By Omoh Gabriel
Last week, the Minister of State for Finance disclosed that the Federal Government uncovered 45,000 ghost workers from 215 Ministries, Departments and Agencies under the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS).
Dr Yerima Ngama, the Minister of State for Finance made the disclosure while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House.
Ngama said the discovery of the ghost workers had resulted in the reduction of the wage bill by about N100 billion. It means that on the average, some faceless individuals in the corridors of power were making away with about N100 billion for doing nothing. The rate of looting of the nation’s treasury is fast becoming alarming. It was shocking that all the minister told the media was the discovery. Nothing was said about those involved and what the government intend to do to them. There is absolute collusion between the political class and the civil servants to steal the nation blind.
Still fresh in our minds is how a civil servant on his own, stole about N32 billion from the police pension fund as if the money were kept in his drawer for him to steal. There is a syndicate in the presidency ripping off the nation. It is not possible for an individual to mindlessly steal billions of naira of the nation’s money if he has no political and strong social backing.
The funny thing is that the government playing to the gallery, always wants the citizenry to believe it is doing something about this social ill but nothing is eventually done so others waiting in the wings are emboldened to follow the example of others.
These civil servants on annual basis pad up recurrent budgets in order to make room for stealing. This is why the recurrent expenditure of the Federal Government is always higher than the capital expenditure outlay. If the Federal Government of Nigeria is to reduce its recurrent expenditure drastically, it must make salary administration very efficient and employ the most modern technology in doing so. To deal effectively with these financial criminals on government pay roll, the detailed biometrics of every staff must be in place and payment should match each bio data with an auditor verifying.
There are 321 Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government. So far, out of these, 215 have been found to have 45,000 ghost workers drawing salaries. By the time all the 321 units are covered, the number and the amount the government is defrauded of will rise further. Treasury looting has become a fashionable thing and it is carried out without fear of any consequences. The Federal Government has never come out with severe punishment for treasury looters. So it has become a business.
The question is; where is the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation? Is it not supposed to ensure that government payments are in order? Has the civil service rules crippled the office of the Auditor-General and made it ineffective? Is the Ministry of Finance not in a position to ensure that the office of the Auditor-General functions properly or is it now an act of compromise on the part of the Auditor-General’s office that it can not detect fake payment in the service?
The Minister did not disclose in which of the MDAs these ghost workers were found. What was the action taken against those charged with the day-to-day running of these units to serve as deterrent to others? Who are the major beneficiaries of these crooked acts of financial crime against the nation?
Have they been investigated or is the matter being covered up? Some of these civil servants have become so daring that they have the moral courage to declare in the open what they have been able to steal from public treasury. If the political office holders can steal, why not the civil servants?
That is why it was interesting to see one of the looters arraigned at Code of Conduct Tribunal for declaring N421m assets. Rabiu Aliyu appeared before the Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja for allegedly declaring assets worth N421 million that cannot be attributed to his emoluments. Aliyu, a deputy director in the Kano State Audit Department, is also accused of engaging in the management and running of a private consultancy firm and owning a fleet of properties.
According to the tribunal, the alleged offences are punishable under the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. This happened at the state level but at the federal level, it is business as usual. ‘It is oil money, so steal as much as you can but do not get caught’ is the language at the federal level. Who will save Nigeria from these looters in agbada and; suit and tie?