President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari
The Nigerian government led by President Muhammadu Buhari audited government payroll staffReuters

The Nigerian government has identified and removed nearly 24,000 ghost workers from the state payroll during the latest audit. The removal of the non-existent workers has saved them up to £8.3m ($11.5m).

In what has been described as the tip of an iceberg, the eliminated workers show just a "percentage" of such staff who are on the government's monthly wages. The move has yet again underlined large-scale corruption and ineffective administration threatening Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy. The auditing process, which includes biometric verification and the validity of bank accounts, started in December 2015.

A statement from the federal finance ministry read: "This figure represents a percentage of the number of non-existent workers who had hitherto been receiving the salary from various ministries, departments and agencies." It said further investigation would be carried out to ensure no such "ghost workers" remain on the government's payroll. Salaries for government staff take up to 40% of the annual expenditure in Nigeria and the administration has promised to streamline the payments hereafter.

"This reduced the number of pensioners by 19,203 as a result of deaths since the last verification exercise in 2012," the finance ministry said, regarding the revised numbers of military pensioners.

Nigeria, the continent's biggest oil producer as well, is feeling the pinch owing to crumbling oil prices in the international markets. This is in addition to the domestic financial mismanagement and sharp inflation figures.

"It [the government] plans to undertake periodic checks and to utilise Computer Assisted Audit Techniques under its new Continuous Audit Programme. This will ensure that all payments are accurate and valid. Requirements for new entrants joining the Federal Civil Service have also been enhanced to prevent the introduction of fictitious employees in future," the finance ministry's statement added.