Ganduje, labour set to clash over government anti-graft crusade
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State may be heading for another round of controversy apart from the ongoing one he is into with his immediate past predecessor in office, Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso.
This time, the governor’s anti-graft war that is currently piercing through the government ministries, parastatals, labour unions, politicians and traditional rulers among others, has pitted the administration against some powerful groups in the state including the leadership of the state chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
Recently, the leadership of the labour union in the state expressed readiness to tackle the governor, if he continues with his anti-graft campaign, even as the governor seemed ready to crush any obstacles to the crusade of ridding Kano of the ills of corruption.
About two years ago when Ganduje, of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), took over power in Kano, he expressed determination to tackle corrupt practices in governance, most especially misappropriation of the state’s resources.
Although the resolution then was more of projection anchored on strong political will and determination, Ganduje’s body language speaks volume about his renewed vigor to purge Kano of corrupt practices.
The governor’s determination coincided with President Muhammadu Buhari’s zero tolerance for graft amidst scarce resources and economic crunch occasion by the fall in the price of oil in the international market.
In pursuance of his mission, Ganduje invested more power in the state’s anti-corruption commission with a legislation, which renamed the agency to Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission, designed to make it more effective.
To make the fight easy, the government reduced the number of ministries from 24 to 12 and streamlined the number of government agencies, departments and parastatals (MDA’s) to cut cost and minimise wastages.
The administration also instituted a technical committee headed by the state Head of Service, Alhaji Auwal Naiya to carry out biometric data capturing of civil servants with the aim of flushing out ghost workers.
At the end of the first round of the screening, over 2,000 ghost workers were discovered to be on the state’s pay roll. An official statement from the office of the Head of Service said, “On completion of the first phase of staff audit, over N1 billion was saved.”
Naiya also affirmed that the government discovered about 8,763 ghost workers, with an aggregate cost of N266, 642,700 on a monthly basis.He also said the government has unraveled another category of 17 super invisible civil servants under the Hospital Management Board and Primary Health Care Management Board, siphoning N1, 010,053.15 from government coffers monthly.
According to him, “No fewer than 25,244 workers across the 68 MDA’s were captured, while 3,938 failed to show up after collecting data capturing forms. In 14 local government councils, 9,344 workers were captured, while 525 did not return the forms collected.
“In SUBEB, 23,272 workers collected forms, while 22,562 were captured, while 2,211 declined to be physically captured.“For pensioners, in 40 local government areas, 23,696 retirees collected the biometric data forms, 14,329 were captured, while 938 suspected invisible pensioners failed to show up.”
Besides, the governor ordered the immediate suspension of a director in the Ministry of Finance and nine others over alleged financial irregularities. The affected officers were suspected to have misappropriated several billions of naira, under REMITA platform, being monies meant to pay local government workers.
Similarly, the governor ordered the handing over of four employees of Kano State Pension Funds Trustee, including two top members of Kano Pension Union to security agents for proper investigation and possible prosecution over their purported involvement in corrupt practices.
Ganduje has since directed that the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) be invited to commence investigations and possible prosecution of the cases, as well as the recovery of all diverted funds with appropriate punishment meted out to all indicted public officers.
“It is pertinent to make it abundantly clear that this government will not condone any act of fraud or theft in any manner,” he warned, and appealing to all government workers and pensioners yet to receive their entitlement, as a result of the ongoing investigations to be patient, promising that they would be paid after undergoing fresh screening exercise.
Ganduje’s anti-graft war has also been extended to the leadership of Labour, who were said to be currently under pressure, as the state’s anti-corruption commission embarked on the probing of top members of the union’s leadership over alleged employment racketeering.
Meanwhile, the NLC leadership has vowed to protect the interest of the workers, as they demanded the immediate suspension of the screening exercise. They argued that such measure would enable workers to concentrate on their jobs.
Some of the union leaders have been accused of complicity in the salary fraud by the anti-corruption agency. The commission affirmed that over 1,000 workers were fraudulently recruited into local councils’ employment through assistance of some labour leaders.
The executive chairman of the commission, Muhuyi Magaji Rimingado said: “The preliminary investigations indicted some top echelons of the labour movement, who facilitated the illegal employment. Those involved would soon be prosecuted.”
He however declined to mention names or specify the union involved in what he described as criminal.Rimingado claimed that all the affected workers have confessed to purchasing their employment offer with the sum of N300, 000 from some union leaders and politicians.
He said further discoveries by the commission equally unraveled some state employees who illegally transferred their service from ministries to local government councils but still receive double salaries in the last three years.
“Since the commission took over the case, we have discovered issues of illegal insertion, including sales of employment offer, which were backdated to 2010. A lady, who secured an offer from two local governments was interrogated by the commission but unknown to her, the same personnel manager signed the two offers, a situation that aroused suspicion as to the possibility of one officer signing the employment letter on behalf of two local government areas and for one beneficiary.”
He disclosed that the commission has documented confession of some of them, who bought their offers from politicians and union members insisting, “we are handling the case thoroughly and I can assure you that those discovered to have facilitated the entire racketeering would be charged to court. If the commission had not detected the latest corrupt practices and related crimes in the civil service in the nick of time, it would have resulted in the loss of over N1 billion.
The exercise has saved the state government of needless waste, as it spends over N8 billion monthly on salaries and in some cases resort to borrowing from other sources to augment the salary of workers, while thousands of corrupt civil servants are collecting double salaries,” he said.
Also, he revealed that the commission is currently probing a highly placed traditional ruler, whose name he declined to disclose, alongside five others over fresh corruption cases, saying “the case is coming less than a month after the commission uncovered corruption activities in the State’s Ministry of Land and Physical Planning, involving a commissioner and a permanent secretary, both of whom are currently on suspension.”
Rimingado added that the commission recovered not less than N150 million, including landed properties from corrupt government officials last year alone, maintaining that there would not be any sacred cow in the fight.
But the NLC has expressed reservation over the development, saying the alleged ghost workers identified in the biometric data capturing exercise was not realistic.
According to the state chairman, Mr. Kabiru Ado Minjibir, “While labour appreciates the government’s efforts to fish out bad eggs in the civil service, the number of alleged ghost workers allegedly discovered might not be entirely realistic.
He insisted that the government is in a hurry to jump into conclusion that those discovered were ghost workers at a period when many civil servants were undergoing training at both home and abroad, while some were unavoidably absent, due to ill-health during the screening.