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Abia: Over 2,300 Ghost Workers Uncovered in State Biometric Verification

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UMUAHIA, Nigeria – Governor Alex Otti has discovered over 2,300 “ghost workers” on state payrolls, resulting from the ongoing biometric verification of state civil servants and public employees.

Upon taking office on May 29, 2023, Governor Otti promised to ensure regular employee salary payments, while concurrently pledging to tackle the persistent issue of ghost workers aggressively.

In a statement issued on Monday, July 17, 2023, by the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Kazie Uko, the State Government revealed that this discovery has allowed them to save over N200 million monthly on wage expenses.

The statement credits the savings to a unified payment system employed during verification.

The State Accountant General, Deaconess Njum Onyemenam, cited in the statement, said the substantial savings were realized following the meeting with the Governor.

She also confirmed that the verification process is ongoing, with the expectation of more ghost workers being identified and more savings to be made.

“So far, we have saved N220 million from the ongoing verification of workers in the state, local governments, and pensioners. Not less than 2,300 ghost names have been weeded out of the payrolls, using the unified payment system, and we hope to identify more still as we continue with the exercise,” Onyemenam said.

She also confirmed that, per Governor Otti’s directive, the government has recently paid the arrears of April salaries left behind by the previous administration and June pensions to retirees.

The statement quoted the Accountant General’s assurances that Local Government staff, whose June salaries were delayed due to their failure to submit verified payment schedules, would receive their salaries this week.

The revelation underlines Governor Otti’s commitment to financial transparency and the efficient utilization of state resources.

The state will likely see further such developments as the verification process continues.

Weeks After Inauguration, Abia Government Condemns ‘State-of-the-Art’ Hospital as Unfit for Human Use

The Abia Government has declared the newly built Abia Multi-Specialist Hospital unfit for use, citing significant structural defects, inadequate ventilation, and antiquated, ill-fitted equipment.

The revelation comes as a shock just weeks after the hospital’s inauguration.

Abia Commissioner for Health, Dr. Ngozi Okoronkwo, announced the grim assessment during a Wednesday, July 12, 2023, press briefing following her inspection of several regional hospitals.

“The hospital is bad; the structure and the design approach were poorly done,” Okoronkwo lamented. “The equipment are scattered all over the place, and we cannot ascertain if they are still working because there is no power supply.”

The Abia Multi-Specialist Hospital was constructed under the administration of former Governor Okezie Ikpeazu as a replacement for the old Aba General Hospital, built in 1957.

The new facility was inaugurated by Ikpeazu on May 27, 2023, shortly before his exit from office.

Dr. Okoronkwo highlighted several significant issues with the new hospital, including leaking rooms, mouldy walls, a lack of ventilation, and complex navigation within the hospital’s premises.

“It is really a challenge. The idea of coming here is to look at the place to see if it is ready for use, but from my assessment, it will take a while,” Okoronkwo said.

Before determining the course of action, Dr. Okoronkwo will review the original contract details that led to the substandard work.

The government will then engage the contractors to determine whether their work aligns with the current administration’s standards.

She reassured the local community that the Aba General Hospital would remain in place, underscoring the importance of its services.

However, the Abayi Cottage Hospital in Osisioma Local Government Area, also evaluated during the inspection, fared no better.

The commissioner stated, “Not even animals should use the place as a hospital.”

This critical assessment comes as Governor Alex Otti has declared a state of emergency in the region’s health sector.

Three hospitals across three senatorial zones have been identified for revitalisation within his first 100 days in office.

With the new Aba General Hospital deemed unreliable, the Abayi Cottage Hospital is under consideration for improvement, offering some hope to the residents desperate for functional healthcare facilities.

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