EXCLUSIVE: Finance Ministry, Budget Office, among agencies with thousands of ghost workers

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

More than four months after uncovering a monumental “ghost workers” scam, the finance ministry has yet to expose those involved

Despite openly campaigning against the squandering of billions of naira as annual wages to fictitious government workers, Nigeria’s finance agencies, including the Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation, indeed helped flood government’s nominal roll with thousands of ghost workers, PREMIUM TIMES can report today.

The two offices, alongside sister departments- the office of the Auditor General and that of the Accountant General- all responsible for managing government’s resources and checking abuse – were among agencies with the highest number of fake staff on their nominal rolls.

Together, 46,639 ghost workers were uncovered between 2007 and 2012 in government ministries, departments, and agencies, and they accounted for N118.9 billion in losses to public funds, Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said in March.

The huge sum ended in the pockets of corrupt officials who fed non-existent names into the payroll.

But more than four months since informing the nation of the scam, the government has failed to identify the officials responsible and no one has been punished.

New details obtained under the Freedom of Information law has now shown how government agencies scramble to outshine one another in feeding “ghost” names into the nominal roll, with corrupt officials pocketing salaries and allowances earmarked for the fictitious personnel.

The FOI request was filed by the Abuja-based Centre for Social Justice, a well-regarded anti-corruption non profit.
In all, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Works and the Defence Ministry reported the highest number of ghost workers with 9,463; 5,167 and 4,457 respectively.

A number of agencies reported zero ghost workers, among them the Police Service Commission; Centre for Basic Space Science, Nsukka; Community Health Practitioners Registration Board of Nigeria; Nigeria Football Federation; and the Nigeria Institute of Science Laboratory Technology.

The details came to light after the government launched the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, between 2007 and 2012, to help reform a system steeped in a multi-billion naira fraud for decades.

Finance Ministry makes the list

While the Education and Works Ministries took clear lead in the scam, the Finance Ministry and the Budget Office, with at least 1,000 “ghost names” each by 2007, turned out the biggest surprises in the fold.

The Accountant General’s office, and the Office of the Auditor General, reported 255 and 151 ghost workers respectively.

The four agencies are directly responsible for managing Nigeria’s finances and spending, and have in the past led campaigns to block leakages occasioned by the smuggling of fictitious personnel into payrolls.

But the IPPIS reviews conducted between 2007 and 2012 showed how the same offices helped themselves with the same evil they pretended to be fighting.

The Finance ministry was among the first six federal agencies to be administered with the IPPIS in the pilot phase in 2007. The exercise revealed the number of staff per office before the review, and after.

The results showed that while the Ministry paid salaries to 2,000 workers up until 2007, it actually had 633 employees on its staff.

Also, while the Budget Office claimed it had 1,500 workers, the actual number was 340.

The Ministry of Finance would not explain how the large-scale theft thrived right under its nose. Repeated requests by PREMIUM TIMES for explanations were ignored by officials.

Paul Nwabuiku, the spokesperson for the Minister, did not comment after initially promising to do so.

The Finance Ministry scam, according to the IPPIS review, lasted years including the period covering Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s first tour of duty as minister between 2003 and 2006.

In 2013, two years after returning as minister, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala launched what seemed a determined effort to draw public attention to the evil of “ghost workers”, speaking at various fora about how the government lost billions of naira annually to the scam.

In 2014, the minister explained how the IPPIS saved billions for the government, a point she also raised to underline what she portrayed as her government’s solid anti-corruption effort.

But some Nigerians have challenged Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to expose the officials behind the scam. In response, her office said the names had been forwarded to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission [ICPC] for further investigation.

“The Federal Ministry of Finance has taken the additional step of referring the issue to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, for further investigation so that any identified culprits can face the full wrath of the law,” Mr. Nwabuikwu said on March 13.”

The ICPC denied that claim.

Anti-corruption campaigners believe the process of investigation should not be difficult as accounting and payroll officials for each of the agencies involved could easily be identified, investigated and prosecuted.
But for more than four months since the announcement, the list has not been forwarded to the ICPC, PREMIUM TIMES understands.

“The claim by the Minister that the matter has been transferred to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Commission for investigation and possible prosecution, when no names of culprits were actually submitted, was only an attempt to play smart and divert attention,” said Eze Onyekpere of the Centre for Social Justice.

Other civil society groups say they are suspicious the government is shielding the offenders.

In an interview, the ICPC chairman, Eyo Nta, told PREMIUM TIMES the commission did not receive any list from the Finance ministry.

