Nigeria, for decades has been suffering from payroll fraud, which has continued to drain incredible sums of money from the Nigerian Civil Service, NCS, both at the Federal, State and Local Government levels.
Infamously known as ‘Ghost Workers’, various methods have been employed to checkmate the menace, but the syndrome has continued, as its perpetrators keep finding new techniques to carry out the illicit act.
Post-Nigeria, gathered that the Ghost Workers syndrome was liberalised during the democratic take over in 1999, an era which saw the dominance of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the Federal, States and Local Governments.
The syndrome which was gradually watered, nursed by various PDP-led State Governments, even at the Federal level, has grown to become a monster that the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, is confronted with today.
From 1999 – 2007, under former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, ghost workers infiltrated every sphere of the civil service structure, with government both at the State and Federal level, doing little or nothing to combat the scourge, yet it was at its embryo stage.
Late President, Musa Yar’adua, could not do much from 2007 – 2009, due to his health condition, as the menace metamorphosed into a larva stage.
From 2009 – 2015, under former President, Goodluck Jonathan, the cancer grew to an adult monster, however, he was able to take the bold step in addressing the problem, but could achieve, but a little.
President Muhammadu Buhari, voted in on the mantra of change, has been fighting tooth and nail to rid the nation of corruption, as he had said: “If Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.
Although, other sectors of the economy have been neglected under the sole fight against corruption, the PDP’s long held structure, no doubt remains a challenge to his administration.
With the high level of PDP members in different structures of the Federal and State Government, political analysts have argued that the fight against corruption, might suffer deadly set back, as they have already succeeded in taking over the political arrangement of the Buhari administration.
With the implementation of Biometric Verification Number, BVN, the Treasury Single Account, TSA, and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, all Jonathan’s initiatives, President Buhari has been able to save N185 billion, by removing 65,000 ghost workers from the Federal Government’s pay roll.
Giving a break down, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and the Director-General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Dr. Joe Abah, had disclosed that the Efficiency Unit of the Ministry, had identified 23,000 people that were collecting multiple salaries.
In March this year, the Minister noted that another additional 11,000 ‘ghost workers’ were discovered on its payroll, reiterating that the recent removal of 23,000 from the Federal Civil Service, had reduced government’s monthly payroll by N2.29 billion.
In the Military, the recent verification among retirees, reduced 19,203 ghost workers, translating to downward revision of monthly pension expenses by N575 million.
The only pronounced fight against ghost workers, during the PDP era, was carried out under Jonathan, by the erstwhile Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of which a whopping 62,893 ghost workers were removed from the Federal Government’s payroll.
Presently, States like Plateau (APC), Kano (APC), Kebbi (APC), Osun (APC) and Niger (APC), have discovered 5,000, 8,000, 9,500, 7,100 and 7,000 ghost workers, respectively.
Reports have it that about 71, 135 ghost pensioners still exist on government payroll.
The most shocking discovery, was the inclusion of children as young as 8 years old, as ghost workers in different levels of revelations.
Post-Nigeria, further gathered that the inability of past PDP-led governments to consistently verify its payroll system at all levels of government for the past 16 years, has led to this crisis.
With the dire economic situation in Nigeria, coupled with the high unemployment and weak social safety nets, the problem of ghost workers may not go away soon, as it has become an attractive option for many to corruptly enrich themselves.