While it may not be easy to determine when ghosts started becoming workers in Nigeria, it would be recalled that the term ghost workers entered into the Nigerian lexicon in the 1970’s and ever since the number of ghost workers have grown phenomenally. Despite the attempt by ghost busters in the form of audit committees, special committees and so on, ghosts seem to have secured a permanent space in the Nigerian bureaucracy from local to federal government levels.
The malaise has blossomed into a cankerworm of gargantuan proportions and has continued to constitute a terrible menace in all tiers of government over the years leading to huge leakages running into several billions of Naira monthly from the public coffers through salary payments to non-existing employees. Apart from the recent revelation brought by the introduction of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) in the MDAs, both the state and federal governments have at a certain period in time discovered massive fraud in different MDAs across the land.
Former Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, during his tenure announced that after two months of an audit exercise, the Police discovered 107, 000 policemen on its payroll and was able to recover N6billion. Shortly afterwards, a biometric data capture exercise exposed 4,000 ghost workers out of the 10,300 names in the payroll of the National Identity Management Commission. In Bayelsa, a five-man committee headed by Mr. Dibiya Ayakurai, set up to audit the staff of Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State in 2011, uncovered a
N10 million monthly wage scam on a pay -roll which included some 29 dead persons and 72 ghost workers who have been diligently receiving salaries since 2003.
Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board in 2011 announced that it saved the state N200 million monthly with the removal of 1,477 ghost workers discovered on the board’s payroll. Ondo State government some weeks ago identified
6,000 ghost workers on its local governments payroll after a staff auditing exercise was carried out by a committee set up by the state government. In Lagos, the state government at a time uncovered N82 million fraud involving ghost workers in local governments, local council development areas and local government education authorities and arrested 100 of the perpetrators. The Auditor General’s Office for local governments said the state was able to stop the payment of over N82 million to ghost workers, and deceased pensioners for the years 2010 and 2011 in some councils.
Jos North not long ago declared that about 400 workers may not collect their salaries because their names could not be found on the vouchers. It was also gathered that Riyom council was able to save over
N4 million by scrutinizing its payroll. Zamfara State recently discovered 608 ghost workers on the payroll of the state Universal Basic Education Board, while 20,000 ghost workers were unearthed from the 25 local government areas in Niger State; to mention a few.
Now, there is hardly a day without the news of these immortal names that have over the years had an unfair share of our collective patrimony leading to negative effects on the nation’s economy as well as inflating the cost of governance. While this has often been lamented, little attention is paid to the real issue; the fact that no case of deterrence has been recorded. Both federal and state governments till date have not been unable to trace officials responsible for introducing those phantom workers into their payroll.
A case could be made that the names discovered cannot be identified due to the fact that they do not exist but in the course of investigation, names can be traced to a bank account which will have a signatory who must be collecting the lodgments. The failure of heads to roll lends credence to the fact that the incidence of ghost workers is sustained by a chain of greedy syndicates and cabals.
Minister of State for Finance, Alhaji Yerima Ngama, in his recent revelation on this menace stated that less than half of the federal MDAs have been audited so far, but a disturbing 45, 000 ghost workers have been discovered. This is a pointer to the fact that mere introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), would only reveal the scam but would not solve the problem. It is therefore not enough to detect and celebrate the discovery which only gives the perpetrators room to re-strategize and come up with a more sophisticated empire of ghoulish kleptomaniacs ably represented by their mortal sponsors. For the nation to wage an effective war, chains must be broken, toes must be stepped on and the living beneficiaries of the cancerous scam made to refund the loot and do good time in jail.