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Racketeering, allocation of employment slots

The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Bolaji Owasanoye, on Monday 21, 2019 revealed that soon after the Commission discovered N9.2bn as over-bloated…

The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Bolaji Owasanoye, on Monday 21, 2019 revealed that soon after the Commission discovered N9.2bn as over-bloated personnel costs of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the affected MDAs went on secret recruitments to cover-up the alleged scam. Owasanoye said “They hurriedly started employing people. Appointments given yesterday were backdated one year, and ad-hoc staff members were upgraded”. Speaking before the joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Anti-corruption and Financial Crimes at the 2020 budget defence, the ICPC boss said the ICPC had recovered the money from the various MDAs.

Owasanoye said the money would have been “padded” as personnel costs if the commission had not discovered it. “We got them to sign off the money. The money is now available for government to spend,” he revealed. He said he was embarrassed to see academic institutions involved in the sharp practice, calling for their inclusion in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) system before the October 31, 2019 deadline. The anti-graft boss also advised that recruitment templates and procedures in all government agencies should henceforth be driven by technology such that applications are completed online in order to avert recruitment scandals. Of course, offline processing of applications are open to manipulations and official abuse of the process. Co-chairman of the joint National Assembly committee, Suleiman Abdu Kwari, also confirmed that secret recruitment was ongoing in some MDAs.

On its part, the Federal Character Commission (FCC) said it is aware of recruitment scandal in MDAS. Secretary to the FCC, Mohammed Tukur, said at the 2020 budget defence session of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs that the Commission had launched an investigation into the alleged secret recruitment by some agencies. Asked by the Committee’s Chairman Senator Danjuma La’ah about whether the Commission was aware of the recruitment scandal, Tukur answered in the affirmative. He assured that the Commission would avail the Committee with necessary information about its findings. Senator La’ah later assured that the affected agencies would also be invited for questioning as soon as investigations were concluded.

Responding to questions from members of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Service Matters during budget defence on Monday October 28, 2019, the Acting Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HOCSF) Mrs Yemi Esan, admitted that there is employment racketeering in almost all the federal MDAs. She said many people, including non-civil servants, are engaged in the nefarious activity, adding that fake employment letters had prompted her office to insist on IPPIS for salary payment.

Lamenting over how the subject matter of this discourse also thrives in the National Assembly, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has in asked the EFCC and ICPC to “jointly carry out a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into allegations that principal officers and members of the Nigerian Senate are using their official positions to get job slots from government agencies”. There are insinuations that the leadership of the Senate allegedly received 100 employment slots from Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to share among themselves, and that the Senate President Ahmad Lawan allegedly secured 26 job slots for himself alone. SERAP also urged the anti-corruption agencies to probe allegations that some MDAs are “hawking” employment slots, with a single slot being allegedly sold for as much as N1.5million.

Speaking to journalists, Chairman of the Senate committee on Federal Character Principle, Danjuma La’ah, recently said “I am not aware that any agency gave out employment slots to the Senate. The leadership has not told us that they received any slot. So, whom did they give?” He thus promised to probe deeply into the agencies’ claims and carry out an extensive investigation in order to expose all those that are tarnishing the image of the federal government. La’ah further declared that said they are aware that some of the agencies are commercialising employment, selling a single slot for as much as N1.5m; there are children who graduated from tertiary institutions but remained without a job for many years.

The revelations, allegations, confessions, and claims in the preceding paragraphs allude to modern though negative dimensions in the recruitment process of MDAs. These dimensions demonstrate how corruption, regional affiliation, political influence and patronage determine appointment into public service. Merit, manpower needs and due process have all lost relevance in the recruitment process of most MDAS. Applicants including the unemployable or unskilled are offered jobs without subjecting them to any form of oral or written interview. As a result, people without essential knowledge or capacity are recruited to perform the jobs for which they lack requisite abilities. This class of people have now virtually infiltrated the civil service in sizable number. I hope someone can dispel my fears about the future of Nigeria’s public service at the federal, state and local government levels. Nowadays, people are issued with appointment letters not on the basis of what they claim as academic credentials (many of which are sometimes false) but on the strength of whom they know or how much they can pay for the job. How then, in this circumstance, could the best brains and hands be found in a sector where every stage in the recruitment process is abysmally abused and bastardized?

Public insinuations suggest that the recent uproar in the Senate over employment slots became public knowledge only because some distinguished members were not captured in the sharing of the slots; otherwise, no one would have heard of it. This therefore makes it imperative for the Chairman of Senate Committee on Federal Character to begin the probe he vowed to carry out on alleged employment slots, secret recruitments and related matters from the red chambers of the National Assembly. If it is a requirement of the law that recruitment process into the public service would be deemed void without the official participation of the FCC, how come about secret recruitments, allocation and trading of slots without this same Commission raising any alarms? It simply suggests the commission’s complicity in these scandalous acts, which constitute cruelty against those who lack any relationships with political office holders or have no financially capacity to purchase employment slots.

In order to guarantee the constitutional right of all Nigerians to job opportunities without discriminating against their status, political and ethno-religious affiliations, we urge the EFCC and the ICPC to investigate all the revelations, allegations and confessions of the Acting (HOCSF), and thereafter, prosecute all persons suspected to be involved in secret recruitments, racketeering, sale and allocation of employment slots. Recruitment by all MDAs in the country should henceforth be online to minimize if not forestall brazen abuse of the process. May Allah (SWT) guide our leaders at all levels of governance to protect, preserve and advance the cause of ordinary Nigerians whose hopes are not only being dashed every moment of the day but whose rights to equal opportunities are also being usurped daily by organised corruption, amin.