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1500 Federal Workers With Fake Employment Letters? How Come? By Sulaimon Olanrewaju

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The Head of Civil Service of the Federation (HoS), Dr (Mrs) Folasade Yemi-Esan, stunned the whole country last Tuesday when she revealed that no fewer than 1,500 federal workers were parading fake employment letters. According to the HoS while delivering a keynote address at the National Policy Dialogue on Entrenching Transparency in Public Office Recruitment in Nigeria, organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission in Abuja, over 1,000 people with fake employment letters were discovered in just one ministry while others were found in other ministries, departments and agencies during a service-wide verification exercise will be delisted from the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).

Although the HoS stopped short of telling us the cost of this to the nation, there is no doubt that Nigeria must have lost billions of naira, paying people she never employed. Mrs Yemi-Esan, however, explained that her administration had taken decisive steps to nip in the bud the alarming sharp practices and acts of impunity being perpetrated on the IPPIS.

But come to think of it, how did those with fake employment letters get into the system? If they manufactured their own letter somehow, did they also manufacture the copy from the Federal Civil Service Commission to the respective ministry, department or agency? How the people with fake letters managed to beat all the barriers to get enlisted in the federal civil service is a Nigerian mystery.

It would be good for the country if gatekeepers at the federal civil service could up their game and stop the hemorrhage through bloated wage bill because the incidence of ghost workers is one of the factors responsible for the country’s seeming arrested development. It appears that there are more phantom workers in Nigeria’s public sector than real ones. No aspect of the sector is spared; the federal civil service, state civil service, local government service, the police, the ministries, department and agencies are all swarming with ghost workers with billions of naira going to the wrong hands monthly. This ugly scenario has been a source of concern to governments at various levels with many of them at one point or the other subjecting their workforces to endless screening exercises with a view to fishing out fictitious names on the workers’ payroll. But more often than not, the deleted names from the workforce have an uncanny manner of either getting back on the payroll or being replaced by new ones.

The fact is that the issuance of fake letters of employment or inclusion of non-workers on the payroll cannot be perpetrated by junior or middle level officers; the illegality can only be executed at the level of very high ranking officers of government. That explains why the problem has become almost intractable; those who should proffer the solution constitute the problem.

However, as terrible as the criminality of siphoning resources from government coffers through the inclusion of phony names on workers’ payroll is, it still pales in comparison with the larger consequences of this immorality on the nation. The backwardness of Nigeria in some aspects may be traced directly to this insincerity on the part of the top hierarchy of the nation’s workforce. For instance, Nigeria is said to be one of the countries with high maternal mortality rates with its 630 deaths per 100,000 births. This high rate is a consequence of the disproportionate ratio of pregnant women to birth attendants in the country. Contrary to the claims of government that it has employed many birth attendants to stem the tide of maternal mortality, the reality on the ground is that many pregnant women still depend on traditional birth attendants, who are not properly schooled in the art of taking birth delivery. Why would the government say one thing and the people see another? It is because government’s premise is faulty. The government may be told that there is a particular number of birth attendants in the hospitals whereas the personnel figure has been padded for the benefit of some ministry officials.

According to the Library of Congress Profile on Nigeria, there are 371,800 officers and men in the Nigeria Police, but a former Inspector General of the Police, Muhammed Adamu, said not too long ago that there were as many as 80,115 ghost workers in the police. Former police chiefs had threatened fire and brimstone and assured that they would put an end to the scam. But not much has been done in this regard as there are still ghost workers in the force. The implication of this is that while the nation is releasing money to pay 371,800 policemen, only about 291,685 people are actually policing the nation. This then means that the nation is under-policed but is hamstrung to recruit more men to facilitate effective policing because its assumption is hinged on the wrong premise of having a 371,800-man police force. This could be one of the reasons criminals are having an upper hand against security operatives in the country. Imagine what 80,000 additional policemen could do in a country like Nigeria.

The same goes for employment. There are so many young Nigerians roaming the streets without any job, not necessarily because there is no room for them in government establishments but principally because the government is working on the wrong hypothesis that it has a bloated workforce whereas this is not true as some people have perfected a means of perpetually stealing from government by using names of non-existing workers.

