12 January 2013

Nigeria: Recruitment Racket Rocks Civil Defence

Allegation of recruitment racketeering is rocking the National Security and Civil Defence Corps. While some applicants say employment into the corps is for sale, the NSCDC says the claim is not true. Weekly Trust reports.

The National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), one of the paramilitary organizations under the Interior Ministry, is coming under recruitment scandal as applicants are alleging that employment letters into the organisation are reserved for the highest bidders.

But the NSCDC says the allegation of recruitment racketeering leveled against it is "an attempt by mischief makers and enemies of progress to rubbish the Corps." It, however, confirmed that it has investigated and arrested over 560 suspects, adding that 135 suspects were prosecuted in different parts of the country with regards to job racketeering, out of which 20 was connected to internet scam.

Weekly Trust heard from some of those who applied for various positions in the service that there is a syndicate, comprising serving officers and men of the agency, that demand money ranging from N250, 000 to N350, 000 in return for appointment letters, without regard for merit and competence.

One of the applicants, Kingsley Ifeanyi told Weekly Trust that he was asked to pay N300,000 and obtain an appointment letter into the NSCDC, adding that "a friend who paid N180,000 and got his own in 2010 and is still working there is the one who took me to a very senior officer with the NSCDC that is now helping me to get my own. I have paid N220,000 already. I am working hard to get the balance," he said.

But Osaro Osagie, an Abuja-based auto mechanic, said his younger brother who holds his first degree was asked to pay N350,000 to obtain his appointment letter into the service, adding that "when they asked him to pay, we had only N70,000 with us and that was in September, 2012. They collected the N70,000 and asked him to sign an agreement that he would pay the balance of N280,000 from his salary.

"After signing the agreement, they gave him an appointment letter in his name. He has since been working there and has been upsetting the debt. He has paid N150, 000 so far. He paid N50, 000 each month; October, November and December. By March ending, he will finish paying and be free. He has earlier made three attempts to be recruited but unsuccessful before someone linked him up with those officers who helped him," Osagie said.

A serving female Immigration officer from Kaduna State who spoke on condition of anonymity said she has to serve the wife of a member of the House of Representatives for two years before the woman pleaded with her husband to assist her tp get the job. "When I first went for the recruitment, two days I could not enter the gate. I was hungry and tired. I had no money and nobody to help me. Applicants were so many.

"To be able to get the job, I was advised to look for a Senator or member of the House of Representatives to introduce me. I didn't know anyone. Somebody directed me too the house of a member of the House of Representatives. The househelps gave me a place to stay with them at the Boys Quarters for two days before I saw the man's wife. Two years later, an appointment letter was brought to me at home," she said.

But Janet Moses says she got information about an ongoing recruitment into the Civil Defence through her BlackBerry handset. She said she was advised to download an application form the internet, complete it and submit to the same source with N6,000 MTN recharge card.

"I complied fully by filling the form, scanning and attaching my credentials and passport photograph and submitted to the website, but when I got a message that I should pay N250,000 to an account and submit a copy of the pay-in slip and collect my appointment letter, my uncle who supposed to pay for me said it is a fraud, I should leave them. But three Civil Defence officers to whom I narrated my story later blamed me for not complying. They said if I had paid the money and submitted the teller as directed, I would have been in the service now," she said.

There were also allegations that members of the National Assembly, who have oversight powers over the corps and its parent ministry, have been compromised.

But the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs Rep. Victor Ogene (APGA, Anambra) denied the allegations that lawmakers are given slots, saying recruitment is the responsibility of various government agencies to recruit.

Also, Chairman, House Committee on Federal Character Rep. Ahmed Idris (ACN, Plateau) said any government agency which engages in illegal and skewed recruitment will be probed and the perpetrators brought to book.

"Section 4 of the 1999 constitution is very clear about Federal character in every government organisation and we won't allow anybody who violates it to go scot-free.

Rep. Idris also disclosed that the committee will reverse any illegal recruitment saying, "certainly we will not only reverse it but we will go further and apply for their prosecution for the illegality."

At a point, candidates who say they are qualified to join the services but do not have money to pay for appointment letters or a godfather to secure appointment for them, stormed the corps headquarters in Abuja to protest what they termed lack of transparency with regards to recruitment into the service.

