BEHOLD A COUNTRY’S RECURRING NIGHTMARE: THE GHOST WORKER CARTEL
Make no mistake about it, payroll fraud is a thriving cartel in the country. Almost every national institution has it fair share of the malaise. By the way, payroll fraud is the other name for ghost workers.
When finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, announced with aplomb, early this month during the federal executive council meeting that, about 34,000 ghosts workers, who had been staffers in ministries, agencies and departments of federal government had been exposed. I imagined madam minister had expected to be enthusiastically applauded and eulogised. Then more so, when she added with panache and razzmatazz that, N2.23billion was saved, in the process. What she failed to include in her revelation was that, in 2013, transparency international disclosed that Nigeria civil servant alone, took bribes worth over 450billion naira, or 3billion dollars in 2012.
I can recall with eerie clarity that sometime in late 2014 that, the last but one finance minister, Madam Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, announce to a bemused public that, she had rid 215 ministries, agencies and departments of 60,000 ghosts, who had been workers there. But, she, like her successor, also accidentally-on-purpose skipped the sickening revelation; by global corruption barometer which in 2013 revealed that, Nigerian public officers/ civil servants were the third most corrupt after the police and political parties.
Back to our ghost workers, it is on record that a former IGP, Hafiz Ringim, announced to a stupefied citizenry in 2010 that, following the integrated payroll and personal information system, IPPIS, a startling 20,000 fake officer and men were unmasked, with six billion naira gone down the drain. Ringim didn’t resign, neither was any officer in the account department quizzed or punished.
A state by state analysis of ghost worker record would send the reader into coma, while there is no known record of any reprimand or prosecution. Kano state discovered 7, 629 ghost workers, while losing some N283.5 million monthly to the cartel, Benue state uncloaked 1, 261 ghosts among its workforce losing N170, 290, 870 to the conundrum, River state revealed 8,000 ghosts on its payroll, Kebbi 9,300 and Delta 7,000 ghosts who earned salaries, Kogi state has mammoth 18,2111 ghost workers on its wage bill, Sokoto and Adamawa have over 12,500 ghost workers who receive salary, Oyo state has a staggering 15,532 ghost works in its ranks while Kaduna has over 13,000 ghost workers among in its civil service.
With the statement of the minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, that her ministry plans to enrol all the military payroll to IPPIS before the end of the year, following the recent revelations during the trial of a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, where the sum of N558.2 million (about $279,000) was allegedly diverted monthly from the Nigeria Air Force account into a private account. The statistics of ghost workers and the salaries they earn, could knock us cold, who’s oblivious to the fact that the cartel places these fictitious names, that are criminally approved by relevant authorities, who are in the salaries and wages departments of the offending and conspiring agencies and ministries.
It will interest you to know that, permanent secretaries and directors-general are accomplices, do not be hoodwinked by their supposed neutrality and feigned ignorance. Where then is the much vaunted war on corruption? Assuming we are persuaded on these alarming revelations coupled with the fact that the president handlers are not telling him some gospel truth, what should we tell the president? Who, for that matter, will tell him.
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, once intoned that, a major part of the N2.2 trillion deficit in the 2016 was to be financed mainly by borrowings projected at N1.84 trillion, in the wake of dwindling oil revenue and sabotage, who will tell him, where to get it?