The case involving Mr. Bamikole Omishore, who is the Special Adviser to the Senate President on International Relations, reminded me strongly of a term coined by online marketers and so-called business gurus, ‘streams of income’.
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Streams of income are all about making sure your income is not restricted to just one source. There is nothing special about it. It is just a fancy phrase to make something mundane look new and revolutionary.
Even rural folks know the smartest people have several means of supplementing their income. They don’t call it streams of income of course.
When you ask them why they get involved in several economic activities, you get a reply along the lines of ‘My brother, man must survive oo.‘
Well, some of them get seriously rich while trying to ‘survive’. In the age of online business and information marketing ‘streams of income’ is used to give respectability and sophistication to what is plain old hustling.
Back to Mr. Omishore and his case. Last month it came out that his wife is a ghost worker according to a petition by one Youths United Against Corruption in Nigeria.
The facts are easy and straightforward to understand. Mr. Omishore used his influence as an aide to the Senate President to insert the name of his wife in the payroll of the National Assembly on Grade Level 12. That means she gets to collect N150,000, making her one of the thousands of ghost workers in Nigeria.
The wife has never worked for a single day at the National Assembly. She is a registered nurse in the United States. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t even stay in Nigeria.
The particulars of the petition which are being investigated by the EFCC, include the account number her salary is paid to; and the fake name linked to the account.
Scamming the system through the ghost workers syndrome is very common.
Almost every department and ministry from the federal to the local government level is affected. It is a drain on the resources of the country.
Just this year, the Minister of finance Kemi Adeosun revealed that after implementing the Integrated Payroll and Personnel System, IPPIS, in the Nigeria Police, over 80,000 ghost workers were discovered and weeded out of the system.
This number represents billions of naira stolen yearly by people behind the scam. Naturally, the Police hierarchy resisted the implementation of the IPPIS when it was first mooted.
They claimed the system would cause a delay in payment of Police Officers’ salaries. But we all know the resistance was because they didn’t want the scam discovered.
The money they get from ghost workers are the easiest streams of income for them.
In Kogi State, Yahaya Bello had to fight entrenched interests who had benefitted from these streams of income via ghost workers. But he insisted on auditing the state’s workforce.
Though many suffered from late payment of salaries as revealed by Nigeria News, the revelations from the exercise were astounding. Apart from the thousands of ghost workers found, many workers got employed without the right qualifications.
He had no choice but to let some of them go. There isn’t any other way to go about it.
The same scenario was replicated when former Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, decided to audit the number of people on the payroll of the government.
For the people who perpetuate the ghost workers scam, the stream of income enables them to live the lifestyle they envisioned for themselves.
They can use the money to buy land, pay school fees for some grateful relative, do nice thigs for their girlfriends, buy new cars, take a vacation abroad, etc. And they won’t have to dip into their own legitimate salaries to live this lifestyle.
Obviously, having several streams of income is the best thing to happen these corrupt civil servants since the Internet was invented. These civil servants simply adapted the idea to fit their own working environment.
Another phrase closely related to streams of income is passive income. It refers to money intermittently popping into your account without you doing a thing.
The grunt work is done at the initial stage while setting up the system. After that, money just drips into your account even while you are sleeping.
For the civil servants, the hard work is getting the fictitious name onto the payroll. Once that is done, they enjoy the benefits for the rest of their lives until some ‘busy-body‘ governor or minister decides to look into how the government is spending so much money on salaries.
But what happens when the scams are discovered? It is not enough to just block the leakages and gleefully announce the feat to the public.
These scams are carried out by actual people and not ghosts. Somebody accesses those accounts to withdraw the money. So, why is nobody ever prosecuted for stealing?
This lack of prosecution would only encourage others to repeat the same thing when they find a loophole in the system. After all, they know all they would get is slap on the wrist and allowed to go and enjoy their loot.