SIR: A number of shocking findings in the local government administrations in Ekiti State in the past weeks have revealed the level of decadence that the system had permitted in the past.
The governor’s surprise visit to Ilejemeje Local Government during which he found the offices virtually empty was one of such. So also was the discovery by the state’s Local Government Service Commission that 45 council workers with only School Certificate qualification got themselves promoted to Level 14, seven steps above their normal limit!
These were apart from the well-known, but yet-to-be-determined problems of ghost-workers, questionable credentials, habitual absenteeism as well as disproportionate, burdensome wage bills.
Governor Fayemi, during the recent quarterly briefing by local government chairmen at Oye-Ekiti, mentioned in particular a local government in which 152 workers were on the staff list of a single department.
While speaking at that briefing, the governor was visibly piqued at the general trend of attendance of workers in offices, so much that he said he preferred not to talk about it but ended up doing much more than talking and revealed that a surgical operation had become inevitable in all the 16 local governments.
“If you like, go to work; if you like stay away,” he said, a statement which would adequately convince his listeners that Ilejemeje Local Government had not been alone in the culture of habitual absenteeism in the state’s local governments.
The truth is that most local government workers in Ekiti State treat their jobs as government charity, as political patronage and as second business. The governor must have chosen Ilejemeje LG as random sample in his decision to find out the attendance level in local governments.
Ordinarily, it is in the schools that we talk of attendance while ‘punctuality’ is a more familiar topic in working environments but with local governments in Ekiti State, the situation has been different.
Well, should the trend be strange to us or would it have been peculiar to Ekiti State? Of course, no. The natural attitude of the local people all over Nigeria has been to expect local governments to be wantonly generous with jobs, being the closest and the most accessible governments.
This expectation is what had made over-staffing in LGs inevitable even when it clearly amounts to promoting redundancy and boredom for most workers who then look elsewhere to keep busy while their salaries end up as gratis.
Hitherto, successive governments had treated this issue as a no-go area for political reasons, for fear of loss of popularity. They had rather encouraged more employments which had depleted the LGs’ revenue more steadily and had threatened to render them redundant also, with little or nothing to spend on more beneficial capital projects.
Dr. Kayode Fayemi frowned at this trend at the LG chairmen briefing and vowed that it would be halted.
“I know you would be warning me against loss of votes in tackling this but wait till I am asking for a second term before raising that,” he quickly added, wondering why less than one per cent of the population should continue to earn 90% of the state’s revenue.
Of course, the State’s wing of the National Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) has since been jolted to action, sensitizing their members about possible reduction of the LGs’ staff strength. The opposition party too must be standing by now, to make their gains in the expected industrial disharmony, which is why a proper x-ray of Governor Fayemi’s courage to do things right may be necessary at this stage.
Surgical operation? Why not, since it usually saves situations and makes them healthier? The surgeon only has to display expertise and make a success of the operation.
• Jide Oguntoye
Oye Ekiti, Ekiti State
This letter was first published in The Nation newspaper of July 26, 2012
Last modified: July 26, 2012