“When one talks about names (submitted to ICPC), I am a bit surprised,” Mr. Nta said. “I am not too sure she (the Minister) said names were submitted. Perhaps what the minister said was that the matter (of ghost workers) had been passed on to the commission (for investigation).”

He said the anti-corruption agency was however conducting its investigation into the scam but refused to give a timeline for its completion.

“We are looking at all the ministries, departments and agencies in the Federal Civil Service. It is not something one should rush. We are taking each ministry step by step. We have made substantial progress on it right now. But, I can assure you that any public officer constituting an obstacle to the process, no matter how highly placed, would be arrested,” he said in April.

But a senior official of the commission told PREMIUM TIMES separately that the commission contacted the Finance Ministry 24 hours after she claimed the names were forwarded to the ICPC.

“We went there the very next day but got nothing. Till today, nothing,” the official, not wanting to be named because he was not authorised to speak to journalists, said.

Other Offenders

On the long list of agencies that also had fictitious names on their payrolls in 2007 was the National Planning Commission [NPC], which had Sylvester Monye as Permanent Secretary.

Mr. Monye is the current Special Adviser to President Goodluck on Project Monitoring & Evaluation.

At the time, out of the 1,000 workers on the NPC’s nominal roll, only 251 were genuine.

In the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, then headed by Yayale Ahmed, only 449 out of 1,773 workers on its nominal roll, were genuine. The IPPIS review for the agency was done in July 2009.

At the Federal Ministry of Information, which had Frank Nweke as Minister and Abubakar Muhammad as Permanent Secretary, the verification exercise showed that out of a total of 6,500 workers pre-verification, only 2,785 were genuine staff.

The Federal Ministry of Education, which at the time had Obiageli Ezekwesili as Minister, and Oladapo Afolabi as Permanent Secretary, had a total of 29,000 workers on its nominal roll, pre-verification. Only 19,537 of that figure were confirmed to be genuine. About 10,000 names were fictitious.


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  • G4

    Obviously someone is pocketing some money, is anyone going to pay for this???? No country can ever survive if things like this keeps happening.

  • Fairgame

    2015 draws hear and those who see the wonderful Ngozi OkonjoIweala as a huge stumbling block to their access to the pubic purse have through this article renewed their already failed attacks on her. Anyone in their right minds can see through this story written in junkyard journalism style designed to tarnish her amazing record of the stewardship of the ministry of Finance. She set up the IPSIS system that has been successful in fishing out ghost workers but did you see that in the article? Of course not because the paymasters of premium times ( Nasiru ElRufai and other Boko haramists) want nothing that will give this amazing lady credit. But try as you may you have failed. It is also a shame that rather than report on the facts the misleading headliner is there to spread lies and cause misinformation. All I can say is may Ngozi OkonjoIweala continue to ignore Premium times and Shariareporters the media agents of Boko Haramists.

  • Godfrey Etokebe

    #bringbackourstolenmoneyobiageliezekwesili!!!!!

    10,000 GHOST WORKERS?

    If the average salary of the staffs of the Ministry of Education is 20k (Twenty thousand naira per month), this translates to TWO HUNDRED MILLION NAIRA per month STOLEN from the NIGERAIN PEOPLE. My question is:

    Is the #bringbackourgirls campaign (OBIAGELI EZEKWESILI VERSION) genuine or a cover-up attempt for these STOLEN BILLIONS from the Ministry of Education under her leadership?

  • ismail umar

    The CBN initiated a process to reduce or eliminate ghost workers, am surprised there is still the problem lingering in the civil service. but hopefully it will be eradicated soon.

    • okwu

      Is it CBN or finance ministry that pays salaries of federal government workers? Hausa/Fulani wan talk. Ghost worker has always been the case since the 1980s. It was introduced by the Hausa/Fulani man. They fought the government when the new intergrated automated system was introduced.

  • Adavize Alao

    chai

  • Screw-em

    Explains why she squandered $4billion on the W.E.Forum hosted by 9ja and can’t explain till date where the claimed 1.6million “voodoo” jobs she “created” are hidden-“Ghost Workers”. You folks now understand why the “largest Economy” in Africa still uses Bush Lantern to power her Energy. An Anthropologist cum “Economist” -MIT/Harvard trained indeed!!!…Is she any different from slutty Diezani? yet they both stabbed Sanusi in the back to cover up the missing $20billion saga…..lol

  • Ovie Obaro

    If you jailed MKO when millions disappeared from ITT we would not be where we are today

    If you jailed IBB when $12.7b disappeared from Excess Crude oil reserves of the Niger Delta, we would not be where we are today

    If you jailed Umaru Dikko when millions disappeared from Finance ministry we would not be where we are today

    If you jailed & castrated Farouk De Dollar (The magician legislathief with mobile cash vault beneath his cap), who stole millions of the resources of the Niger Delta with video evidence at a most unholy hour, then we would not be where we are today.

