Reinventing Kogi the Yahaya Bello way
Political opponents, who believe that Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s occupation of the Lugard House seat of government of Kogi State is an absurdity until the Supreme Court rules otherwise, have likened his emergence as the governor, to a stray bullet on the political scene.
Bello was fielded in the supplementary election as substitute candidate that replaced late Prince Abubakar Audu the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in last year’s governorship election when he (Audu) died suddenly while coasting to victory.
But after steering the ship of state for about two months, the perception of the average Kogi indigene about the governor is gradually changing as many have come to terms with his revolutionary approach to righting most of the wrongs perpetrated by civil servants and past leaders that have been holding the state down economically.
Credit has been given to the perceived illegality of his emergence by various persons who after evaluating his moves to rediscover the state, are now saying what they thought was an absurdity has become a blessing in disguise for the state.
But after steering the ship of state for about two months, the perception of the average Kogi indigene about the governor is gradually changing as many have come to terms with his revolutionary approach to righting most of the wrongs perpetrated by civil servants and past leaders that have been holding the state down economically
Their argument is that if Bello had emerged through the normal process, some godfathers who would have been dictating what to do and who to appoint, to him would have burdened his administration.
According to a retired civil servant, Benjamin Momoh, the state has been bleeding from over bloated workforce imposed on it by forces within the civil service who are specialists in duplicating appointments for non-existing individuals, adding that Bello’s no nonsense posture has exposed them.
Another pensioner, Mallam Dauda Abdullahi, indicated that God has reasons for everything that happens under the sun saying, “the lacuna that produced Governor Bello was allowed by God so that some of the evil people holding down the state by the jugular can be exposed.”
The first of the moves of Governor Bello was the directive that sent all Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Departments on compulsory leave with immediate effect. The only exemptions in that category were people on acting capacity and the Permanent Secretary, Government House.
At the local government level, the DLGs, Treasurers, Education Secretaries and cashiers were also sent on compulsory leave.
According to the governor, “The decision for the top officials of the civil service to proceed on compulsory leave was to clean up the Civil Service of systemic and monumental fraud, which have made the state government to owe workers salaries for months.
He lamented that some top officials, who were secretly issuing letters of appointment to their children, wards and cronies, even when there was embargo on employment, manipulated the geometric rise in workers’ salaries.
Another of his major moves was when, barely two weeks in office, he ordered the immediate disconnection of electricity supply to the residence of some former government officials. Those affected included the President of the State Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Shaibu Atadoga, and former Governor Ibrahim Idris. He indicated that his government was not going to be picking the bills of past officials in view of the financial condition of the state. Consequently, residences adjacent to the Government House that had, over the years, been powered from the seat of government were disconnected.
Another of his major moves was when, barely two weeks in office, he ordered the immediate disconnection of electricity supply to the residence of some former government officials.
Those affected included the President of the State Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Shaibu Atadoga, and former Governor Ibrahim Idris. He indicated that his government was not going to be picking the bills of past officials in view of the financial condition of the state. Consequently, residences adjacent to the Government House that had, over the years, been powered from the seat of government were disconnected.
To ensure a virile and robust economy, Bello ordered staff verification of civil servants to expunge ghost workers from the service.
He inaugurated the steering committee for the public service screening headed by a retired Army General, Olusola Okotima last February.
The governor told the audience at the event that he had a pact with the Almighty God to reposition the Civil Service for a better service delivery and efficiency no matter whose ox was gored.
He said, “I am in the state to imprint my name on the sands of time and I would not want to be labeled as a governor good only for the payment of salaries.”
According to the governor, the reform is going to be in various stages, and the first stage will be financed and sponsored by Zenith bank and will be executed by Cyber Space Company. He said the company will carry out the biometric verification of every worker, adding that the physical verification of the biometric and other documents verification will be carried out within twelve days including Saturdays and Sundays.
Other members of the steering committee are representatives of the Civil Society, Higher educational institutions, Civil Service, Organised Labour, Nigerian Union of Pensioners and those of the state and Local Government Administrations.
So far the screening exercise has revealed many shady deals of civil servants as the Governor himself disclosed recently while he expressed satisfaction with what has been uncovered so far from the exercise.
He gave an example of the Kogi State College of Education (Technical) with barely 300 students but with a non-teaching staff strength of over 500.
The governor disclosed that on the eve of the screening exercise, the institution’s registrar issued out over 200 appointment letters adding that the state had actually been bleeding under very heavy wage bill occasioned by manipulations on the part of the civil servants which has made Government to perpetually rely on borrowing to meet up with its obligations.
Speaking recently in Abuja, the governor said when he came on board the wage bill was N3 billion and staff strength was over 39,000.
“When you move round the state where are the offices, where are the schools? Where are the hospitals? And we are aware that since 2011 there has not been any advertisement for recruitment of staff. So how can we be having this heavy wage bill monthly?”
He said what accrues to the state from the Federation Account monthly had dwindled to between N2 billion to N2.2 billion adding that the IGR is hovering around N400 million and N500 million monthly.
The governor explained further that when all these are put together it would not even be enough for salary hence the state would have to rely on borrowing to service overhead, which is not sustainable.
He decried a situation that was discovered during the exercise, where a staff was earning salary in four offices and another staff taking salaries of over 40 people. He indicated that so far one senatorial district had been completed.
Bello expressed the hope to complete the exercise very soon stressing that every amount of money belonging to Kogi would work for the state even as he was optimistic that everybody coming on board would not tamper with public funds adding, “all those we have appointed have been proven to be of high character and high moral probity.”
Although successive governments have tried to carry out similar audit of civil servants; they lacked the political will to ensure the outcomes were implemented to the letter.
The administration of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris of 2003- 2012 engaged Sally Tibot as Consulting firm to unravel the mystery of over bloated wage bill while Governor Idris Wada engaged Mrs Deborah Ogunmola staff audit but it is on record that the implementation of both exercises did not improve the system.
Bello however said God had chosen him to lead Kogi State at least for the next four years saying that his emergence was divine.
He said, “Why then would you question God, nobody should try God. So nothing is going to happen to my administration and me. Nothing is going to happen to any of us till we finish our term or our terms.”
While pledging to be free, fair, just and equitable in the discharge of his duties and responsibilities to everyone, the governor said he was going to bring the needed development to the state.
According to him, “While doing that I may step on toes. For as long as in my own mind and vision I am doing my best to make sure our state is free from the hands of those who have led us to where we are today I don’t care whoever I will step on his toes.”
He promised that his administration would build bridges across ethnic, religious and political divides adding, “I would not care about whatever anybody says to me, the Igalas are my brothers and sisters, the Igbiras are my immediate constituency, the Okuns and all other tribes in the state are my brothers and sisters.”