Bad things really do happen, often to people who have done nothing to deserve them.
It’s understandable that people who face one difficulty after another may start to believe the world is out to get them.
This may be the case for many a Cameroonian that is not lucky enough to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
In 2015, Cameroonian authorities said they were cleaning the country’s payroll of 10,000 dead or fictitious employees, who cost the treasury some $12 million (CFA 6.648 Billion) every month.
In 2018, 25,000 new fictitious civil service salary earners were uncovered. In 2020, 10,000 more were said to have been filtered out of the corrupt system.
Cameroon’s Minister of Finance, Louis Paul Motaze said after the 2018 census of employees, the government realized it was losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year to people claiming salaries as state workers.
In 2020, Motaze adds that some of these persons had died but their deaths went unreported. Others had abandoned their posts, or were drawing double salaries with the help of fellow workers.
Just like in previous years, authorities claim they have been removing such workers from the state’s payroll but it appears to be a mere rhetoric.
The Minister of Public Service and Administrative Reforms, Joseph Anderson Lé claimed in 2018 that the census of state workers was very efficient because police tracked down some 8,000 workers who were living in Europe and America.
Barrister Akere Muna, founder of the Cameroon chapter of the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, says corruption is widespread in Cameroon and targeting “ghost workers” will not entirely solve the problem.
“Cameroonian civil servants do not live from their salaries. They live from a system where they have put toll gates everywhere. You cannot get people who are thieves to look over thieves.”
Barrister Muna believes that whistleblowing is the key to fighting graft, but that many people are afraid to come forward as they feel it is too dangerous or ineffective.
But while many receive salaries for no work done, many, such as those working in the war-ravaged Northwest and South West Regions have had their salaries suspended.
The decision is being implemented by administrators who themselves are out of their duty stations or only go there occasionally using sophisticated military artilleries.
The cruel news came like a bombshell.
That the salaries of 100 civil servants in the crisis-hit Northwest Region have been suspended; is gruesomely preposterous. The victims were accused of absenteeism.
Given that civil servants are mostly targeted by Separatist fighters, such a decision is seemingly drenched in prejudice and scapegoat smear.
Otherwise, the authorities are morally unable to understand the deadly plight of civil servants in the Northwest and Southwest Regions that are virtually ruled by Separatist fighters.
The separatist fighters have kidnapped, tortured, maimed and killed many civil servants. The erstwhile Divisional Officer for Batibo, Namata Marcel Diteng, the former Regional Delegate of Social Affairs, Animbom Aaron Akiabom, the Vice Principal of GHS, Belo, Chiakuo, were in the inaugural list of the victims of mayhem by the Separatists.
So, how can the government suspend the salaries of civil servants who have been pushed out of their offices by insecurity? That illegal and illogical decision is one of the mothers of gaffes in the crisis. For, it further victimises people who live in constant fear – the legitimate fear of the separatist fighters.
That is why observers are wondering if the authorities are wallowing in some kind of myopia which makes them mistake symptoms for causes, and victims for foes.
Which administrator does not know that the life of a civil servant in the two Regions is a jeremiad of fear and a running tale of frustration, stress, and harassment from the Amba boys? Which Governor, SDO or DO, does not know that the crisis-ravaged Regions have become a paradise for the survival of the most deadly? Which authority does not know that the bullet and dagger army of Amba boys go to schools and offices in search of civil servants in many areas in order to brutally torture them to death?
Thus, civil servants who are scampering away for safety know so well that only fools will rush in where angels are forbidden to tread. The authorities’ cavalier dismissal of the people’s security concerns, is a supreme act of violence on some of the most hard-hit victims of the Anglophone Crisis.
It is a cruel irony that the administrators who are signing the suspension of the salaries of the civil servants, move in armoured cars and are usually protected by cordons of security and military elements.
The Governor, for instance, lives in prodigal security luxury. Besides the armoured cars at his disposal, he is guarded by a phalanx of specially trained bodyguards and a trigger-happy armada of heavily armed soldiers. Added to this, is his bullet-proof wares.
Even with this security measures, the Governor still has difficulties going to certain areas. Recently, his convoy was attacked in many areas on his way to Fundong in Boyo Division. Is this the very person that is coercing civil servants whose security is not guaranteed to dare the Amba boys in the field?
The decision to suspend the salaries of the civil servants is a cruel act that brutalises the victims while the villain goes scot-free. The lethal potency of such a decision should not be underestimated, because, it is akin to sending the already stressed civil servants to their early graves.
Indeed, that decision that smacks of sinister insensitivity to the peoples’ agonising plight, has turned the days of its victims into daze and their nights into nightmares.
By their overzealous and spineless show of loyalty to Yaoundé, the administrators are stoking the fires of the crisis by virtue of such gigantic insanity.
They are creating more frustrations, tensions and recriminations. The suspension of salaries of those people, has an over-bearing effect on many other people that depend on them. That vicious decision has put the civil servants in those areas in a catch-22 situation. For, they have to choose between death and losing their salaries and eventually their jobs.
That barbaric act could just help to swell the ranks of the separatists for many young frustrated civil servants could join the armed groups. That gubernatorial decision is cruel and its consequences barbaric. It is a conscienceless decision that smacks of insensitivity to the people’s agonising plight.
As if that is not enough, some overzealous Mayors in the Southwest Region have added corpus to the sufferings of the business people in their municipalities in the name of fighting the ghost town operation.
It would appear the devil has come in-between the Mayors and their people because the sealing of the business premises of people who respect ghost town out of fear, is sheer wickedness.
If these Mayors should stop going around with a cordon of soldiers in order to prove to the world that there is security in their areas as they claim, one may begin to understand their stance. Without such actions, the continuous victimisation of citizens already devastated by the war, is nothing but demonic.
They further stoke the yearning for elected Governors and other officials who would be sensitive to the plight of the people and not only dance to the caprices of an over-centralised government in Yaoundé. It fires a burning desire for Federalism in the ordinary Anglophone Cameroonian.
Indeed, in Cameroon, the government punishes the victim and hails the villain.
Mimi Mefo Info