FG Owes Workers N293bn Benefit Claims

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Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HoS), Mrs. Wilfred Ekamen Oyo-Ita, has revealed that the federal government owes workers in the civil service to the tune of N293 billion as claims and arrears.

She made the staggering admission while briefing journalists on the activities to celebrate the civil service week.

The HoS said on appointment last year, she was confronted with a boggling service wide claim from workers on death benefits, repatriation allowances, promotion and arrears.

According to her, President Muhammadu Buhari was equally stunned when he received the huge claims, prompting him to refer the matter to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun.

Oyo-Ita said government had till this moment been unable to indemnify the claimants largely because of financial challenges.

Nigeria has struggled to implement its budget because of resource constraint which has resulted in the a sharp reduction in its revenue by more than 55 per cent since the new administration came to office last year.

The head of the service said though efforts had peaked to prioritise the payment formula, the affected workers would be paid after the conclusion of the phased payment formula that is being reconciled in collaboration with the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF).

Oyo-Ita, who was appointed Nigeria’s third woman to head the civil service in October last year, also disclosed that an unspecified number of federal public service workers are in detention by anti-corruption agency, EFFC, for fraud, adding that the use of Private Voters Card (PVC) has sufficiently helped the service in uncovering ghost workers and fraudulent suspicion in the national payroll system.

“There are a lots of public workers that are currently in EFFC detention for fraud, particularly for a serious crime related to ‘ghost workers’. We don’t want to mention names but that is the situation. We have zero tolerance for fraud. This is the first time that any administration in Nigeria is tackling the issue of ghost workers headlong. We are currently cleaning up the system in consonance with the Ministry of Finance,” Oyo-Ita said.

She said her office had initiated a systematic verification of civil servants through a reliable and authentic database of government workers to reduce fraudulent acts in the payroll and eliminate incessant request for staff documentations.

Oya-Ita said staff welfare would be addressed from many fronts, noting that the civil service was exploring the possibility of providing bulk payment of rent allowance for workers within this fiscal year.

She also said a committee had been set up on national salary review and would sit with the stakeholders to take a decision on pay rise. The HoS also added that there was no plan to retrench workers, saying it is cruel to throw people into the labour market.