The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has revealed how he addressed the challenge of employment racketeers in his ministry and parastatal agencies.
Addressing members of Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism on oversight to his ministry on Thursday in Abuja, the minister said the racketeers swindled many unsuspected job seekers, promising to give them phantom jobs.
“When I came in, we were able to uncover a number of cartels engaging in unlawful employment.
“They gave bank account details which their victims paid huge sum of money into and after the payment they issued them with letters of employment.
“They even camped some of them in hotels for capturing into Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS)
“In fact, in a particular organisation, a level 17 Officer was involved in this racketeering, but unfortunately he is late now.
“When we discovered this we swung into action to get to the bottom of this and get some of them arrested.
“We are still on it and even some them have taken us to court,’’ he said.
Mohammed said that the ministry is committed to fighting the challenge of ghost workers and assured of bringing the perpetrators to book.
He said he had directed all the agencies under the ministry to submit their nominal rolls and anyone that failed to do so would have itself to blame for non-payment of its workers’ salaries from January 2017.
The minister told the lawmakers that there was the need to revisit and review the concept of budgeting on overhead cost particularly in certain ministries like Information and Culture.
“In my ministry, travel and visits cannot be seen as recurrent, they are capital for me. It is when I travel that I am able to bring back dividends to this country.
“I travelled to Spain sometimes in July, that single trip offered the country the right to bid for the hosting of the UN World Tourism Organisation for Africa for 2018.
“The trip earned us the support United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO) to send three technical teams to assist the country in its tourism development.
“It was also during that trip that the UNTWO agreed to equip six zonal centres for women engaging in tourism in the country.
“For us in Culture and Tourism, visiting tourism sites with the intention of making them tourists attraction should not be seen as just simple recurrent expenditure.
“This is where we have the challenge. Many times we want to engage in this critical assignment to the ministry, we are told that the vote head for passage and travels have been exhausted,’’ he said.
The minister solicited the support of the lawmakers on the passage of two bills which he said would be sent to the National Assembly soon.
He said the two bills were for the establishment of National Endowment for the Arts and Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON) respectively.
The Minister told the committee that the late release of the 2016 budget, the burdensome procurement processes and some legal issues could not allow the ministry to attain optimal performance in the budget implementation.
He also disclosed that the Lagos State Government has acceded to the Ministry’s request to help redesign and modernise the National Museum in Lagos into world-class historical hub and tourist site.
He reiterated the commitment of the Ministry to bringing the culture and tourism sector into the mainstream of the economy, in line with the overall goal of the Administration to diversify the economy and create jobs.
Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Mathew Urhoghide, said the oversight visit is to monitor the performance of the 2016 budget and identify areas of challenges, which will form the basis of support for the 2017 budget.
Urhoghide disclosed that the National Assembly will soon incorporate Tourism in the nomenclature of the Ministry because of the huge importance of the sector to the nation’s economy.
He said “This is the aspect we are looking at as parliament, as a Senate, and we believe too it’s going to add value, particularly in our quest to improve on our revenue base in Nigeria."
He said tourism sector is a latent area that the country will derive a lot of revenue from.