By Olusuyi Adaramewa
“Monkey dey work, Baboon dey chop.” Till date, this expression remains a saying of the wise in Nigeria. The statement has been somewhat germane to the events that hitherto stared us collectively in the face. As we speak, it is not sheer malapropism to pontificate, and even ruminate on the above phraseology as being exigent in our daily life. Sometimes, it resonates in our civil service life, culture and work ethics. Some analysts had dubbed the above expression as containing historical vignettes that are both bitter in taste to the victim, hilarious and fascinating to the beneficiary. It is a case of different strokes for different folks. Without doubt, it seems the statement has entrenched itself deeply in our socio-economic firmament, no wonder it is perceived as an incurable disease that impairs transparency, good corporate governance and accountability in the political structure and sub-structure of most emerging nations.
In recent times, it is commonplace to read about the sad tales of ghost workers in the land. In fact, there had been some cacophony of voices raised against this phenomenon. In one of those commentaries, we readily found the following expressions in the editorial comment of many newspapers depicting the near frustrations being faced by some gatekeepers in the political space in that respect. The first salvo was fired by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, followed by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. Both complained bitterly about the ghost workers that they had to deal with. The Finance Minister stated that: “there were 23,000 ghost workers on the federal payroll while the Kaduna Governor expressed curiosity about the immediate reappearance of the names of ghost workers on the state’s payroll just after they were expunged. In the same vein, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it had discovered 37,395 ghost workers on the payroll of the Federal Civil Service”. By the same token, albeit in far away Ghana, it appears the sub-regional state is paranoid about ghost workers. The Ghanaian Business Day edition of Monday 18- Sunday 24 April, 2016, specifically noted that the Public Accounts Committee of the Ghanaian Parliament, while probing the financial reports of some institutions recently, discovered that ghost workers pocketed the sum of Ghanaian Cedis 66,000 (about N762,000.00). This may be paltry compared to what happens in Nigeria. However, it must be noted that the scourge is live and real in Ghana.
These are some of the troubling developments that are rearing their ugly heads in the sub-region. Painful and pathetic as these tales are, they are not just happening without some reasons. In fact, there are both remote and immediate causes for these and other similar occurrences. They have far-reaching implications on our soci-economic well-being. According to some analysts, the colonialists had their own share of the blame. In this connection and according to Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in their intellectual treatise, they had copiously espoused in their classical exposition titled “Why Nations fail”. They bemoaned the chequered, decrepit and deficient socio-economic structure laid by the past colonialists. According to them, ’……the structures of colonial rule left Africa with a more complex and pernicious institutional legacy in the 1960s than at the start of the colonial period.
What were the resultant effects of the actions or inactions of these colonialists? They include but are not limited to grooming and perpetuation of irresponsible sit-tight leaders, corruption, poverty, disease, poor infrastructure, ghost ‘worker,’ et al. The list is endless. However, what is of concern is how to tame the issue of ghost workers. Owing to its costs and effects on any emerging entity, its elimination may be quickly realised if the causes are known.
First, it may be caused by greed on the part of the perpetrators who are the ultimate beneficiaries. The urge to get rich quick by adding other people’s salaries to theirs may be responsible. In the words of Dani Rodrick of the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, this is synonymous with the powerful elites rigging the rules to benefit themselves at the expense of many. Furthermore, Simon Johnson, a Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes that this is possible when institutional frameworks fail to adapt. According to his theory, powerful people always, and everywhere, seek to grab complete control over government, undermining broader social progress for their own greed. This is auspicious considering how the proceeds of pensions were recently milked by some fat and greedy sacred cows in the land. This is condemnable and an extremely irresponsible act of man’s inhumanity to man.
Secondly, low level of technological development may be responsible for the growth and development of ghost workers in Nigeria. After all, if workers’ attendance at workplace is captured biometrically and electronically too, on a daily basis, and the ensuing data is used to prepare salaries and wages, it may be difficult to pay ghost workers.
Thirdly, El-Rufai’s worry about the immediate reappearance of the names of ghost workers on the state’s payroll just after they were expunged’ may be interrogated further in order to know the third factor. This curiosity is not unconnected with the manipulative attitude of key officers in the payroll office. Therefore, the elimination of the second causative factor can still bring about the payment of ghost workers despite technological advancement if the first factor with respect to the issue of attitude, moral laxity is not decisively dealt with.
In this connection, our quest to rid the nation of this problem must not be perfunctorily addressed. It must be based on sound initiative, laden with rich intellectual traits and coupled with some moral rectitude and rebirth. The political will to enforce the extant laws in order to tame the scourge must be visible. It is imperative to note that we must begin to chart effective and efficient developmental agenda that will cure our societal ills – ghost worker inclusive. Additionally, such agenda must be geared towards achieving a visible action that creates favourable institutions, progressive innovation and socio-economic success that will discourage those things that may accentuate or better still, galvanize repressive institutions and by extension throw up institutions and people who may fan the embers of both political and economic decay and stagnation. Doing all or some of these may signal the beginning of the end to ghost worker and other societal ills.
•Adaramewa, a lawyer, writes from Lagos.