Fraudulent recruitment schemes in MDAs
THE widespread bribe-for-employment scandal rocking many federal ministries, agencies and departments is a huge advertisement of official corruption in Nigeria. It is symptomatic of the worsening acute unemployment –which stands at 23.9 per cent (and 50 per cent for youths)– and poor regulation of the civil service by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation and the Presidency. That vulnerable, helpless job seekers are being asked to buy scratch cards and pay hundreds of thousands of naira for non-existent jobs shows that Nigeria is a state drifting towards failure. A sensible government will urgently roll out stern measures to deal with the unfortunate situation that allows MDAs and their agents to exploit job seekers before this farce becomes an official policy through the backdoor.
Many MDAs, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigeria Immigration Service, military organisations and the Nigeria Customs Service, have been engaging in this illegal act of requesting job seekers to buy scratch cards before they can gain online access to fill their application forms. These organisations are, however, following in the footsteps of the Nigeria Police Force, which started the odious policy during the tenure of a former Inspector-General of Police, Mike Okiro.
Why would a government agency ask job seekers to buy application forms, or some unscrupulous officials demand as high as N500, 000 from a job seeker for him or her to be employed, according to the recent testimony of the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, at a debate on the floor of the Senate? Who has been keeping illegal fees that add up to millions of naira? Is it the Federal Government or officials who collude among themselves to heap further misery on desperate jobless Nigerians? This should be looked into at the highest level in Abuja to determine who has been fleecing these hapless Nigerians.
It is incumbent on the HoS to launch an investigation into the activities of the concerned MDAs by first querying the heads of these organisations, which are violating the law that governs them on revenue generation. Though some agencies of the government like the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria can generate revenue, no MDA in Nigeria is empowered by law to generate revenue through its recruitment drive. But this is what many MDAs are doing. If MDAs do not follow simple rules like the one that mandates them to advertise vacancies, it means the future of the country is up in flames as good governance can no longer rest on a solid civil service.
Measures must be put in place to track the activities of these MDAs, openly exposing the culprits behind the scams, and punishing them to serve as a deterrent to other organisations that might want to perpetrate such an illegality. From now, the process of recruitment to MDAs should be made transparent and, if possible, independent, credible employment consultancies should superintend the process. The Federal Civil Service Commission and the Federal Ministry of Labour should wake up to their responsibilities: they should restore sanity to the system by enforcing the rules for recruitment to the federal service. On no account should any MDA ask for money from Nigerian job seekers.
It is a gross dereliction of duty that the Federal Character Commission, which is constitutionally saddled with ensuring equity in the employment of Nigerians to MDAs, has been criminally silent over this scam. This is why a senator, Smart Adeyemi, said during a discussion of the issue at the plenary, “The Federal Character Commission cannot bark and bite. It does not have the power to stop this corruption. What we need is an agency that can bark and bite. We have to ensure that the law is able to punish those who break the law.”
The ongoing sham is akin to the one perpetrated by the immediate past administration of Ikedi Ohakim in Imo State, when he was state governor between 2007 and 2011. In 2010, the former governor asked applicants of Imo origin to apply for 10,000 jobs he was about to create, but with a caveat: each applicant would buy a scratch card of N2, 000 from some designated banks before being allowed to fill the form. At the end of the day, no jobs were forthcoming from the charade. The applicants later filed court suits, seeking redress for what they alleged was a fraudulent scheme.
The foregoing anecdote gives a strong message to job seekers: no matter how desperate they may be, they should stand their ground and refuse to be hoodwinked by scammers, who are out to take advantage of their vulnerability. Also, they should always remember that anybody who demands bribe for employment is a fake. Such a person would not deliver, or he would keep on asking for more money to stave off the reality that he has not got anything to offer.
Also, it is time for the government to walk its talk on employment generation. The government should forget the idea that it is its duty to create jobs; No. The primary duty of government is not to create jobs, but to create an enabling environment for the private sector to flourish. A proper liberalisation and commercialisation of the key areas of the national economy, especially the power sector, the railways (being hamstrung by the outdated 1955 Railway Act), and the mining sector, will spur private initiatives and significantly reduce the nation’s unbearable unemployment burden.