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.
UK-Rwanda relocation plan for asylum seekers is a hot potato by Charles Onyango-Obbo
In 2019, Rwanda agreed to take in hundreds of African immigrants held in horrid conditions in detention centres in Libya under an agreement with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the African Union.
There was applause.
In August 2021, as America’s 20-year-old military and state-building campaign in Afghanistan unravelled into chaos, in Africa —Rwanda and Uganda — agreed to take in Afghanistan refugees.
Among the Afghans who relocated to Rwanda, escaping the Taliban’s well-known hostility toward education for women, were all 250 students of the famed Afghanistan Leadership School (SOLA), Afghanistan’s only boarding school for girls.
There were cheers and extravagant praise for Rwanda and Uganda. Today, Rwanda hosts nearly 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Uganda, on the other hand, hosts 1.5 million refugees, making it the top refugee-hosting country in Africa.
In April this year, hell broke loose. The UK announced that it had a plan to send illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they would either stay or move on to other countries.
The Boris Johnson government insists the programme is aimed at disrupting people-smuggling networks and deterring migrants from making the dangerous sea journey across the English Channel to England from France.
Critics have come out swinging with fury, calling the plan immoral, racist, and several arguing it is risky because several of the human rights found in liberal democracies are absent in Rwanda. This new “democracy test” for resettlement, has opened up a tricky window into the protection business.
The UK asylum affair, meanwhile, has muscled its way into the headlines about the Commonwealth Heads of Government (Chogm) meeting being held in Kigali.
The high emotions the UK-Rwanda asylum plan has kicked up, are a pointer to how complicated, immigration and refugee have come. There are several contradictory things that are both true at the same time.
If Donald Trump’s election victory in the US in 2016, and his turbulent racist-fuelled term tell us anything, it is that the western world has reached “peak” migration.
Uncomfortable to confront, but it is probably no longer sustainable for, especially, people from the south to continue emigrating and fleeing to the West in large numbers. Domestically, the fear of people of colour “replacing” white communities is reaching a fever pitch, and fuelling extreme right-wing politics.
We’ve to grant it. The demographic make-up of the West is changing, and by the end of this century, white people will be minorities in nearly all the major European countries. Not too many people will take their disappearance with great fortitude.
For the western left and progressives, migration and the diverse nations it makes possible is where they see the future of their play in politics. For businesses, migrants provide a new pool of cheap labour, ensuring their profit in a world where China is eating their lunch. Things like the UK-Rwandan plan, do have long-term political and economic consequences.
Yet, that doesn’t explain why the resettlements of immigrants from Libya and Afghanistan in Africa weren’t attacked. The difference could be because Libya’s and Afghanistan’s crises are partly outcomes of western — NATO and the US — interventions that went horribly wrong. The repatriations are a much-needed clean-up of the mess — and there is some consensus of the western left and right on that.
Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. Twitter@cobbo3
Tanko Muhammad, Ekweremadu and health of Nigeria by Suyi Ayodele
What happened to the Nigerian judiciary under the now retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, is a symptom of an ailing nation. We must all come to admit that Nigeria is a country that needs moral transplant. Who will be the donor is what we don’t know. That the aeroplane-driving CJN retired after his “brother justices” accused him of misconduct is never news to celebrate. The resignation itself is never a part of the diagnosis of what ails the country. And I sincerely do hope that the General Muhammadu Buhari administration will not because of the belated retirement roll out the drums to celebrate his tough stance on the fight against corruption! The judiciary is expected to be the healthiest of the three arms of government. Its chronic illness under Tanko is a pointer to the general well being of the government in power. The undertakers should not be far away as their services may be required soon.
In Africa’s worldview, a healthy man is a wealthy man. The saying, “health is wealth,” underscores the importance human beings attach to sound health. Without sound health, man becomes useless. This is why sane countries of the world don’t play with their healthcare delivery. But it is not so in Nigeria, a country which prides itself as the “Giant of Africa”. By that sobriquet, one would expect that Nigeria would tower above other African countries in all ramifications of life. If you are wondering why we are this low in all aspects of life as a nation, just take a look at our health care delivery system. If Nigeria’s health is failing, or has failed, the citizenry cannot be healthy. For those who care to know, Nigeria is not just ill, it is terminally ill.
Some two years ago or so, I had the misfortune of rushing an ailing church member to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH. At the close of service that fateful Sunday, a friend and I had planned to go out with our spouses. We drove out of the church premises and saw the ailing woman being aided to the road to get a taxi to the hospital. We picked her up in my friend’s car while I joined him and asked the women to use my own car. By Ehaekpen Road, the woman gave up the ghost in the car. But we continued the journey to the UBTH. At the Accident and Emergency section of the hospital, she was confirmed as BID (Brought In Dead). That was where our ordeal began. The relation in the car contacted other family members and agreed that the remains of the woman be deposited at the hospital’s morgue. To our utter embarrassment, UBTH had no BID form to take the woman’s profile and have her corpse deposited in the morgue. For over two hours, the corpse was left in our car. I had to ask one of the hospital attendants in charge to copy the information of a used BID form at the back of another used form and fill in for the dead woman. I knew then that we had bigger problems than anyone could imagine. If a teaching hospital, as big as the UBTH, had no ordinary BID form, one can imagine the state of the General Hospital at Afrikpo, or Balewa Village or at Itawure!
