Sequel to Street Journal’s revealing piece on the rot that has plagued the Oyo State civil service, there have been reports that the state government has moved against ghost workers. The situation was also confirmed by the Commissioner in charge of Establishment and Training, Lowo Obisesan. Seeing Lowo Obisesan, the Oyo State Commissioner for Establishments, Training and Poverty Alleviation, one gets the image of a man who is ready to make changes in the ministry. His staffs too agree that his experience as a lawyer and a partner in the Black and White Law firm is being put to good use. Street Journal’s reporters encountered him recently and in the course of the discussion that followed, the Commissioner disclosed that drastic changes need to be made within the civil service of the state. He also made it clear that it is no longer business as usual in the state civil service. He compared what obtains in the civil service today to what the civil service was in 1981 when he was employed as a Clerical Officer in a government establishment. “Then, you must have up to four or five credits before you could be made a Clerical Officer. If you did not have credit in English, you would be made a Clerical Assistant. And despite the fact that you had English, they would still send you to training centre. Then, they would train you for about three weeks and you had to pass the examination. It is when you pass that they would confirm you as Clerical Assistant. That time, it was highly magnificent. But now, things have become different. I was on a familiarization tour recently and I felt disappointed at what I saw at the training centre”, he said.
In Obisesan’s opinion, the condition of the training centre for civil service is deplorable. He said “there are no chairs to sit on, the computers are obsolete, but I want to assure you that with Senator Ajimobi as the Governor of Oyo State, everything will change for the best’.
He also disclosed that he intends to use the gift God has given him to transform the ministry. The Commissioner said “I thank God I am an indigene of Ibadan land and I believe that whatever one becomes, he has to be useful to his people.” When he was asked whether he wouldn’t have trouble juggling his legal profession and his appointment, he disclosed that his law firm is fashioned after those in civilised societies and that it has been structured in a manner that the work would continue even in his absence. “We have the Chairman, the Vice Chairman and the Board of Directors so it is not necessary that after me, my child has to take over. We are not running it like that”, he said. He also disclosed that he ceased to work there the moment he was appointed as a Commissioner in Oyo State. “That however does not mean they would not come to seek for my legal advice” he quickly added.
When he was asked what he would do in changing the orientation of civil servants especially their attitude to work and other anomalies such as lateness, truancy, eating, sleeping and doing business when they should be at work, the Commissioner said “I have experienced what you are talking about. The day I resumed in this office, I was here by 7.30, the Permanent Secretary saw me when I was going about, looking at what I was going to do about the ministry’s environment. The Directors who came after were all surprised but I didn’t say anything. At the first meeting I had with them, I told them frankly that if you are receiving money in a place and you refuse to do what is expected of you, and you spend it on your children, they will hardly make it. And they all agreed with me, they said yes. I said henceforth; let’s make punctuality the soul of business. You must be here at the right and appropriate time. If you know that you don’t want to work as a civil servant, it is better you resign and go home. I also assured them that if they put in the best, they would get the best. Even if the state government does not reward you, God will reward you. You know if you are doing what you should do and you are praying God will definitely listen to you but if you are indolent and you are praying, there Is no way that prayer will be answered. God has instructed in the Holy Qur’an and the Bible that we have to sweat, it is from there that he will reward us.”
The Commissioner also disclosed to Street Journal that in one of the meetings he had with civil servants, some of them were making noise. And what was his reaction? He replied, “I told them, you people are not disciplined. And I told them that would serve as a last warning, if they do that in other Ministries, we won’t condone that here. Today, I deliberately came some minutes after 8 O’ clock and everybody, including the Permanent Secretary was already in the office.”
He also disclosed that the government has plans to improve the working conditions in the civil service, he said “on our own part too we are putting some measures in place that civil servants will be able to equate themselves to people working in the bank’.
Speaking on the state of the Ministry of Establishment when he resumed as Commissioner, Obisesan told Street Journal that “really, they have achieved nothing here. I didn’t meet any achievement on ground here, all I can say is that most of those who have worked here, particularly in the last government, they were just here to loot. They didn’t do anything, look at the chairs here, and even in my own private office, the chairs there are not good. At least they collected allocations from the Federal Government and we all know that each ministry has a budget which is somewhere; nobody can say what they did with the money. It was on record that this state was given N 15 billion less than three years ago, can anyone point to anything that would show that that kind of money was ever in the coffers of this state?”
And when our reporter asked him about the issue of ghost workers and what the government intends to do, he said “it has been in existence in this state for a long time. I will just want to praise Governor Ajimobi on that. It is the crisis that we had with the organised labour that did not allow the society to see the good steps he has taken on that. Immediately he came in and discovered that, he made moves and as we are speaking, I am sure some people are facing the wrath of the law. It is only that they did not give it publicity. Governor Ajimobi will never tolerate such a thing and I can tell you that when I came in, that was the first thing I did. I called for a list of all the workers and I am still working on it. Of course they won’t know why I asked for it. Now when they receive salaries at the end of the day, I will collect the list of all those who collected salaries for the month and from there, we will make a report.”