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07042018 - Investigate your ministers

Vanguard Newspaper 07 April 2018

10—SATURDAY Vanguard,

10—SATURDAY Vanguard, APRIL 7, , 2018 Investigate your ministers Ministerial aides tell Buhari Bitter over nonpayment of their emoluments •Reveal corrupt practices •Buhari’s directive on number of aides flouted •SAs, PAs, TAs, others affected •Aides on secondment lament BY Emma Ujah, Charles Kumolu, Dirisu Yakubu& Johnbosco Agbakwuru INVESTIGATIONS by Saturday Vanguard have revealed that the claims of non- payment of salaries to some ministerial aides are not baseless. It was learned that some of the affected aides are those employed by the ministers and others seconded from various ministries. The situation, we gathered, had become unbearable for the affected appointees, who now survive on Duty Tour Allowance, DTA. Frustrated about their conditions some of them revealed what they termed “corrupt practices” of some ministers and hoping that President Buhari would summon courage to investigate some of the ministers. Some aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it appeared as if there is a consensus among some of the indebted ministers not to pay, adding that they were considering resigning their positions. One of such aides went public last month accusing the minister of corruptly buying houses, The situation, we gathered, had become unbearable for the affected appointees, who now survive on Duty Tour Allowance, DTA appropriating wealth but refusing to pay his wages, a development that turned him into a beggar. Some aides even accused their principals of collecting DTA on their behalf for trips they were not part of. For instance, an aide in a very popular ministry told Saturday Vanguard that he had to complain about the inclusion of his name on the DTA list of those, who were billed to travel to Korea when it was clear that he would not be on the trip. “I had to protest when I saw my name again. They had done so many times but this time I went to the office responsible and told them never to use my name again in raising DTA for the minister.” Another aide of another minister revealed this: “The man is always traveling. He goes everywhere and never stays long in Nigeria. He collects his DTA and those of some aides who never accompany him on the trips. Even when he is going on medical trips which he does every time, they raise money for one or two persons meant to accompany him. He is entitled to that but nobody goes with him. It’s all money, money, money and he never gives a hoot about those working with him.” One aide of a minister put his story this way: “I think that President Buhari has shut many doors for the ministers to fleece Nigeria the way they did in the past so our minister travels for estacode. His estacode is $900 a night and he is never in the country. He oversees more than a ministry so he is always out attending relevant and irrelevant conferences and inspections. He stays in Nigeria for a few days and he is out again, sometimes up to three countries in ten days or less. There are no big contracts for him to make huge money from but there are many small contracts that he corners and makes all the money. It pains because we know all this yet he doesn’t pay us. He takes all the money. He takes care of himself and ignores those working for him. He is just a wicked and greedy man.” Saturday Vanguard further learned that some ministers withhold cash gifts meant for their aides whenever they travel especially within the country. The issue was found not to be restricted to a particular ministry as some heads of departments and agencies were also affected. Said one aide of a minister: “When we travel to some states or to meet some organisations the minister takes •President Buhari everything they give to us and passes peanuts to us. We went to one state recently. The governor gave the minister about N12m and gave the aides N5m. The minister tood everything and gave us N50,000 each. We were only five aides. In one other state that they gave us N5m, the minister gave us N100,000 when we would have gotten N1m each if he didn’t appropriate ours too. And on that trip the minister was given N10m for himself. When I read what the aide of a minister published in the social media I thought there could be a conspiracy among some ministers to be this mean to their aides. What the guy complained of is exactly what is happening in our ministry.” Saturday Vanguard recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari instructed that ministers should have two aides. Presidential directive The presidential directive stated that the aides on secondment should be paid by their primary ministries. However, the presidential order was found to have been disregarded by ministers, who appointed many aides. The aide on secondment is expected to be paid by his original office while a Personal Assistant is expected to be paid by the minister from his own emolument which is provided for through monitisation or accommodated in the minister’s pay. Continues on pg 11