Also in a statement issued yesterday, Civil Defence Public Relations Officer CSC Emmanuel O. Okeh said "worried by the allegation of job racketeering, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps has investigated and arrested over 560 suspects.

"In spite of repeated warnings and sufficient advice to desperate job seekers to desist from patronizing job scammers, people still fall victims of circumstances in this regard owing to desperation and anxiety of leaving the labour market.

"The Corps employment process has never involved sale of scratch cards, application forms and Internet, but these days scammers use different means of defrauding applicants of their hard earned money.

"Recently, 135 suspects were prosecuted in different parts of the country with regards to job racketeering, out of which 20 was connected to internet scam.

"Contrary to the allegation that appointment letters into the Corps are meant for the highest bidders, the Corps wishes to state emphatically that a lot of those who obtain appointment letters through fraudulent means have been shown the way out as the letters from their agents were conspicuously identified to be fake.

"In order that the Corps will sanitise the system by kicking against any act of corruption that could dent the credibility and integrity of the service, the Corps Chief Executive has put in place machinery to checkmate any form of fraudulent practice by its personnel.

"According to the Commandant General, the Corps will not spear anyone found guilty of extorting money from desperate job seekers for the purpose of employment into the service.

"Also, in collaboration with the ICPC, the Corps has arrested some persons in Lagos, Benue, FCT, Nasarawa, Edo among others who opened fake internet portals for the purpose of defrauding innocent applicants. The people arrested and prosecuted turned out to be non-personnel of the Corps contrary to the impression given to the victims about the nefarious act.

"It is disturbing therefore, to hear allegation of employment racketeering in Civil Defence. This is totally untrue and capable of soiling the good image the organization has built over time.

"The Corps wishes to state categorically, that her recruitment procedure follow due process by advertising, conducting interview and screening of personnel in line with the Federal Character principle.

"It is on record that some persons were at different locations arrested, paraded and made to face the wrath of the law for impersonating and defrauding applicants, therefore, anyone found to be involved even if such a person is said to be a staff, drastic measure will be taken because the Corps cannot harbor criminals as this will contradict the principle of integrity and credibility that it is known for.

"The Corps in ensuring transparency, equity, fairness and justice in her exercises always involved other security agencies such as the EFCC, ICPC, Police, Armed Forces, NGOs among others to monitor their recruitment process. Similarly, the Corps is working hand-in-hand with ICPC and EFCC to track down impersonators, internet scammers and other fraudsters. Therefore, amongst those arrested and prosecuted so far, none is found to be the Corps personnel.

"Employment into Civil Defence is not on cash and carry basis, nor by man-know-man but it is open to all applicants who have the basic prerequisite for recruitment into the service as patriotic Nigerians, therefore those patronizing self-appointed agents should desist from such.

"The allegation of recruitment racketeering in the Corp is an attempt by mischief makers and enemies of progress to rubbish the Corps. It is a well-known fact that self-appointed employment agents are all over the place to defraud Nigerians in the name of the Corps as a result of the high employment rate in the country. Evident abounds about the efforts of the Corps in the past, warning Nigerians in the various media not to fall prey to scammers, still, accusation and counter-accusations are rife without recourse to the attempt by the organization to dissuade Nigerians from patronizing these agents, this is not fair on the image of the Service.

"However, the member of the public should join hands with the Corps in fighting this menace by reporting anyone found to be involved in employment racketeering," the statement said.

Also speaking, Interior Ministry spokesman, Mr. Taye Akinyemi said "there is no problem with other services, they are doing it according to the civil service procedures and the ministry has never received any complaint whatsoever. He however said there is a fake website i.e. www.interior.gov.ng/irecruit claiming to that recruitment is going on in the service. "But it is fake; it did not originate from the ministry. It is the page that is misguiding people. But anytime the ministry wants to recruit, it will be advertised."

This past Wednesday at the Civil Defence Officers Summit in Sauka, Abuja, Minister of Interior Comrade Abba Moro spoke of plans to seek for the permission of the president to get additional hands into the Corps. Will this indication give hope to the thousands seeking to join the Corps or will fraudsters cash in on it? Only time will tell.

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