Bello: Tackling the Kogi Challenge

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The Newsmaker

 

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, has begun to take conscious steps towards addressing the challenges of the state, starting with the May Day celebrations, writes Yekini Jimoh
 
Since Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello assumed office, last Sunday marked the first time he met with workers in the state as part of activities marking this year’s May Day celebrations. As the number one citizen of the state, workers were eager to hear many things from, especially the issue of salaries that was yet to be paid, the bailout funds as well as the just concluded screening of workers in the state, amongst other things. 
The governor too however took his time to enlighten the workers on the issues as they affect the state. He said an ideal workforce is the one in which workers are consistently improving in skills and salaries, adding that it was one in which the operating environment allocates dignity to human beings and rewards merit. 
He said it was his aspiration to build that ideal workforce in Kogi State. “However, reality shows we have a lot of work to do”. Bello pointed out that his administration inherited a state in which unpaid salaries and general atrocious working conditions were the norm. 
“All sorts of tricks were devised by previous administrations to short-change the Kogi State Worker. The worst is, of course, the scourge of ghost-workers. Thousands of non-existent ‘workers’ paid from Kogi State coffers, thus bringing it under undue strain and leaving the real workers either totally unpaid or only receiving meagre percentages of their wages
“I am a former federal civil servant. I was never owed salaries during my time in service. When we came into office, Kogi workers were already on strike for at least 6 weeks, fed up with the then PDP government’s kleptomania, lack of transparency and disastrous policies. It hurts me that a so-called government could receive all the federal allocations due to it and still finds the heart to leave workers unpaid,” he lamented.
He said his administration would be different and remains committed to improving the lot of workers by eliminating every scheme in the system designed to exploit and cheat. He said the ghost-worker syndrome was an evil his administration was committed to eradicating forever. 
“The first line is the Screening Committee we set up soon after our Inauguration, led by Brigadier-General Paul Okuntimo (Rtd). General Okuntimo is a fine officer and an incorruptible gentleman. The Screening Committee is scheduled to conclude her work within the next one week and we shall thereafter expect to have only genuine workers on our payroll
“No more will people sit in Pay Offices and fabricate thousands of names, add them to the nominal roll and siphon Kogi State resources with them on a monthly basis. No more will people sit down in Lagos, Abuja, even abroad, and receive bank alerts for salaries from the Kogi State Government,” he stated.
The governor also pointed out that Kogi would no more pay salaries to ghost-workers, who are ‘serving’ in non-existing institutions discovered all over the state by the Screening Committee. 
His words: “We are dismantling all of that satanic infrastructure. Our people will no longer be robbed. On this workers’ day, I must also seize opportunity to sound a timely warning to every genuine worker in the Kogi State Civil Service: ‘ensure that you are screened’. If the Screening Committee has somehow missed you, seek them out and do the needful
“Once the screening exercise is done, we will only be paying salaries to workers, who have gone through the process. If you miss this train, you will have only yourself to blame.”
The governor said he wanted the support of Organised Labour on this, especially the leadership as it was for the overall benefit of their members. He also disclosed that the situation in the recent past, where some labour leaders opposed the screening exercise under the guise of the interests of their members is, to say the least, suspicious and unacceptable.
He informed that government had also been inundated with allegations of collusion between some labour executives and the past administrations in cheating the very workers they represent through corrupt practices. 
“We will of course investigate and anyone found culpable will have a date with the Anticorruption Agencies. We are cooking something nice for Kogi People. I know the kitchen is getting hot but I promise you that there will be no sacred cows. Let those, who cannot stand the heat get out of the kitchen!Masu gudu, su gudu. The guilty are afraid. Evildoers may run, but they cannot hide,” he warned.
He noted that a cardinal principle on which his administration operates was based on transparency and open communications, adding that they had received four federal allocations since his assumption of Office in January, 2016, out of which he paid full salaries for January and March.
On the issue of the bailout, which has just been approved by CBN, he said his administration was aware that almost as soon as they were sworn in, some mischievous persons serving evil interests both within and without Kogi State fed the media with rumours that they had accessed and frittered away the bailout funds. 
“The reality we met on the ground at the CBN was that the previous application made on behalf of the state by the last administration was fraught with irregularities and shoddily done. In a word, it was so badly done it could never be approved. We had to start from scratch
“We are glad to announce that our efforts have paid off. This week we received approval to draw down on the first tranche of our bailout funds from the federal government. This will amount to about N20bn. We will draw down on the balance of about N30bn as we meet the milestones for implementation of the first tranche as set by the Central Bank of Nigeria
“I also announced a commitment to use that money for salaries and emoluments of our workers. I am certain that by the time we fully disburse the bailout funds, disputes over outstanding emoluments will be over”.


Accordingly, he said the main blueprint which identifies planned developmental strides every year of the four-year term will soon be ready too.
“Your government in Kogi State is running with a four-year Plan, a blueprint for accelerated development of the state in all areas and socio-economic indices within this current term of office. We are focused on this one term.
“Those going around scheming against 2019 should therefore leave us alone. We are not open to distractions at any time. Like power, 2019 and beyond lie in the hands of God. I trust that when the time comes, God and the great people of Kogi will decide who will lead this state further,” he said.