The Federal Government in 2006 commenced the process of waging war against fake workers when it introduced the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information Systems (IPPIS), but the implementation has been painfully slow, probably because some of those superintending over it unduly benefitted from the old system which made room for phantom workers. But that can only be because those at the helm of affairs lack the political will to make it work. If they are determined to make the IPPIS work, it will work.

Government at all levels should be more serious about stamping out the incidence of ghost workers not just because of the humongous resources lost to the heist, but also because of the other effects of this systemic inefficiency which is responsible for Nigeria’s reputation as the country with one of the highest infant mortality rates, the country with the highest number of out of school children and one of the most unsafe countries in the world.

Strictly Personal

Queen Nanny: Ghanaian woman who led liberation army in Jamaica by Owei Lakemfa

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Nanny, a young Akan woman from present-day Ghana, born about 1686 was captured with her four brothers and sold into slavery. They were taken on ‘The Journey of No Return’ across the Atlantic Ocean, becoming part of the 12.5 million Africans forced on this journey by Europeans and Americans who wanted free labour to exploit for profit.

Unlike the 1.8 million others who perished during this journey and had their bodies fed to the roaring ocean waves, Nanny, who was to become known as “Nanny of the Maroons,” and her brothers, survived the ordeal and arrived in Jamaica.

They later escaped from the slave plantations and fled into the mountains and jungles of Jamaica to become Maroons. This was the name for escaped slaves who banded together and fought for freedom, initially for themselves and eventually for various Latin American and  Caribbean countries, including Jamaica.

The names of slaves, in almost all cases, were lost. This was part of the depersonalization and dehumanisation of the slave, who was forced to forget the past and live entirely at the pleasure of the slave owner, who exercised the power of life or death on his “property. So it is not unlikely that her original name was not Nanny. This was most likely a corruption of the name Maame, which means mother in Twi. This would have been preferred to the names given to her by the slave masters.

By the mid-1550s, there were already escaped slaves in the Caribbean, who, with no way of finding their way back home to their loved ones, banded together to fight the slave owners and establish their own communities. In Jamaica, as in some other countries, these freedom fighters were called Maroons.

The word, “maroon” was derived from the Spanish word “Cimarron,” which was originally used for runaway cattle. Since African slaves were valued and treated no better than cattle, it came to be used for escaped African slaves. Maroon communities were typically located among mountains and swamps, making slave owners and European countries’ raids difficult.

They also provided safe bases for the Maroons to conduct raids on white plantations and organise guerrilla armies. They linked up with local Native Americans to defend the terrain. Today, Maroon communities still exist in various North and South America countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Ecuador, and the United States especially in the Carolina’s, Alabama, Florida, and New Orleans areas. They also exist on islands in the Indian Ocean.

After escaping from the plantations, Nanny and her brothers joined the Maroons. She later founded a Maroon village with one of her brothers, Quao, in the Blue Mountains in eastern Jamaica in 1720.  British Captain Stoddart said Nanny Town, was “situated on one of the highest mountains on the island” and found the only path leading to it, to be: “steep, rocky, and difficult, and not wide enough to admit the passage of two persons abreast.”

This forced the invading army into a single file and an easy target for the Nanny fighters. This part of Jamaica was described as “Windward” and the inhabitants were known as “Windward Maroons.” The village became known as Nanny Town. The Maroons evolved their own traditional religious practices with West African influences.

It was called Obeah. Nanny was a priestess, leader, and commander-in-chief of the rebel army who trained her soldiers in guerrilla warfare. She was so fierce in a battle that the Europeans tried to pass her off as a myth created to rally the forces of the Maroons. But despite strenuous efforts, the Europeans could not force her off the history books.

This is primarily because a ghost could not have been recorded by European writers; could not have been declared wanted with a bounty on her by the colonialists, nor could a myth have physically established two separate towns. Also, she organised and supervised the escape of about 1,000 slaves over a three-decade period and resettled them.

The Queen Nanny rebels fought the British military for six years from 1728 until the latter, led by Commander Stoddard seized and destroyed Nanny Town in 1734. In fact, the British claimed that one of its mercenaries, Captain William Cuffee alias Captain Sambo, leading the “Black Shots,” killed Nanny in 1733 during the battle for the town.

