Why Gov.Zulum Replaced Pension, Salaries Staff: Way Forward

By Sadiq Abubakar, The Nigerian Voice, Maiduguri
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Controversies and confusions seem to have continued in the payments of pension and salaries of retired and serving civil servants in Borno State despite the executive order by Governor Babagana Umara Zulum recently to the SSG and HOS to immediately replace all the staff of the two establishments with a view to bringing sanity and transparency in the entire financial system of the pension board and salaries Section of the State Ministry of Finance.

This followed a recent investigation into the whole issue where two to three years ago, pension and salary payments of both the retired workers and serving civil servants from grade level 1 to 6 and 7 to 13 upon executive directive for prompt and immediate payments became a mirage as the center can not hold any longer for the State government to know the actual amount of salary and pension being owned and paid to the retired and serving civil servants.

Findings revealed that the biometric data capturing exercise of the government which was initiated and started about three years ago has failed to make any positive impact to pay salaries and pensiins of hundreds if not thousands of civil servants which the NLC Borno State Council is aware and became incapacitated to do anything about it despite the pressures from the retired and serving workers in the State.

Some pensioners and serving civil servants have not received their pensions and salaries due to the verification exercise while even those that were screened and filled their verification forms are yet to be paid their pensions, gratuities and salaries by the Director in charge of the bimetric exercise.

While others who are entitled to their gratuities and directives were given for their payments, some are yet to get their pay among which include workers in grade level 4-6 as junior workers and the senior workers from grade level 7-13 are also yet to get pay.

This followed aside the civil servants that were alleged to be ghost workers but are later found to be on the list of genuine and working civil servants but still not getting their salaries but working. The rest are those screened and issued with clearance numbers but have not been receiving their salaries while still working, awaiting the Bioemetric Committee Head, Malam Bako to pay them for two to three years now, hiding the facts from the state government and putting the state government in darkness.

The situation has reached an alarming rate that Governor Zulum ordered recently, the replacement of all the staff in the Pension Board and SalariesDept of Ministry of Finance while only a few percentage of retirees and workers have so far benefitted fully from the gratuity payment despite the executive directive for full payment of the workers as confusion trailed the entire exercise and swapping of payments of gratuity and monthly salaries became an order of the day where some workers will get salaries this month and next month, the others will get theirs through omissions and replacement of workers that were earlier alleged and declared to the state government authorities as ghost workers while actually they are not ghost workers but workers who have completed their screening forms but not invited for interview or those not issued with the screening forms to ascertain their genuity .

This has continued to cause series of complaints from the retired and serving workers while appealing for the state government intervention in the entire system as some key staff trusted by the government have turned some workers as scapegoats and rendering shield to take a cover.

It was also gathered that two to three years ago, EFCC intervened and made some arrests but the former Governor of the state, now a serving senator rescued the victims twice on bail while the allegations are still pending without further actions.

This made most state workers to accuse their NLC leaders of conniving with the state government to frustrate their efforts and rights and privileges but to no avail as all efforts from the labour union seems to be in culde sac

Workers and retirees interviewed lamented that the situation may not improve or change as Goverment expectation of transfer 0f the pension board and salaries Section of the ministry is not the first time that the state government replaced or transfered the workers without any positive change.

Some suggested that until the director in charge of biometric data capturing is replaced or has a senior staff above him, there would not be any positive change as the personal issues has continued to create confusion and compounded issues regarding to clean pension, gratuities and salary monthly payments. This has kept state government in darkness of the true position of what has been going on or on ground which has recently become a public knowledge.

While other workers interviewed were of the view that unless the state government will take proper and stiff action to overhaul the entire process to ensure absolute accountability and transparency in the entire system, nothing possible may change and many workers as well as pensioners may continue to face difficulties in getting their monthly pensions and salaries against the wish and good intention of the state government.

The worst of it all is that the executive order for the transfer in form of replacement of the whole staff of the state pension board and salaries Section of the State Ministry of Finance involves the senior staff down ladder to the messenger and cleaner to be replaced immediately, latest within a week.

Therefore, the question remains, will the second time transfer of replacement of the workers bring about any change or solve the problems created by the Head of the Biometric data capturing exercise if remains intact on sit and in charge?