The Truth Nigerians Must Not Know – Final part: Whose Ghosts Are They?

This is the final part of the series, not because I'm tired of divulging more facts, after all ‘facts are to the mind what food is to the body' but because I am eager to start a new series – ‘The Truth Nigerians Must Know.' I am also sure that I have bothered you with enough data in discussing the troubles and it's time to start brainstorming in finding solutions to the problems.

We are at a stage in our national life where we hardly need more analyses of the problems and if I may confess to you, Nigeria needs more strategists now than analysts.

In this final part, I'd be looking at the issues of ghost workers in government offices and briefly touch the topics of oil production and gas flaring.

How ghosts take N300 billion annually from the economy

Ghosts of numerous non employees like former, deceased, retired and completely fictitious workers populate the government's payroll. While many of these former workers had long left or never existed, some civil servant and politicians ensure that their ghosts linger on in their former departments. They are promoted; paid salaries and gratuities; sent on courses; and their pensions are remitted to the collaborating pension managers and in the end, they retired and draw pensions. They do all these without existing.

These ghosts are not the creepy ones who frighten people. They have no faces but are seen on payroll; they have no legs but walk to banks; they have no hand, but draw salaries and sign cheques; and they have no certificates and appraisals, yet they are promoted. Who knows if they become directors or permanent secretaries?

This cannot totally shock any Nigerian who had witnessed that not quite long ago, we had a ‘ghost president' who was spending security votes while in the land of the Arabians; who gave presidential orders to the vice president through his press secretary while in a coma and who was seen playing with his grandchildren in the Aso Rock garden when his soul had already departed his body.

Not only do these ghosts prevent genuine Nigerians the chance of being employed because they occupy their legitimate positions.

The cost of these ghosts on our economy is mindboggling. I conservatively estimate it to be N300 annually and here is how I got my figure:

In a September 2010 staff audit of the Nigeria Police Force, the consultants discovered that a staggering 107,000 of an overall 337,000 members of the force were ghost officers. This is about one-third of the alleged total population of the police force. The authentic and verifiable officers were only 230,000.

Imagine107,000 ghost whose salaries were being drawn and pocketed by rogues within the same Police that is empowered by law and expected by all Nigerians to apprehend and prosecute criminals in the society.

The same audit report implicated the Salary Section of the police, their pay officers and accountants in all the states of the federation as well as bank officials in the scam that the Police itself put the cost at more than N3 billion every month or N36 billion yearly. Some fraudulent bank accounts through which these monies were being siphoned were also unearthed.

If this was going on in the police, what do you expect in the other government departments? Your guess is as good as mine.

Sad as it seemed, more than eight months after the completion of the exercise, not a SINGLE OFFICER has been indicted, suspended or punished in any way or asked to refund any illegal pay. Show me the disincentive not to steal here. ‘He who steals and goes Scot free, lives to steal another day!'

In other clime, this would have been enough to send the Inspector General of Police, the Police Affairs Minister and other top officers parking and land those found guilty some jail terms.

Some Recent Notable Cases Of Ghost Workers

August 2011: A five-man committee set up to audit the staff of Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, uncovered a N10 million monthly wage scam. 29 dead persons and 72 ghost workers had been under the employment of the council and receiving salaries since 2003. In all 500 ghost workers were discovered.

July 2011: According to Mr. Olusegun Aganga, former Minister of Finance, during a scrutiny of staff of seven Ministries, Department Agencies (MDAs), 43,000 ghost workers were discovered Their cost to the government was over N12 billion annually. 29 MDAs are yet to be checked.

July 2011: A verification exercise carried out by the Tureta Local Government Area of Sokoto State has led to the discovery of over 500 "ghost workers," the chairman of the council, Alhaji Mande Lofa said.

July 2011: The Rivers State Universal Education Board loses N200 million monthly (N2.4.billion annually) to 1477 ghost workers who were discovered.

July 2011: The National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) uncovered 4,000 ghost workers out of the 10,300 employees on its payroll following a recently concluded biometric data capture exercise. 800 employees were also yet to be verified. The Director-General, NIMC, Mr. Chris Onyemenam, said he was amazed.

July 2011: Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi said that the state government is yearly losing over N3 billion to ghost workers out of the N80 billion annual budget.

July 2010: The Chairman, Ekiti West Local Government Area in Ekiti State, Mr. Olugbenga Ogunleye said that the local government has discovered no fewer than 252 ghost workers in the employment of the council.

Feb 2011: Niger State found 2,000 ghost workers in its 34,000 payroll.

Other Cases In Previous Years

December 2010: As stated above, 107,000 out of 337,000 members of the Police Force were ghost officers.

Feb 2010: Bayelsa State government said it was losing an average of N3.524bn ($24m) annually to ghost workers on its payroll. This development, according to the Director-General of the state's Due Process and e-Governance Bureau, Von Kemedi, necessitated the introduction of a biometric exercise to authenticate the actual number of workers in the state's civil service. The exercise revealed that 11,696 out of a total of 52,696 workers on the state's payroll did not exist.

May 2009: The House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise discovered that about 50 per cent of the 20,000 workforce in the Nigeria Customs Service were ghost workers.

2008: The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) had 14,885 ghost workers out of work force of 35,000 people representing about 40% of the staff strength.

2003: According Alhaji Kwakwanso, the Defence Minister of the time and now Kano state governor, the ministry discovers more than 24,000 phantom names in pensions audit.

2001: The Accountant-General of the Federation, Chief Joseph Naiyeju, reported the discovery of 40,000 ghost workers following a manpower verification exercise conducted by the Federal Government, personnel in the employment of the government were found to be 215,000 not the 255,000.

2000: About 5,000 ghost workers - not pensioners - were discovered among military ranks, according to the then Defence Minister Gen. Theophilus Danjuma.

So, who are these ghost workers? Who are the ghost dealers? Are they also ghost? Why can't they be arrested? Do the top government officials have hands in these? Are the politicians part of the scam? Who will kill the ghosts? Share we continue to pretend that this is not a serious problem? Kindly let me know your thoughts.

According to Segun Aganga, the problem of ghost workers contributed to the increase in personnel costs in the Federal civil service from N850 billion in 2009 to N1.3 trillion in 2010.

Oil Production

I cannot end this series without mentioning this truth about our oil production. We are probably the only major oil producing country in the whole World Wide Web that does not have an accurate data of her exploration and production. Nigeria depends on the data supplied by the international oil companies (IOCs) which produce over 95% of her oil without any mechanism in place to verify their claims. We are just at the mercy!

Apart from this, Nigeria also loses about 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day to illegal bunkering. In a disclosure by the Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative in May 2011, this loss amounts to about N3.7tn annually. ?

Gas Flaring

Gas flaring is another problem successive Nigerian governments have failed to tackle with any sincerity of purpose. They trade blames with the IOCs and continue to shift deadlines without any meaningful actions as if the set dates will never come.

The flaring causes a huge environmental damage and according to doctors, it is responsible for causing chronic health problems among people who live in the Niger Delta. About 40% of Nigeria's gas is flared as it is produced and this also causes billion of dollars in lost revenues.

If other countries are able to stop flaring, why can't Nigeria stop it? Why are we so blessed in doing the wrong things?

We have known some truths here that they government would not want us to know; we have understood why we are still where we are today; and it now depends on you and I whether these truths set us free.

Rufus Kayode Oteniya Writes – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.