This is why, at the slightest discomfort of headache, the locust masquerading as our leaders jet out of Nigeria to seek medical help abroad. From personnel to equipment, infrastructure to medications, hospitals in Nigeria are killing fields. In his 2017 article titled: ‘Africa’s presidents keep going abroad for medical treatment rather than fixing healthcare at home,’ published in Qartz Africa, an online publication, Yomi Kazeem has this to say: “The preference for an international doctor’s appointment is steeped in irony as these leaders often make promises about improving local healthcare a central part of their campaigns while seeking office. But by looking beyond the continent for medical solutions, African leaders maintain a vicious cycle which keeps faith in public healthcare low while channeling substantial state resources to hospitals abroad rather than plug local healthcare gaps. In many African countries, this reality is all too apparent. According to the World Health Organisation estimates, with a shortage of 4.2 million health workers, Africa is the region with the world’s second-worst health worker shortage”. Zeroing down on Nigeria, Kazeem quoted WHO as saying that: “In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the shortage will be less severe if the health system could call on the services of the up to 15,000 Nigerian doctors estimated to be working outside the country. But there’s little motivation for doctors practising abroad to return home with crumbling infrastructure, lack of drugs and poor compensation.” If in 2017, we had 15,000 Nigerian medical doctors working outside the shores of the country, your guess is as good as mine on what the figure will be now.
Nothing, in recent time speaks to the parlous state of our healthcare delivery system more than last Thursday’s arrest of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, by the Metropolitan Police in far away United Kingdom. According to the reports of the arrest, the former deputy senate president was accused of trafficking a child to the UK for organ harvest and slavery. A statement issued by the Met police says “Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55 (10.9.66) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. Ike Ekweremadu, 60 (12.05.62) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. They have both been remanded in custody and will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court later today. A child has been safeguarded and we are working closely with partners on continued support. As criminal proceedings are now under way we will not be providing further details”. Ever since, the senator’s team has responded to state that the alleged “organ harvest victim” is not a 15-year-old street lad, but a 22-year old adult who volunteered to donate one of his organs for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, who is having challenges with her kidney. My thrust here is not to probe into the veracity or otherwise of the claims that the supposed organ donor, David Nwamini Ukpo, was shipped to the UK legally. I would also not bother to interrogate whether Ukpo is on his own an opportunist, who, according to claims, when he realised that he would be shipped back to Nigeria after his organ failed to match that of Sonia, decided to raise false alarms of abuse and what have you. No, my focus is why, in the first instance, Ekweremadu had to depend on a UK hospital for an organ transplant operation for his darling daughter.
The problem with the Enugu-born senator is the problem with all our political leaders in Nigeria. Like the saying goes: “all are thieves but he who is caught is the barawo”. For crying out loud, Ekweremadu has been in the corridors of power since the time lizards were few. He is a confirmed “omo ijoba” (government child). Two years before the advent of the current political disaster we call democratic governance, he was elected chairman of Aniri Local Government Area of Enugu State on the platform of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP. He was elected into the Senate in 2003 and was deputy Senate president for 12 years, beginning with the era of David Mark, through to Bukola Saraki. In his 19-year stay in the Senate, like his other political leeches feeding fat on our patrimony without a whim of concern for the common good, Ekweremadu did not see any reason why Nigeria should have well -equipped hospitals where ailments like organ failure of any shade could be treated. Unfortunately, Ekweremadu is not the only culprit in the league of Nigerian leaders engaged in medical tourism. The league, as we all know, is led by General Muhammadu Buhari, who holds the life trophy of spending 104 days at a stretch on a London hospital bed at our expense, with the presidential jet parked at Heathrow Airport, accumulating demurrage! When we add the BTA of his personal aides who accompanied him to the UK, Buhari will go down in history as the man who spent what could have built for the nation a decent hospital for the use of the people on a single medical trip abroad. So, when news of the arrest of Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu filtered in, what easily came to my mind is the saying that when the head is rotten, the tail will be home for maggots! Cumulatively, an August 5, 2021 report by the Premium Times of Nigeria, puts the number of days General Buhari had spent on medical tourism to the UK at 200. You may wish to ask: did Buhari not talk about the parlous state of the nation’s health institution while seeking our votes in 2014? Did he not assure us that he would not go abroad for medical attention? Kazeem, quoted earlier, answers the posers.
That done, as humans, we may also wish to look at the desperation of the father-figure Ekweremadu presents as he seeks a medical solution to his ailing daughter’s health. There is a deep prayer among my people which says: “ki Oluwa ma fi ina omo jo wa” (May God not allow us to be scorched by the death of our child). This is where I believe that our thoughts should be with Miss Ekweremadu as she battles for survival at this critical moment. It is even more important for us to spare a moment of prayer for Sonia, now that the most important caregivers of her life, the parents, are in detention. The thought that her parents are locked up in cells in the UK because of her is devastating enough for the poor girl. While we have the assurance that, unlike what we have in Nigeria, the UK Government would not allow Sonia to be left unattended to, we cannot overemphasise the importance of the presence of her parents at this crucial time. Again, that the Ekweremadus were picked up on their way to Turkey is an indication of how desperate they were to bring their daughter back to sound health. We may frown at the method employed to achieve that. We may interrogate why the replacement for the failing organ was not sourced within the family circles. In all that, we must have it at the back of our minds that every mother hen uses her back to shield her chicks from the ravenous hawk. We therefore call on the Almighty God, our Healer, to stretch His healing hands on Sonia and make this storm to pass. We pray that she surmounts this mountain before her and becomes useful to Nigerian society and humanity in general. We also pray that after this, every Ekweremadu in leadership in Nigeria will see the need to build up our health institutions and other decayed infrastructure in the country as doing so is also in their own interest. May Sonia live!
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