bring the desired change that will make Kogi the pride of all.
“To achieve development, we know we have to achieve ethnic, industrial and political harmony. Civil servants must receive their salaries to curb incessant strike actions and the attendant security challenges associated with such. My government has moved to ensure that ghost workers are removed from our payrolls to pave the way for genuine workers to earn their salaries regularly. We have also moved to stop the deductions from local government allocations that have made it impossible for them to pay their staff.”
The governor pledged to work harmoniously with the State House of Assembly, saying members of the assembly are honourable people, who have genuine interest of moving the state forward.
 
Already, the governor had inaugurated the composition of a steering committee for the public service screening. The committee comprises senior citizens, labour members, dons of higher institutions, civil servants and private sector operators.
Inaugurating the committee headed by General (Rtd) Olusola Okotima, Bello said he took a vow and pledged that he would reposition civil service for better delivery and efficiency. He said he was inaugurating the committee that would look into the screening and repositioning of reforming the civil service.
Bello, who lamented that he didn’t want to be governor that will only come and pay salary and then leave, said “For the past 25 years that the state was created, we were created along with other states in this country. It is sad that we still find ourselves, where we are today. Civil service is the engine room of any state and where we are today, it means, that the engine room must be overhauled because we can no longer compete favorable with other vehicles the same time.”
He said because of the situation, there is the need to carry out the screening exercise. According to him, the reform is going to be in various stages, and the first stage would be financed and sponsored by Zenith Bank and executed by Cyber Space Company.
He said Cyber Space would carry out the biometric verification of every worker, adding that the physical verification of the biometrics and other documents would be carried out within twelve days, including Saturday andSunday.
The steering committee, he noted, would review the report at the end of the exercise, pointing out that appropriate recommendation would be made by the committee and urged them to complete the assignment within thirty days, maximum. According to him, he expects that the chairman of the committee would update him on a weekly basis on how far they have gone and the discoveries.
“As at January, the revenue or income that we had was not enough to pay salaries and other over heads cost and if the state must proceed, we can’t do that without funds. What we are doing today is not for Yahaya Bello but for our state, our children and for the future. This is an opportunity for us to write our name in gold and I promise that by the grace of God, whatever the outcome of the result of the exercise, I shall implement hundred percent.
“I am not going to play politics. The politics we played over the past twenty five years brought us to where we are today. We must do it a different way so that we can have result this time around,” he said.
Other members of the steering committee are Alhaji Nda Muhammed and Mr. Steven Yakubu representing senior citizens. The representatives of higher institution are Linus Atapai College of Education; Otaru John FridayPolytechnic and Moses Balogun.
The committee also has representatives of civil service who are Dr. Jerry Agbaji, S.O Muhammed, Emmanuel Onoja, Oloruntoba Kehinde, Sadiq Abdallah Gomina and H.O. K Lawal, who is to serve as secretary of the committee. 
Representatives of Labour are Ojo Ranti Matthew – ASSUS; Suleiman Ndalayi – NUT; Comrade Miliga Obaka – NLC; Tom Abutu – NULGE; I.O Abubakar joint negotiating council and Badmus Abdulkadiri Medical and Health workers union. Others are S.B Emmanuel – civil society; Samuel Ochu – NAM; James Kolawole – TUC; Joseph Ipemida and Chief M.S Aka state and local government representative of Nigeria Union of Pensioners.
In all, the people of Kogi do hope that the step taken so far would help put an end to the civil service menace and reposition the state on the right tract.
 
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For the past 25 years that the state was created, we were created along with other states in this country. It is sad that we still find ourselves, where we are today. Civil service is the engine room of any state and where we are today, it means, that the engine room must be overhauled because we can no longer compete favorable with other vehicles the same time