There was confusion in the Borno State civil service, Friday, when the new governor paid an unscheduled visit to the state secretariat complex Maiduguri only to find out that only four workers had resumed duty as at 8:30 a.m.
The Borno State secretariat hosts about 12,000 of the total 17,000 workers in the state. But the governor, Babagana Zulum, was shocked to meet only four workers within the secretariat complex. The absent workers represent 99.97 per cent of those on the payroll of the state government, who work at the secretariat.
The flabbergasted governor decided to embark on an office to office tour of the complex with the aim of keeping an inventory of those he would find in their offices between 8.30 an and 9.30 am.
While the governor was busy moving from one office to another, civil servants, especially junior workers were seen frantically calling on their colleagues or bosses to rush down to the secretariat before the governor gets to their offices.
By 9:30 a.m., the governor ended his office check at the office of Secretary to the State Government, where he did not only express his total disappointment but questioned the justification of government’s continued payment of salaries to a derelict workforce.
The governor said he decided to sneak into the secretariat without even prompting his protocol personnel, following a meeting he had with the NLC the previous day.
He had on his first day in office, hosted the NLC leaders who came to complain about non-payment of some workers salaries due to the ongoing biometric data capturing exercise.
The governor said he visited the secretariat to see how the workers for whom the NLC talked about conduct themselves in their duty posts.
“Yesterday, I received in my office the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and among their concern is non-payment of salaries to some categories of staff who have not been captured by the biometric system that was put in place by my predecessor,” the new governor told journalists.
“Some have complained that they have been captured but are yet to be paid their salaries.
“The other complaint of the NLC is that of leave grant as well as an annual increment.
“In my modest wisdom, I decided to visit the state secretariat which hosts the largest chunk of the state workforce to determine the desirability or otherwise of paying the civil service.
“On my visit this morning, even though I am a human being who is aware that the Ramadan fasting on going, I came into the secretariat at about 8:30 a.m. and met a total of not more than about four (4) staff on ground.
“By 9:40 a.m., only a total of 130 staff were in the Secretariat.
“If this is the case in our government offices, what justification do we then have to pay the civil servants?
“I’m ready to pay salaries and even clear backlogs, and I’m ready to work with the civil servants, but there is no food for a lazy man under our government.
“We must enshrine discipline in what we do. People must come to work and justify the money they receive from the government.
“Any civil servant found erring in this regard shall be dealt with, no matter how highly placed he or she is.
“This administration will critically examine the requests of the civil servants and act on them. But on the other hand, we also have to justify the confidence reposed in the civil servants.
“Yesterday, the office of the biometric service was called and a lot of things was said about it, but I am saying that I’m not coming to completely withdraw the Biometric exercise and I commend the effort of my predecessor for initiating the biometric exercise.
“Unfortunately, I saw it in the media where somebody was quoting me that I said I don’t care about the biometric exercise. I have never said so. I had a meeting with the main objective of strengthening the Biometric system by determining those who were not paid; the pensioners as well as those who were still in the service in order to fast track the process. That was the whole idea.”
Rewards for Punctuality
The governor said his visitation will not go in vain as he decided to reward those he found in their office at the time he checked.
“There are 17,000 workers in the Borno State civil service as I have been briefed by the Head of Service. And in the state secretariat, we have over 12,000. Our record today shows that by 8:30 am not more than four staff were on the ground.
“So as a way of discouraging this bad and unacceptable attitude to work, the head of service has been given the directive to pay the leave grants of those 135 civil servants immediately, this included their unpaid salary increment. The permanent secretaries that I met in office should also be paid the remaining 50 per cent balance of their furniture allowances.
“The rest of the civil servants that were found absent during my unscheduled visit will not go without being reprimanded.
“We may either issue them query, or we may decide to warn them and those warnings will be filed in their record.
“This situation has been very obnoxious and will not be allowed to remain unchanged.
“The dedicated staff shall be rewarded,” the governor said.