Some staff of the National Examination Council (NECO) have raised concern over a recent nationwide circular compelling all staff to sponsor themselves to Minna, Niger State, for their promotion examinations.
The circular sighted by Daily Trust dated January 9, asked the staff to travel to Minna and bear the cost of transportation, accommodation and other expenses that may occur during their stay.
“I am directed to inform all staff that the Registrar/Chief Executive has approved that the 2024 Staff Promotion Examination holds; and staff would be expected to bear the cost of their transportation and accommodation,” the circular signed by Mrs Folake B. Eweje, Director of Human Resource Management, reads in part.
It was learnt that the circular sparked widespread dissatisfaction among the staff, especially those working in state offices outside the examination body’s headquarters in Minna.
Though many have expressed unease to speak their minds over the issue for fear of being victimised considering the fact that they will be going for the promotion examination to Minna, some who spoke under condition of anonymity complained that such a requirement put an unfair financial burden on them considering the current economic hardship being experienced in the country.
Also, others raised concern on the current insecurity in the country which has left many Nigerians, especially those travelling interstate, at the mercy of kidnappers or even being killed.
An employee in one of the Northern states said, “As civil servants, we already face various financial challenges and imposing another expense for our own promotion exams only adds to our financial burden. It feels like we are being asked to pay for the opportunity to advance in our careers.”
Another staff argued that the circular contradicted the established norms of the civil service, where promotions were traditionally based on merit and performance rather than financial capacity.
He said, “Because if one cannot afford to sponsor himself or herself to travel to Minna for the promotion exams, it means we are moving towards a system where financial means could potentially influence career advancement, thus undermining the fundamental principles upon which the public service is built.”
While acknowledging the financial challenges faced by government agencies, the senior cadre staff expressed concern that the new directive might create barriers to career advancement for those who could not afford to sponsor themselves to Minna for the exercise.
Also, some staff of NECO in another North Central state, which is currently being ravaged by bandits, complained over the directive for them to assemble at the council’s headquarters for their promotional examination.
Our correspondent who visited their office reports that most of them declined to comment in print but they were heard discussing the matter in groups.
Reacting to the development, the Registrar of NECO, Professor Dantani Ibrahim Wushishi, said bringing staff to write the promotion examination at the council’s headquarters was not a new development.
Professor Wushishi said there was no provision by law to shoulder the financial costs of staff coming to write their promotion examination and that writing such examinations at the council headquarters was not a new development.
He said even with security challenges, staff were being sent to all the 774 LGAs across to conduct national examinations and they never complained about insecurity.
He further said, “This is not the first time staff are coming down to headquarters in Minna to write their promotion examination. They are collecting salaries. It is not duty-bound on the council to bear the transportation cost for staff to come and write promotion examinations.
“The public service regulation does not say we should conduct promotion examinations in respected states. So, it is a usual practice. Recently we recruited over 200 new staff across the country and they all came down to headquarters for documentation and they didn’t complain.
“And when you talk of insecurity, we sent over 3,000 staff to the 774 LGAs across the country, including areas affected by security challenges, to conduct our national examinations and they never complained of insecurity for once. For our national examinations, we pay all our staff their DTAs to make them comfortable to do their jobs in their respective places of engagement.
“But for promotion examinations, it is not the responsibility of the council to bear the cost of staff coming to write promotion examinations. And as well insecurity is not an excuse because it has been the practice. But I think some people are just out for mischief making.”