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Niger spends €4.5m per month on ghost teachers

By AFP
20 September 2016   |   10:24 am
Niger, one of the world's poorest countries, is shelling out more than 4.5 million euros every month for "non-existent" teachers, the state anti-corruption agency said Tuesday.
Teachers and students launched a crippling week-long strike in Niger to protest over the non-payment of salaries and scholarships. PHOTO: AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo

Teachers and students launched a crippling week-long strike in Niger to protest over the non-payment of salaries and scholarships. PHOTO: AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo

Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, is shelling out more than 4.5 million euros every month for “non-existent” teachers, the state anti-corruption agency said Tuesday.

The revelation came a day after teachers and students launched a crippling week-long strike in protest over the non-payment of salaries and scholarships.

Salissou Oubandona, the number two in the HALCIA graft-fighting agency, said the money was allocated for 2,565 fictitious teachers in five of the west African nation’s eight provinces.

He said a “school-by-school study” showed that “1,917 teachers did not exist at all”, while the names of 648 “figures two or three times” on the state payrolls.

The study was conducted in June by the government. Experts say the money allocated for non-existent teachers was siphoned off by corrupt state officials.

According to teachers’ unions, 80 percent of the educational staff work on a contractual basis with salaries ranging from on average between 114 euros ($127) and 152 euros a month.

Niger’s union of teachers and researchers on Monday launched a seven-day strike to demand the payment of salary and grant arrears.

The country’s minister for education minister Mohamed Ben Omar acknowledged there had been a problem with salary payments, but insisted the problem had been resolved.

“Four months of salary arrears” at Zinder University in central Niger had already been taken care of, Ben Omar told public television.

He blamed the delay in paying wages and grants on the country’s military expenditure which had “raked in” all the treasury’s revenues.

Since February 2015, Boko Haram has staged a series of attacks in the Diffa region of southeast Niger, which lies just across the border from the Islamists’ stronghold in northeastern Nigeria.

In late July this year a multinational force, drawn from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, was formed to tackle the Islamic insurgents and clear them out of towns and villages. The force is funded by each of the participating states.

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