SATURDAY Vanguard, APRIL 7, , 2018—11 Continues from pg 10 Even some aides, who were seconded from different ministries, told Saturday Vanguard that their parent ministries stopped the payment of their salaries—a situation that worsened their plight. In addition, Saturday Vanguard learned that a minister is mandated by the law to send the names of his aides to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, for the names to be captured in the government payroll. Whether the names of most of the aides, who are being owed by their principals were forwarded to the office of the SGF could not be ascertained by Saturday Vanguard. Most of the affected appointees, however, said they were scared of speaking out because of the fear of losing their jobs at a period of dire economic crisis. Special Assistants, Technical Assistants Those found to be affected include Special Assistants, SAs, Technical Assistants, TAs, and Personal Assistants, PAs. These categories of public servants said they put in so much to ensure the successes of their principals but get very little in return. Consequently, they said their plight now stands in the way of optimum performance. Expectedly, all appointees, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard pleaded anonymity given the fears of intimidation and losing their jobs. A Special Assistant in one of the affected ministries, said: “It is irritating when a civil servant will say that the system does not recognise me. They will even say that I don’t have a file. The situation requires being addressed so that the system will accommodate and accord aides the needed respect and remuneration. “Even in America, the President appoints experts and technocrats as aides. Ministers need professionals to help drive policies, otherwise, the civil servants would mess them up. These are facts on the ground. “Since the civil service system does not provide for the funding of aides, some ministers are forced to source funds from outside their ministries. “In such cases, some had to outsource the salaries and allowances of their aides to parastatals and agencies under the supervision of their ministries. In extreme cases, donor agencies are even approached to fund ministers’ aides. Asking donor agencies to pay ministers’ aides is wrong. Outsource salaries to donor agencies “When foreign donor agencies pay an aide, the person is asked to write reports on his work which must be submitted to the donor agency that pays them. With such reports, the donor agencies will have details of government policies. And they can use them against Nigeria. “These people use the reports to plan. It may appear on the surface that they are helping us but indeed, they know what they are doing. “Bill Gates publicly Bitter over nonpayment of their emoluments criticised our economic plan. He could do that because he has been spending a lot of money in Nigeria. If we were not collecting his money, he would not have had the information he has about Nigeria. “The funds available at the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, can accommodate the services of well experienced professionals as aides to ministers. But when the ministers come, the civil servants will tell them that certain things are against the law.” Since the civil service system does not provide for the funding of aides, some ministers are forced to source funds from outside their ministries Common in this dispensation A former Special Adviser, who pleaded anonymity, told Saturday Vanguard that the trend is common in this dispensation, adding that aides hardly complain about non-payment of salaries. He said: “If any politician invites you to come and work for him, it is important to verify certain things before accepting the offer. “I worked with a minister who respected me before my appointment. If I called and the minister did not pick my call, you •Boss Mustapha could be sure that that the call would be returned. But the moment I was appointed he began to treat me as if I was his houseboy. I could not take it and I left.” Delays in Duty Tour Allowances An aide attached to one of the junior Ministers in one of the largest infrastructure ministries told Vanguard that since his appointment in the first quarter of 2016, he has not been paid a salary contrary to the agreement before his engagement. He said: “It is a very difficult situation and I don’t know if the non-payment of salaries is deliberate. Unless we travel out of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, we are entitled to nothing. And one is expected to come to the office every day. We live on allowances paid for trips outside Abuja’’ Shortly after his appointment, he said his principal engaged the services of top-notched administrators, who he had known for years. For instance, a staff of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was said to have been brought on board by the minister. More than a year after, a combination of factors which ranged from sidelining to late payment of allowances left him with no alternative but to return to the anti-graft agency. In the light of these, the question on the lips is: why are some ministers indebted to their aides? Responding, an aide said: “I wouldn’t say I made a mistake from the outset. I have no letter of appointment which I can use in demanding the backlog of unpaid salaries. “ I knew someone very close to the minister who recommended me to him and after two months, he liked the way I worked and we took it up from there. But there are others who were similarly treated. They keep saying the letters of appointment will come until everyone got tired of asking and we moved on. I was made to understand I was entitled to a monthly salary. “One of us is a car dealer and he is very comfortable. Maybe as a result of that, he is not bothered but others like me are very worried. Apart from my annual house rent and school fees of the kids, feeding my family is a big challenge. If I were to have something else doing, I would have moved on like the man who came from the EFCC. N12, 000 per day “In good times, we travel twice in a month. On the average, we spend about three or four days. Our DTA is N12, 000 per day. So if we spend up to three days, that is N36, 000. But there are times we stay in Abuja for three months without travelling. “The policemen among us get paid by the Nigeria Police Force but they earn less allowance. They get N5, 000 per day and I have heard them complain bitterly especially after long trips. They are angry that while our principal flies to his destination, we don’t” In a ministry that is headed by a retired army general, Saturday Vanguard learned that the situation is worse. The minister’s aides are often reluctant to travel with him because of his attitude towards them. One of his aides said: “It is unfortunate that many of us have become victims of this administration. We expected so much from the government just as our people were also expecting from us. Whenever someone hears that one is working as an aide to a minister, the entire family expects more from that person. “In the past, aides looked forward to embarking on official trips with their boss but as we speak, in this ministry, nobody wishes to travel anymore with this minister. One of the things that discourage people from travelling in this ministry is the delay in the payment of DTA.’’ Two aides of a controversial minister said their own daily allowance when they travel is N15,000 a day. One of them chipped in: “Outside that we get nothing, no salaries. It is painful but it is better than doing nothing. We have made some contacts while on this job and who knows what the future holds. That’s why we still do our job professionally, knowing that some recognition could come from somewhere someday.” Why aides are not paid directly by govt However, a Presidency source said that aides of public officers could not be paid directly by the federal government, using the Integrated Personnel Payroll System (IPPIS) because the platform can only capture civil servants. He said, “They are Public Servants, not civil servants, as such they cannot be on the IPPIS. The arrangement is usually between them and their principals. “Although SAs are usually on Grade Level 16, step 4 with total monthly earning which is between N187, 000 to N190, 000, some of them who are taken care of by international organisations are paid in foreign currencies. The official said the current problem may persist unless the federal government provides a well-structured system of paying aides to public officers.