The two-day event had in attendance online journalists, social media influencers, public affairs analysts and critics of the government.
How can the Kogi state government owe its workers between ten and fourteen months’ salary despite the bailout and two tranches of the Paris Club Refund?
Governor Yahaya Bello has not commissioned any road or water projects neither has his government done anything for Kogi people.
Under Governor Bello, Kogi has become the worst state in Nigeria…
This is the narrative set by critics of the government on social media.
To a large extent, this narrative has affected the image of the state negatively.
In this age and time, people see a particular people or place through the eye of the media – mostly the social media.
It therefore became necessary for the Kogi state government to interact with players in Nigeria’s online media space.
This was achieved at the just concluded Kogi State Social Media Conference which took place at the Government House, Lokoja.
With the theme, “Improving government policies through social media advocacy”, the two-day event had in attendance online journalists, social media influencers, public affairs analysts and other players in the industry.
The event featured a visit to the three major districts of the state – East, West and Central – and also an interactive session.
Some projects inspected include the Kogi state owned milling factory at Omi Agricultural Development Centre, Yagba West Local; the Ajaka-Ayingba road network, the construction of over 80 primary schools amongst others.
Speaking at the interactive session on Thursday, October 12, 2017, the special assistant to the governor on new media, Odaudu Joel Minister said that the summit was the first of its kind in Kogi’s political history and became necessary, due to the increasing influence of social media in today’s politics.
Social media influencer, Ayobami Oyalowo said social media has become the fastest and cheapest means of informing the world of government policies and programmes.
“Any government that neglect its power will have itself facedown. No government should be comfortable if it does not understand how to engage in the usage of social media,” Oyalowo emphasised.
The Deputy Governor, Simon Achuba who stood in for his boss noted that the state was being underreported.
“What most people are saying about us is not the truth,” he began.
“We need you to cross check before you broadcast and publish information so that the possibility of society being in trouble can be reduced. Even as journalists and media influencers, you can injure your existence through false information,” he added.
The Director General, Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo declared the session a ‘no-holds-barred’ meeting.
Reacting to questions, the chief of staff to the Kogi state government, Edward Onoja reels out some of the achievements of the administration 21-months after taking over office.
His words: “This government has done excellently well in terms of infrastructure especial road construction. Not just road construction but the quality of roads being constructed. This government is constructing nylon-asphalt tarred roads with the recommended standard for this tropical environment. These twelve roads are evenly spread across the three Senatorial districts of the state.
“On health, the governor would be commissioning our ultra-modern diagnostic center as part of activities to mark his two years in office.
“On Education, there are about 80 GYB Model School standard basic education centers in the three districts. Because what we met are not fit to be called schools," he added.
In recent times, Kogi state has been widely reported as one of the states owing workers over 10-months salaries.
The strike embarked upon by the state chapter of ASUU and Labour further buttresses this point.
But the Chief of Staff shares a different perspective of the state salary story.
“We may be owing workers but among states in this same situation, we are the most transparent. We have the names of all our workers on the website and if you know anyone that claims he has not received salary for 10-15 months, go to the website and check.
“We’ve had civil servants query themselves because they know you have been paid but you are telling a different story. The true story is that some persons keep hiding under the veil of ‘oh, I have not been paid’ to avoid paying back loans and credits.
“This is not to say that all persons have been paid. The number of months and reasons for non-payment is not being emphasized. All those who have not been paid had one issue or the other and it is not as if they won’t be paid but they must have to reconcile these issues before they’re paid.
“On the issue of confidence building, the news is changing because the Governor has asked that those that were on the ‘not cleared’ list should be moved to ‘cleared’ and we believe that before the end of the year, this noise of salary payment would have been completely erased.
“When we came in, we printed forms for civil servants to authenticate by filling them. Over 9,000 forms that were given out never came back meaning that the number of workers wasn’t 88,000 but slightly over 78,000. We discovered that Kogi state’s salary wage bill was in excess of about three billion.
“Again, we agreed with the NLC to introduce ‘clock in, clock out’ devices at government offices because there is nowhere in the world where you don’t work but expect to be paid. That device also helped us to identify ghost workers. Soon, Labour went on strike. Because they were already used to a system of going to the office two out of the twenty-two working days still get their full payment.
“Civil Service is not an NGO where you sit at home and collect money. The civil service is supposed to be the engine room of any society.
“Thank God that the Federal Government has activated the ‘no work, no pay’ law because you do not expect to stay at home and still earn money.
“About the tertiary institution, they did not work for seven months but government paid them for those periods and yet, some said they will still not resume. So the Governor proscribed ASUU and gave a deadline and those who failed to resume were served letters. Right now, there are about 4,000 applications to fill those vacancies. Who wants to work should get the jobs.
“One thing we must bear in mind is the fact that you do not change a system without these pains. It is just like surgery. You are ill and need to go through a surgery. If you avoid the pain, you may die with the ailment. But with surgery, you will have to endure the pain to be stronger afterwards,” Onoja added.
The deputy governor speaks more on the verification exercise embarked upon by the state government to get rid of ghost workers.
“When there is a new turn, it is difficult to drive it in. Before now, most of the employment in Kogi state came from replacement. If a father dies, they will approach the permanent secretary to replace the deceased with his son. This screening brought open all those malpractices.
“Against every person who is not on the ‘cleared list’ the reason for this is stated but no one would say it. We equally gave room for defense but most of them never came for defense. The news is that Governor Bello has refused to pay us our salaries.
“But this administration has decided to put an end to all of these. We now publish all our expenditures on national dailies and also on our website. How many states are doing this?” Achuba asked.
Here are his final words for critics of the Bello administration.
“I am very sure that some of you came with bad mind towards us before but you must have repented, considering what you are seeing. You have been to places where works are ongoing and can tell the story better.
“Although we are not perfect, we are not resting on our oars to bring this state out of its current woods. This is why we have opened our doors to people who want to make enquiries about this government,” he added.
The consensus at the end of the meeting was that despite its shortcomings, Kogi state is putting in place structures that – if sustained – could take the state to greater heights.