However, a year later, the same British reported that she was leading the Windward Maroons in a retreat westward. Eventually, she was reported to have led her troops to take refuge near the Rio Grande, one of the largest rivers in the country. The Maroons were making slavery costly and unsustainable and creating insecurity for the Europeans.

These, coupled with the European powers’ inability to defeat them after 84 years of insurgency, led the British settlers in 1738 to call for a truce. The first peace treaty was signed with the Leeward or Western Maroons, led by Captain Cudjoe (Kojo), another Maroon of Ghanaian origin, in 1739.

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Strictly Personal

Why now is the right time to invest in Zambia by Choolwe Chibomba

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Zambia sits on a fountain of untapped potential. Home to over 376,000 square kilometers of arable land, as well as some of the highest-grade copper deposits in the world, the country is a treasure trove of natural resources. Added to this, 54% of Zambia’s population is of working age (15 – 64), while businesses have access to a market of some 406 million inhabitants via the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Tragically, and in a pattern seen all too often across Africa, successive governments have failed to tap into this potential. Instead, they saddled Zambia with unsustainable levels of debt while allowing a culture of corruption and venality to proliferate throughout its society.

The election of President Hichilema and the UPND government is therefore rightly heralded as a ‘new dawn’ for Zambia; allowing people and businesses to finally realise Zambia’s abundant potential.

Since this New Dawn government was elected, Zambia’s credit rating has been upgraded to a CCC+ (up from CCC-) by the S&P rating agency, with GDP growth expected to accelerate to 3.7% in 2023. Having negotiated a $1.3 billion extended credit facility from the IMF, as well as a $275 million loan from the World Bank, the government is now tantalisingly close to agreeing a debt renegotiation plan with its external creditors, freeing up vital funding from interest payments to be invested into infrastructure, healthcare, and education.

Businesses are already waking up to the opportunities that this proactive, forward-thinking government is unlocking for them and for the Zambian people. In May, the CEO of Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold, Mark Bristow, described President Hakainde Hichilema as a “breath of fresh air” at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town. The company has credited the New Dawn government’s pro-business attitude and progressive tax reforms – including an end to the double tax trap on mining royalties – with plans to potentially extend the life of the company’s Lumwana mine until 2060.

This kind of continued investment would not only sustain jobs at the Lumwana mine but also create opportunities throughout the value chain as the company contracts Zambian firms to provide machinery, equipment, and services to the mine. Furthermore, it would result in significant upskilling for Zambian workers as the mine invests in training and educating its employees.

It is not just mining companies that are taking note. In July Zambian Breweries, which is owned by Belgian drinks company AB InBev, announced it would be investing $80 million into expanding its Lusaka factory, creating 5,000 new jobs in the process. The brewery again cited the “pro-business and pro-investment climate” that President Hichilema’s government has cultivated since coming into office.

These developments represent just the tip of the iceberg, as the government has promised to use its 2023 budget to make Zambia the most attractive investment destination on the continent. This will in turn provide Zambians with the access to capital and financing they need to set up and grow their own businesses.

In manufacturing, the government is promising a 50% suspension on excise duty for clear beer, as well as concessions geared towards stimulating investments in corn starch production. Meanwhile, telecom companies will benefit from the abolishment of the two-tier tax system in favour of a single corporate income rate of 35%, and betting shops will see their presumptive tax reduced by 10%.

These plans to drive investment also include measures to waive visa requirements for visitors from the EU, United Kingdom, United States, and China. This will not only help foster increased tourism but also allow potential investors from wealthy countries to visit Zambia more easily and witness its potential firsthand.

To help promote the breadth of Zambia’s investment potential, the government is supporting the efforts of Zambia Is Back campaign through the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA). Zambia Is Back campaign works to publicise the opportunities being unlocked by the New Dawn government and match up promising Zambian businesses with interested investors around the world.

We are excited to meet with growing businesses in Zambia, as well as investors looking to get involved in this exciting chapter in our nation’s history. In particular, we are looking forward to meeting with investors that want to make a positive impact in Zambia and support the country’s development by promoting education, entrepreneurship, and value-chain addition.

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