Members of staff of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) have decried the non-payment of their salaries, which they said has brought misery upon them.
The CCB is of one Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies with the sole mandate of assets verification of public officers in the country.
In spite of its crucial responsibility in tackling widespread heist in Nigeria’s public sector, the agency has grappled with poor funding, a development CCB workers say “exposes assets verification officers to kickbacks from politicians who want to beat the system.”
A staff member at the CCB’s headquarters in Abuja, who spoke with our reporter on the condition of anonymity out of fear of possible victimisation, said workers are being owed two months salaries.
“We are being owed November and December salaries, and the situation is getting out of hand. For instance, I can no longer provide food for my wife and children,” the staff said.
Another staff member at the agency’s annex office at Asokoro area of Abuja, told PREMIUM TIMES that “most personnel of the CCB have become beggars; from fare to food, we ask relatives and friends to get by. We are dying of hunger.”
When this reporter visited the CCB’s headquarters on Thursday, barely 48 hours to Christmas, most of the offices were deserted as a clerical officer of agency who did not want his name mentioned, attributed the situation to the non-payment of salaries.
“The situation has been very tough since November, but this Christmas will be bleak for us all,” the distraught staffer said.
For a worker at the annex office in Asokoro, the Christmas celebrations were least of his problems. “My headache is my children’s school fees in January,” he said.
“It’s a private school, so you have to pay the school fees before resumption,” the staffer explained.
Meanwhile, Babs Ogunjimi, CCB’s Director of Finance and Accounts, said efforts were being made to clear the backlog of salaries.
In a telephone interview with this reporter on Friday, Mr Ogunjimi, said “They (workers) will get their salaries if not today, then tomorrow.”
He explained that federal government had ”worked on it”, adding, “That was why the National Assembly passed the virement request of the President along with the national budget.”
Mr Ogunjimi assured that “November and December salaries will be paid together.”
Addressing journalists at a press conference in Abuja last month, the Chairman of the CCB, Mohammed Isah, said “Our staff are poorly paid.”
Mr Isah, a professor of law, ventilated his agency’s operational encumbrances.
Top on the list was poor manpower for an intractable problem of corruption in Nigeria’s public service.
“We have less than 800 personnel across the country for 10 million public officers whom we are investigating their assets,” Mr Isah lamented, warning of the “danger ahead if new persons are not recruited to replace the deceased and retired.”
On budgetary allocations, Mr Isah said some persons were out to “strangulate” the bureau by starving it of funding.
“We get N36 million as overhead per release, and this year, we have received nine releases of N297 million (in total, instead of N324 million),” he had explained.
“Monitoring more than 10 million public officers is not easy,” Mr Isah revealed of the manpower shortage.
“Of all its mandate, verification is one of the most, if not the most tedious exercise. It is capital intensive. Despite the above, and the fact that the bureau is poorly funded considering our budgetary allocation, we are determined to go ahead with the process to ensure the success of the fight against corruption,” he had assured.
Tthe country’s anti-graft agencies, only the CCB, a perennially underfunded body set up to handle asset declarations of public officers across all levels of government, is billed to take a cut – up to nine per cent from its 2021 budget – in the coming year.
The CCB has proposed a budget of N2.9 billion for 2022. The amount is a decrease of 9.4 per cent from the N3.2 billion appropriated for it in the 2021 budget.
Of this, N1.7 billion is earmarked for ‘Salaries and Wages’ while N22 million is proposed for ‘Local Travel and Transport for Training,’ and N120 million for ‘Local Travels and Transport Others’.
In the proposed budget of the bureau, ‘Utilities’ will gulp N15 million, ‘Materials and Supplies’ is to take N41 million, office rent, N24 million, and refreshment N7 million.