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Sunday, 13 January 2013

MY SPEECH ON THE OCCASION OF THE 2012 WORKERS’ DAY CELEBRATIONS IN YENAGOA.

01 MAY, 2012.
My dear workers of Bayelsa State, on the 14th of February this year, I assumed office as THE N0. 1 WORKER of our dear State. The people of Bayelsa State voted massively to put us here to serve them and it is one mandate we do not take lightly.

Let me therefore once more through you as workers thank all the good people of our dear state for the support and solidarity shown to me, before, during and after my election and now as Governor.

Similarly, I want to thank you the hardworking, committed and very dedicated workers of this state for the wonderfull support and co-operation we have received from you since our assumption into office.

You will recall in my inaugural address, I promised a paradigm shift in the governance culture of our state. And you all have been witnesses to some of the actions we have taken thus far as a government to Re-organise the governance structure in the state as well as to strengthen the capacity of the public service to be able to deliver on
our restoration agenda.

As you are well aware, there is very little we can do to bring about the much talked about restoration that we promise our people without the co-operation of you the workers.

The workers of this state, particular the civil servants are the
engine room of this government. You are the ones that hold the key to the successful implementation of the restoration agenda because you are the ones that are directly saddled with the responsibility of implementing the policies of government. And as your governor and also the No. 1 Worker of the state, I want to personally appeal to you
to continue to co-operate with us just as you have clearly done since our assumption into office, to continue to support our effort and policies, so that together we can collectively salvage our dear state.

As you are well aware, one of the problems my administration inherited on assumption of duty a little over two months ago, is the problem of over-bloated salary bill. The monthly salary bill of the State increased from N1.7billion in 2010 to N3.5billion in 2011 and to
N5.4billion in February 2012 when this administration began. With a salary bill of N5.4billion a month, Bayelsa State was second to only Lagos in wage bill across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

Our preliminary investigations indicate that the reported high wage bill is due not to commensurate high level of employees but to sharp practices perpetrated over the years by an apparent cartel of public
servants who continue to milk the state dry of needed development fund. The sharp practices include the addition of non-salary items in the monthly salary bill; inclusion of ghost workers; falsification of salary grade levels; inclusion of retired and dead workers in the payroll; public servants earning salaries in more than one government ministry, department, or agency; etc.

In order to address this chronic problem, my administration embarked on a number of measures notable among which are the following: Conduct of supervised payment of selected MDAs in the months of February and March, 2012. In one of such MDAs, we were able to reduce the monthly wage bill by about N170 million for February and N130
million in March, 2012.
• Beginning from April, 2012, government has directed that MDAs should be directly responsible for the preparation of their respective nominal roll and payment vouchers, as well as the payment of monthly salaries to their staff.
• A staff verification and audit committee has been set up to review and clean-up nominal rolls submitted by the respective MDAs in the State. At the end of the staff audit and verification exercise, the information obtained would be matched with the biometric data that had been captured earlier to come up with an updated employee data base.
• A similar committee has also been set up to undertake the same exercise in the 34 development areas (G34) with a view to sanitising the system at that level.
• In addition, I have established whistleblower hotlines where you can report suspicious matters and conduct of any person in government as well as general security matters in the state.

The numbers are 08160000072, 08160000074 and 08160000079

Also e-mail lines will be established very soon for submission of such complains. In our subsequent messages to you we will inform you of the details of the operations of this novel idea.

My dear workers of Bayelsa State, government is not unmindful of the temporary hardships that legitimate staff of the State Government had to bear in the last two months. Ironically, even when salary releases are signed in a timely manner, actual receipts of salary by workers in
the State appear to be delayed. In a number of instances, some workers get paid almost one or two months after their counterparts in some ministries, departments, or agencies of government. This situation which is unacceptable is due largely to bureaucratic hiccups in the public service, as well as banks and banking related problems. For example, I signed the release of April salaries for workers in the
State last week before travelling for the South-South Economic Summit at Asaba. I hope that the Commissioner of Finance has concluded arrangements to ensure that you get paid before the end of the week.

We appreciate your understanding and the sacrifices you have made thus far despite the obvious inconveniences associated with the staff verification exercise and supervised salary payment. We should appreciate that this sacrifice is necessary ,though temporary ,in order to ensure that those who milk our State dry and make development of infrastructure impossible do not succeed in their nefarious plans.

We are determined, as an administration, to go after them; and together, we shall win this war of chronic corruption in the State civil service. As we do this, we wish to assure legitimate and law abiding public servants of our unalloyed resolve to ensure that salaries are paid promptly; and that staff are properly disciplined and motivated for greater productivity.

To this end, we wish to assure workers in the public service of Bayelsa State that this administration shall ensure that all
legitimate demands relating to payment of arrears of personnel emoluments; provision of office and residential accommodation; payment of gratuities and pension; as well as training and staff development; to mention but few ,shall be pursued with renewed vigor.
Already, provisions have been made in the 2012 budget for the construction of three secretariat annexes to alleviate office accommodation while construction work on the Civil Service Training Institute will commence in the course of the year.

My dear workers of Bayelsa State, it is no longer news that we inherited an empty treasury. Whereas we inherited an asset base of about N7billion, our liabilities are over N200billion. However, it is no longer time to cry over spilled milk. We must brace up and face the enormous challenges before us as a people, head on. This is not the time for politicking and political posturing to the disadvantage of
the development of the state. This is the time to build our State and restore its past glory. All hands therefore must be on deck. With your support and those of all Bayelsans at home and abroad, we will get there.

Your partnership and sacrifice is most sought after at this crucial time, perhaps more than any other time in the history of our dear state. I want to assure you that your government will do anything and everything to ensure that your welfare is adequately taken care of. We will consult with your leaders in the labour union to see how best we can partner with them to address all issues pertaining to your welfare.

We thank you for your co-operation especially in our quest to deal with the issue of ghost workers in the system and also the huge wage bill that we have had to grapple with.

In conclusion, let me once again thank you all for your support and co-operation. Going forward, I am confident that the future is bright for the workforce in Bayelsa State. The steps we are about to take with your co-operation will unleash a new beginning for our dear state. We will stimulate the State economy and increase employment
opportunities for our people.

I thank you most sincerely for your kind attention and may God bless our land and the people of Bayelsa State.

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