I am out to cleanse Kogi, says Bello
Governor Yahay Bello of Kogi State has more or less become embolden when it comes to dealing with controversial issues. After all, his emergence is still subject of controversy.
However what is on the burner currently is his resolved and firm issue posture in the bid to cleanse the State workforce as part of efforts to reduce the bloated wage bill allegedly caused by the ghost workers.
In pursuant of this objective, he setup a screening committee headed by General Olusola Okotima (rtd.) which has unraveled considerable rot in the system.
Preliminary reports of the committee is already causing uneasy calm in the State among the workforce as sources claimed that up to 70% may be out of job for going by the terms of reference and findings of the committee.
Speaking at an interactive session in Government House, Lokoja, Governor Yahaya said there should not be any tension regarding the ongoing screening exercise assuring that no genuine worker would be screened out.
He explained that it was only those who have been benefiting from the fraudulent syndrome of ghost workers whereby a civil servant would have multiple names on the payroll that should worry.
According to him, only such people with dubious tendency need worry and would not like the exercise to succeed. He said that those protesting on the streets are their cohorts they instigated to take to the street.
“This exercise would succeed by the grace of God. They are few people who made the system rotten so they can benefit from it.
“After the exercise any person with genuine complain should come forward through the leadership of his Union, it will be verified and such persons would be paid.”
He explained that the exercise was not in anyway linked to retrenchment, right-sizing or downsizing, adding: “But we would not be intimidated to the point of abandoning this project.”
Speaking on the bailout fund that has generated criticism from different quarters, he accused the previous administration of ‘heavily padding’ the bailout fund package that was submitted.
“If we should allow that to go, remember bailout is not a grant neither is it a free money. Any kobo that is paid would affect the economy of the State. Few individuals cannot pocket Billions and leave the burden on the State. So the right thing must be done to remove ghost workers from our payroll so there should not be cause for any tension.”
Bello dropped hints of some of the findings during his field visitation to keep taps with the Screening Exercise which has been on for the past two months, stressing that the fieldwork had been completed and that the committee was in the process of auditing the reports.
“So I took my time to go through the report that is being collated in order that our own exercise does not go the way the rest have gone in the past. The exercise is getting more interesting as a lot of revelations are coming out. In order to ensure the exercise does not linger for too long. I decided to visit the collation center to compare with what is on the field to see if they are at par.”
For instance, he said that at an Army Day Secondary School he confirmed that what was coming out was almost exactly what the committee was collating.
“Also you are aware that the President has released the bailout funds and I would not want that fund to remain in the Government account for too long. I have just received the cash backing of the bailout funds and we intend to begin to pay within this week.”
Bello harped on the need to resolve the issue of ghost workers arguing that allowing it to persist would have amounted to a great economic burden on the state with a few persons enriching themselves with huge sums of money belonging to people.
He pointed out however that what was submitted earlier was N50Bn but disclosed that the actual figure released so far was N20Bn, and advised those taking to the streets tin protests to channel their grievances properly.
He cautioned that any attempt to incite the public against the government would be resisted, as it would not tolerate any act capable of resulting in breakdown of law and order.
Bello also spoke on the recent spate of Kidnappings lamented that he inherited a state in dire need of security assuring however that the situation has improved and was improving on daily basis.
In particular, he commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase for the deployment of specialized police force and helicopters to assist in aerial surveillance of the state.
He disclosed that the recently sworn in Local Government administrators were already constituting vigilante groups who which would man the various communities to check security breaches.
He said his Government was determined to haunt down kidnappers and other criminal elements and ensure that they were no longer comfortable in kogi.
He blamed the high rate of criminality to corrupt practices that have made it impossible to absorb the teeming youths into the system, which has compelled them to resort to nefarious activities in the absence of gainful employment.
The governor promised however: “We have a lot of programs for them especially in Agriculture where we want to engage many of the youths as some of them don’t actually want to continue with crime.”
He also pledged to recover all stolen wealth of the state saying “Those who engaged in stealing Kogi wealth not only via payroll of workers, we would visit them with the full wrath of the law. We would recover the monies, we would prosecute them.”