Nigerian Taxi Driver in UK Still Receiving Government Salary Highlights Issues in Civil Service Reforms

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Despite President Tinubu’s promises to streamline governance and reduce excesses, critics point out gaps between rhetoric and action.

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Sabitu Adams, a 36-year-old Nigerian national residing in the United Kingdom for the past two years and working as a taxi driver, continues to receive a monthly salary of N150,000 (approximately $100 or £80) from the Nigerian government.

In an interview with the BBC, Adams mentioned that losing this Nigerian salary would have minimal financial impact on him, as his earnings from driving a taxi in the UK are sufficient. He chose not to resign from his Nigerian government position to keep his options open for a potential return.

Adams’s situation reflects a larger trend, with over 3.6 million Nigerians relocating abroad in search of better opportunities amidst economic challenges exacerbated by currency depreciation under President Tinubu’s reforms. Adams dismissed President Tinubu’s directives after the president expressed surprise at revelations that civil servants working abroad are paid without formally resigning.

He emphasized the importance of not only recovering funds but also investigating and penalizing those involved in such fraudulent practices, including supervisors and department heads.

Auwal Yakasai, a retired finance director with Kano state’s information ministry, acknowledged hearing about similar cases but noted difficulties in apprehending offenders due to lax oversight. Despite Tinubu’s promises to streamline governance and reduce excesses, critics point out gaps between rhetoric and action.

Controversies over spending on aircraft and lavish homes stand in stark contrast to efforts to address issues such as ghost workers and inefficiencies.

However, Folasade Yemi-Esan, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOCSF), announced at a gathering in Abuja to mark the 2024 civil service week that the federal government had identified 1,618 ghost workers through the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS). Yemi-Esan revealed that out of 69,308 civil servants who underwent mandatory verification, they have successfully integrated into the IPPIS. She emphasized the government’s vigorous efforts to remove employees who have relocated abroad yet continue to receive salaries from the civil service.

“There are active measures to address Nigerians who have moved abroad and taken up new jobs while still on our payroll,” she stated. “The federal government is taking stringent actions, leading many to voluntarily resign after physical verifications.”

Yemi-Esan highlighted the challenges of cultural acceptance within Nigeria that perpetuate such practices, stressing the government’s commitment to rectifying these issues despite external challenges.

“I anticipate that upon receipt of the verification report, any employee not present in the country will automatically lose their job,” she asserted. “In the last phase of verification, we observed a significant number resigning voluntarily, which is a positive development.”

She also mentioned a recent circular issued to all ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) mandating a physical headcount of all employees on the nominal roll. Non-attendance during this exercise is grounds for identification and reporting.

Furthermore, Yemi-Esan cautioned permanent secretaries and CEOs about the consequences of providing inaccurate information, underscoring that 8,905 civil servants underwent mandatory assessment-based training to enhance their professional capabilities.

Appointed in 2019 by former President Muhammadu Buhari, Yemi-Esan is set to retire in August, concluding her tenure aimed at fostering accountability and efficiency within the federal civil service.

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