    If you jailed Lukman Rilwanu for acquiring oil wells using executive fiat, then we would not be where we are today

    If you jailed Otedola for oil subsidy scam, others would have returned their illegal payments received and … we would not be where we are today

    If you jailed Pension thieves of Ibadan & the idiotic police pension thieves in Abuja, then certainly all ghost workers will disappear and we would not be where we are todayIf you jailed Pension thieves of Ibadan & the idiotic police pension thieves in Abuja, then certainly all ghost workers will disappear and we would not be where we are today

    If you jailed OBJ for illegally acquiring Otta farm land and defaulting in tax for a period, then we would not be where we are today

    If you jailed all Legislators who earn a criminal salary of $1.7m per yr as opposed to N40,000 which soldiers meant to confront Boko haram earn, then we would not be where we are today.

    If you jailed Dmeji Bank-Ole for the millions borrowed & disappeared then we would not be where we are today …etc, etc, etc

    So, because all the idiots and chronic thieves are let go, some other idiots will create ghost workers scheme…and whetger you believe it or not, someone somewhere, right in this continent Nigeria of ours, will pay some ghost workers this month.

    Disintegrate Nigeria into manageable homogeneous countries and see how much peace, loyalty, nationalism and development that will flow in abundance. Secession? Yes! The fierce urgency of NOW!

  • Comfortkay

    Ministers and politician lack strong will to move this country forward and when they keep quite this country will never be the same again.

    • blogNaija

      and they will say Nigerian youth are unemployable but they FAILED woefully in
      creating the right environment for entrepreneurship to thrive.
      or like Dangote the shoe maker has to set up his power plant, water plant, security outfit, etc.
      leadership is challenging but only one thing makes it sweet; vision- without it, plenty trouble all the way with confusion.
      ghost workers revelation with half truth.
      can the names of these ghost be published or their account revealed since it has become criminal?
      Nigeria like hiding criminal faces but the victims’ pain is naked!

  • Iluyomade

    Sponsored writers by the opposition, they will stop at nothing, even going to the extent of soiling the names of people with integrity

  • George

    This is a red-herring tactics, shifting focus to the wrong target, attacking the few good leaders. Sponsored writers!

  • Fade

    OK. What do we make of this story? What we need is to call on Nigerians and those in government to support all Madam Iweala who is fighting hard to ensure that the civil service is free of corruption. She raised the alarm about this scam. She must be supported so that we can bring to book the culprits.

  • Rommel

    How many people have been prosecuted for these crimes?

  • Johnson Ode

    It is amazing that Premium Times will single out the Finance Minister for criticism when her ministry is among those with lowest number of Ghost Workers. The fact that she has been fighting hard to eliminate the practice has obviously not pleased the financiers of Premium Times who will stop at nothing to pull Dr. Okonjo-Iweala down. This is just pure bias!

    • Bunduma Mohammed

      Forget it. That was then under OBJ but now she is really deep in the scam through her proxies like Bright of Budget Office. She is now very corrupt.

  • Bunduma Mohammed

    Dr. Bright the DG Budget is one of the corrupt public officer. He was instrumental to several unsubstantiated duty waivers including the duty waiver to the Stella former Aviation Minister in the name of Lagos state. He was part of the scam that send huge amount for pension that was misappropriated. But he always get free because of his closeness with those in power.

  • Dr Patrick Kolawole Awosan

    The finance minister and economy-team leader,Dr Okonjo Iweala herself is corrupt-ridden,non-transparent and part of the looting,thieving and stealing team in Ebele Jonathan regime.What about the import duty waver-scam? And anti-people economic policies of fuel-subsidy remover,fuel-price increase,devaluation of naira,
    Despite power outage-triple increases of per-kilowatt-power-price,death trap roads,archaic teaching hospitals despite the fact Dr Okonjo Iweala lived and worked for World bank for years before being seconded to Nigeria to implement impoverishment of the people of Nigeria.Corrupt practices are rampant under policies of the economic team led by Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.