RIVERS STATE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICE COMMISSION: COVERING THE EMPLOYMENT SCAM

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By the provisions of section 49:5 of the Rivers State Local Government   Law, no. 5,of 2018, the Junior Staff Management Committee whose

responsibility it is to  amongst others, employ, transfer and discipline Staff on Grade Level 01 to 06 is a delegated duty of the Commission which the Commission may excercise by itself as contained in Section 49 (4), however, there is no evidence stating that the Commission resolved to excercise the functions of the Junior Staff Management Committee of any of the 23 Local Government Councils.
Also, in excercising its delegated powers, the Commission is at liberty to employ Staff on Grade Level 01 to 06 at any point in time but not to engage in backdating  employment letters
.
The Rivers State Local Government Service Commission under the chairmanship of Chief Azubuike Nmerunkini is currently embarking on a State-wide Staff Audit and Verification excercise of its employees in the 23 Local Government Councils in Rivers State, an excercise many believe, is an attempt by the Commission to cover the HUGE employment SCAM carried out by the Commission, in collaboration with different Care – Taker Committee Chairmen that served between the year 2014 and 2018. Prospective applicants paid between#300,000.00 and #400,000.00 naira only,to be issued a backdated employment letters into any of the 23 Local Government Councils in Rivers State of Nigeria.
Frightened by the huge wage bill of Ahoada West Local Government Council, the Executive Chairman of the Council, Hon. Evang. Hope .O. Ikiriko, on Thursday, 12th July, 2018,at the Executive Chairman’s Office, appointed and inaugurated a Seven (7) Man Staff Verification and Personnel Audit Committee to :
-conduct a detailed verification of Staff and Personnel Audi;
-verify the records of employments as contained in the respective Staff      
  Records of Service, Personnel files, and relevant government rules,
-establish the Staff Management Information and payroll system; and
-submit reports with recommendations to the Executive Chairman.
                                     
The Committee, according to our source, was frustrated by the Principal Officers of the Council, especially the Head of Local Government Administration (HLGA),the Head of Personnel Management (HPM) and the Treasurer, who, acting on the directives of the Commission, denied the Committee all records and document the Committee had requested to enable them carry out their verification excercise.
According to the committee report which was submitted to the Executive Chairman on the 3rdor thereabout of October, 2018, about 210 Staff of the Council who purchased their employment letters between the year 2016 and early 2019, had their employment letters backdated to 2013. Note that 2013 was the year government approved the employment of over 10,000 teachers. Most of the Staff interviewed by the Committee confessed to have paid between 300,000.00 to 400,000.00 naira to procure the backdated letters. Those close to principal officers of the Commission were invited to residential houses and hotels where they were handed over, the employment letters.

The report further revealed that the signatures on the employment letters were irregular, though purported to have been signed by one person. Some examples are the signatures of one Fiday Nkowe, Ben Tao and some others. Also, the names of the 210 Staff who claimed to have been employed in 2013 could not be found in the 2013 norminal roll of the Council
.
The Committee report further disclosed that some of the Staff during their interview were honest and admitted that they got their employment letters in 2016,2017,2018 and 2019, and not in 2013 as contained in their employment letters.
The Committee report also stated that the Head of Personnel management (HPM) and the Treasurer who were on Grade Level 15 and 14 respectively, and who were acting Heads of Department, flagrantly disregarded the Civil Service Rules and were paying themselves Grade Level 17 salaries and allowances.
The report of the Committee recommended that the Ahoada West Local Government Council should cease further payment of salaries to the 210 illegally employed Staff.
The Executive Chairman of the Council, Hon. Evang. Hope O. Ikiriko, in accordance with the recommendation of the Committee report, directed the stoppage of further payments to the affected Staff. This directive was implemented for the months of November and December,2018. However, the resistance of this directive by the Head of Personnel Management (HPM) and the Treasurer, resulted into a distortion of records of payment which ultimately led to non payment of November/December, 2018 salaries until January, 2019.

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Among the members of the Staff verification Committee, were two employees of the Commission(names withheld), while one of them was a retired Director, the other Director is still in service but on approved leave of absence, working with the Executive Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government Council.

  
The head of Personnel management and the Treasurer of the Council, reported these two Committee members to the Chairman of the Rivers State Local Government Service Commission, Chief Azubuike Nmerunkini who swiftly directed the Commission to stop the monthly retirement payment of the retired Director and the withdrawal of an earlier approved leave of absence granted   the serving Director to work with Executive Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government as one of his aides.
 Expectedly, the payment to the retired Director was stopped and the other Director recalled from Ahoada West Local Government and re posted to the Commission’s Head office in Port Harcourt. Their offences were their membership of the legally constituted Committee by the Executive Chairman of Ahoada West Local Government Council.
 The November/ December salaries that were not paid to them, were later paid.
Some time in September, 2019,the Executive Chairman, Hon. Hope Ikiriko, sent the Committee report to the Legislative Assembly of the Local Government for  adoption of the current payroll/ norminal roll of the Council. This was done by tne legislators
.

On the 3rd of October, 2019, the Executive Chairman held a meeting with all the Staff of the Counci in Akinima, Headquarter of the Local Government. In that 

meeting, the Chairman told the Staff in the plainness language, that the Council can no longer pay salaries to those whose employment are not verifiable. The head of Personnel management and the Treasurer of the Council were not happy with the Chairman’s position and with the alleged support of the Commission, ensured that salaries for the months of August and September, 2019 are not paid as at when due.
The Chairman of the Rivers State Local Government Service Commission in response to the latest development in Ahoada West Local Government Council, issued a querry to the Director working with the Executive Chairman and who was a member of the verification Committee that revealed the employment scam. The Commission Chairman also directed all the affected Staff to deposit their employment details at the office of the secretary of the Commission.
Our source revealed that the Commission secretary was shocked when he saw his signature in some of the employment letters.
This employment scam is not limited to Ahoada West alone. It cuts across all the 23 Local Government Councils in the State.
 Attempts by other local government Councils to embark on their audit and verification exercise are being subtly resisted by the Commission.
This ongoing verification by the Commission is being viewed by ALGON, an association of all Local Government Council Chairmen, as a ploy to prevent other local government Chairmen from discovering what Ahoada West Local Government Council has discovered. And thereby formalizing and legalizing the illegality in the Commission’s employment.
ALGON, our reporter gathered has written to Local Government Commission, asking them to stop the exercise. Another letter of complaint by ALGON, our source gathered, has also been sent to the Executive Governor of Rivers State

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