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Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Magaji Folorunsho Akuabata (not real names) is barely thirty but is immensely endowed with massive material wealth. He is generous to a fault.

Magaji Folorunsho Akuabata is not known to have any visible means of livelihood yet he never seemed to lack all the luxurious items and services that money can buy even as his house is one of the most aesthetically decorated piece of real estate in the bustling area of the city where he stays with his small but beautiful family of two wives and two babies in their early years.

One thing led to another during the course of a community development event in which yours faithfully was invited to deliver a lecture and behold I was sitting next to this man of immense but invisible or suspicious means and he beamed broadly with smiles as if to say he has just been visited by a long expected messenger of fortune.

We spoke for more than fifteen minutes before the master of ceremony invited me to give my lecture. At the end of over thirty minutes of explosive lectures on the topic of “the essence of reward and punishment as the bed rock of a better society”, Mr. Magaji Folorunsho Akuabata was so impressed that he demanded for my complimentary card and promised to send his personal assistant with a package for me.

The sixth sense in me inspired me to launch an investigation to unravel or uncover the real identity of this man who most people in the community fall on themselves to invite as chief launcher in most fund raise events. At the end of my probe I came up with a ground breaking finding that the man in question is one of the most notorious ghost workers of our era in the federal civil service.  

In his latest scholarly book titled; “WITNESS TO JUSTICE” Mathew Hassan Kukah, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese stated that in Nigeria, ‘institutional chaos has produced selfishness and greed. The result is that we are a nation of the walking wounded’.

This institutional chaos I do believe has also produced a class of people who hold top civil service jobs but who manipulate the system to pay themselves huge salary package in the guise of paying salaries to legitimate workers when in the real sense, no such staff can be validly identified. This is called the ghost workers’ syndrome.    

The phenomenon of ghost workers is as old as the civil service establishment in Nigeria and the trend has occupied the minds of policy planners at all levels of civil governance so much so that several tons of millions of tax payers’ fund are spent by government hunting for these ghost workers who are growing in number and notoriety.

Daily, Nigerians are inundated with the unverifiable story of effort that the federal or state government is making to flush out ghost workers but this same scenario has consistently repeated itself since the emergence of civil democracy in 1999 but those ghost workers are waxing much stronger.

The emergence of the then Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s (of blessed memory) federal administration in 2007 led to a new kind of practice whereby those considered as out laws and who have rightly or wrongly embarked on armed struggles against the state were invited for ‘dialogue’ and ‘settled’. Absurdity has thus been elevated to statecraft in Nigeria.

The armed militants in the oil rich but heavily impoverished Niger Delta region were the first official beneficiaries of an elaborate amnesty program which included very juicy financial inducement schemes.

Yar’adua who kick- started the amnesty program has transited to the great beyond but his then loyal vice President now democratically elected and inaugurated President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan has continued the implementation of the amnesty program which, to be fair, has significantly led to the reduction in youth restiveness and violence in the oil producing areas thus creating better atmosphere for the crude oil business- as-usual to continue.

But another challenge has emerged from another armed splinter group in the North East Nigeria whose members have successfully unleashed devastating violence and campaign of detonation of bombs which have so far attracted the attention of the international community with the successful bombing of the Nigerian Police Headquarters and the United Nations House, both in the Nigeria’s federal capital.

Members of the political elite who have come under intense threats of violence from this armed religious group in the North East Nigeria have even called on the Federal government to negotiate with members of the armed religious extremists blamed for the spate of violence in Northern Nigeria and Abuja.

The latest call for government to negotiate with the armed religious group came from the immediate past deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State Mr. Patrick Ekpotu who was quoted in the media to have made the call for negotiation with the violent armed extremist religious group.

But since Nigeria has been converted into a huge drama stage by political actors who no longer pay attention to the time- tested fact that no nation ever survives that does not operate on the basis of the respect to the principle and practice of rule of law and constitutionalism, a friend just told me that it may as well be nice to advise the federal government to please enter into ‘negotiation’ with ghost workers in the civil service so that the scarce funds usually used to hunt them would be used to bring democracy dividends to the greatest number of our people who will soon be greatly impoverished if the ill-advised anti-poor policy of withdrawal of subsidy on petroleum products is implemented in 2012.

Government, please ‘negotiate’ with ghost workers since government business now thrives on negotiations with diverse groups of out- laws, professional law breakers and armed hoodlums. For sure, these ghost workers will accept handsome final settlement of cash bonus and quit the public space unlike the armed militants who will hand over their weapons for cash and immediately buy a replacement for the surrendered weapon from the small arms market that have sprang up in all corners of the country.

If you think it does not make sense for government to ‘negotiate’ with ghost workers, then read the revelation by Finance minister Professor Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that ghost workers usually graduate to become ghost pensioners.

On October 22 2011, the media reported Professor Okonjo-Iweala as outlining strategies by the Federal government to flush out ghost workers.
The Minister said that several ghost workers had even graduated to ghost pensioners in government's payroll and that the biometric data capturing exercise, which the government embarked upon was designed to identify these ghost workers and ghost pensioners in the country.
But Nigerians have heard these same stories all over again since 1999 with no meaningful result.
The rate at which politics and government business in Nigeria is rapidly becoming one huge racket and organized scam, will any one be surprise if tomorrow we wake up to find out that government is indeed ‘negotiating’ with ghost workers? Wonders they say, shall never end in Nigeria.
It is my conviction that if ordinary Nigerians who are at the receiving end of these harsh, oppressive, and dubious policies of government, remain docile, then our burden as a people will expand in leaps and bounds. So let’s take ownership of Nigeria and enthrone just, fair and an egalitarian society where social evils are punished using the instrumentality of the Rule of law or we should be prepared to get many more absurd policies from these weird actors that dominate the public space as public office holders today.

·              Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria and can be reached on;;


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