“The Nigerian Public service is reportedly heavily burdened with a ghost population, who not only, unexpectedly write job applications and present themselves for interviews, but who curiously, despite their human shortcomings and CBN’s “know your customers” directive to banks, also open bank accounts and collect salaries. 

These rogue spirits have ingeniously also infiltrated the Nigeria Police Force, where a 2010 staff-audit has revealed that ghost officers accounted for over 100,000 members, out of the 330,000 officially registered policemen.  The audit reports also revealed apparent collusion between the Police pay officers, and accountants as well as bank officials, to successfully rob the NPF of over N36bn annually! 

Similarly, Alhaji Mande Lofa, Chairman of Tureta (LGA), confirmed that a verification exercise carried out in July 2011 by the Tureta LGA in Sokoto State led to the discovery of over 500 ghost workers.

Also, in July 2011, the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board reported losses of N2.4bn annually to 1477 ghost workers, while the National Identity Management Commission, also revealed that, after conducting a biometric data exercise, it had uncovered 4000 ghost workers out of about 10,300 employees on its payroll.

Furthermore, in December 2011, Garba Tagwai, Niger State Commissioner for Local Government Affairs noted that "No fewer than 20000 ghost workers have been detected on the pay roll of the 25 Local Government Areas of Niger State".

The Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, also observed that, prior to his administration, Ekiti State government lost over N3bn annually to ghost workers out of a projected annual budget of N80bn.  

Unfortunately, the federal government is not immune to such fraudulent revenue leakages; indeed, in 2001, the incumbent Accountant General of the Federation, Chief Joseph Naiyeju, reported the discovery of 40,000 ghost workers following a man-power verification exercise.  

Similarly, 6000 ghost workers were detected after a staff audit, when Mallam Nasir El Rufai was FCT Minister in 2006; revealingly, the FCT was losing about $8m annually, due to ghost workers on its payroll.  

The Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) with El Rufai as Chairman, reportedly later signed a World Bank sponsored $4.9m contract with the Nigerian-based System Specs Consortium in October 2006, for the provision of a more coherent Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).

In May 2009, the House of Representatives Committees on Customs and Excise also discovered that about 50percent of the 20,000 workforce in the Nigeria Customs Service were ghost workers!  
In July 2011, former Finance Minister, Mr. Olusegun Aganga, reported that between 2010 and 2011, the federal government had removed a total of 43,000 ghost workers from the old payroll of 112,000 employees in several MDAs, through the implementation of the IPPIS!  

Curiously, in February 2012, the Chairman of Nigeria Pension Reform Task team, Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina disclosed that on completion of a successful nationwide biometric verification of pensioners, his team detected 71,133 fake pensioners.  Furthermore, N151bn administrative fraud was also uncovered in Pension offices nationwide. 

Later, in June 2013, the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said “215 MDAs (153,019 staff) are on the IPPIS as of January 2013.  Savings on payroll cost to date is N118.9bn and work is ongoing to bring in other 321 MDAs not yet on the IPPIS.”  “About 46,821 ghost workers”, according to the minister, “have also been identified.”

Inexplicably, despite the available documentary evidence, especially from related banks, none of the identified beneficiaries of the ghost worker scam has ever been prosecuted and convicted or indeed, constrained to return either all the stolen funds or forfeit all assets or property derived therefrom.” 

The above narrative was first published in full on this page on 17th June, 2013, with the title “Ghost Workers and Indulgent Exorcists”. Alarmingly, over 3years, thereafter, these invisible ‘blood sucking’ demons are still flourishing and oppressively haunting us, as the following, more recent media reports confirm.
‘Fed Govt probes 11,000 ghost workers’ (The Nation 10/3/16)

According to Kemi Adeosun, the Finance Minister, “The Federal Government is investigating additional 11,000 workers to know if they are ghost workers”; however, “about 23,000 such workers were uncovered recently, saving the government N2.29 billion monthly.”
‘EFCC probes clues in payment of N1b to ‘ghost’ workers’ (The Nation 11/4/2016)
“Detectives are probing fresh clues on the alleged diversion of public funds to pay 23,000 ghost workers. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was shocked to discover that most of the slush accounts used for the pay fraud have either irregular Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) or no BVN at all.

Furthermore, the Minister has asked the Director General of Pension Commission, Ms Chinelo Amazu, to appear before a probe panel, on how Pension Funds Administrators (PFAs) allegedly generated fake PFA numbers for “ghost workers”.”
‘EFCC detects 37,395 ghost workers in federal civil service, says Magu’ (Vanguard 19/4/16)
 “The EFCC chairman said in Abuja, that it had detected 37,395 ghost workers on the payroll of the federal civil service. He also noted that “with regard to procurement fraud, there has been a sharp rise in the number of petitions coming to the commission relating to violations of the Public Procurement Act 2007.”

‘Federal government uncovers 5,000 more ghost workers, says Osinbajo’ (Vanguard 24/8/2016)
“Prof. Osinbajo, who spoke recently at a church programme in Ogere, Ogun State, said government has uncovered additional 5,000 ghost workers in the civil service. The discovery brought the number of ghost workers uncovered to 40,000 under the Single Treasury Account (TSA).”

‘FG removes 50,000 ghost workers from payroll’ (Vanguard 28/12/2016) 
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu reported that ‘’Through a notable initiative, by the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance, the government has embarked on the continuous auditing of the salaries and wages of government departments; as a result, about N13bn will be saved from the existing monthly salary bill of N151bn as from February 2016. 

In addition, N1.1bn would also be saved from the existing monthly pension bill of N15.5bn.”
Instructively, from the foregoing, the federal, states and 774 local governments nationwide may sadly, have harbored more ghost workers than flesh and blood employees on their payroll. Nonetheless, despite the widely reported elimination of thousands of ghost workers from respective payrolls, recurrent expenditure budgets, have generally continued to steadily increase rather than decrease; worse still, both federal and some state and local governments still owe a backlog of several months’ salaries, which they seek to fund with high priced loans, with regrettably, no realistic projection for repayment. 

Arguably, from the preceding reports, the 2015 N4.45Tn Jonathan Budget was probably padded with over N1.1Tn by over 25percent provision for ghost workers’ salaries and the considerable slush funds ‘traditionally embedded in the reportedly shady public procurement process. Regrettably, any hope that the new Administration would clean up the Augean stable, was dashed with the unexpected further increase in total spending beyond N6Tn, without regard to the traditional fiscal leakages, and deliberate padding in the preparation, approval and implementation process of the 2016 budget. 

Unfortunately, as in the past, more borrowing would be required to also fund the increased deficit of N2.36Tn projected in the 2017 budget, particularly when it is already, clearly precarious to sustain the present annual allocation of 35percent of aggregate revenue to just servicing current debts.

Thus, despite the popular expectation of a more transparent and much tighter financial control, in the fiscal process, ironically, recurrent expenditure for 2017 has alarmingly risen to N2.98Tn, even when ghost salary accounts and the gross abuse of the Public Procurement process still flourish.