Twenty-six days after the upper legislative chamber proceeded on Christmas and end of the year recess, senators reconvened last Wednesday to confront a heap of legislative activities.
Fresh, warm and agile after almost 30 days of rest, the senators returned in their good number with most of them including Senate President David Mark dressed in native attires with caps to match. The attendance was impressive, implying that the lawmakers had looked up to that day. Beginning from 10 am when sitting ought to commence, the senators began to stroll into the chamber one after the other.
Expectedly, it was time to exchange pleasantries and throw banters at one another albeit with a sense of humour being a moment of reunion.
A moment after Mark stepped into the chamber, said the prayers and took his seat, the senators were still busy moving up and down in the Red Chamber chatting and jeering. At about 11 am, Deputy Chief Whip Hosea Agboola began to call the senators to order, asking them to return to their seats.
Commiserating with Ekweremadu
In a moment, the plenary took off with Mark mentioning events during the recess. While he commiserated with his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, on the demise of his elder brother, he listed a number of senators who marked their birthdays during the recess and wished them more prosperous years ahead.
Thereafter, he read three letters from the President and forthwith, the day's business took off. The first subject matter on the Order Paper was mind boggling. Senator Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi Central) set the ball in motion when he moved the first motion of the year, drawing his colleagues' attention to a national menace - the rots pervading the rank and file of recruitment processes in the land. With chronicles of untidy events and shady deals regarding recruitments in military, police, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), Bagudu's motion provoked anger in the chamber with countless senators itching to narrate his/her unkind stories.
With dismay, Bagudu remarked: "Senate notes with serious concern the media stories on irregularities in employment at the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS), Nigerian Customs, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and other ministries, departments and agencies in Nigeria."
He recalled how embattled Comptroller General of NIS, Chinyere Uzoma, had once disclosed how over 4,000 employment slots approved by the Federal Government were sold to job applicants while others were alloted to some personalities in breach of due process.
Media Reports on Employment Scams
He recalled further, certain media reports that employment letters were offered for sale at the rate of N400,000 and N500,000 respectively through a syndicate allegedly operating in Gwagwalada and Karu in Abuja in violation of federal character principle. With several senators supporting the motion, the motion underscored decadence in Nigeria and brought to the fore one of the root causes of endemic corruption in the land. It showed how employment in Nigeria now goes to the highest bidder while qualified applicants are left in the cold.
For instance, Senator Awaisu Kuta (Niger West), revealed how letters of appointments are now issued ahead of interviews with regrets that FCC has been conniving with the institutions to promote irregularities in recruitment processes.
The senators who advocated immediate dismissal of culprits of the scam, also recommended their prosecution as Senator Ita Enang (Akwa Ibom) reported how heads of agencies always carry out ethnic cleansing by employing their people of immediate ethnic groups on matters of employment to the detriment of those who are eminently qualified.
In the same vein, Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba confirmed the existence of bribe-for-job scandal when he disclosed that people had approached him demanding as high as N500,000 as payment for employment of his constituents.
He said the situation implied abject poverty for children of the poor and a time bomb waiting to explode.
He described the trend as a manifestation of systemic failure, evidence of loss of values and breach of constitution which he said had turned Nigeria into a transactional country.
In her comment, Senator Christy Anyanwu who advised President Jonathan to deliberately look into what happens in MDAs, said the experience imposes mediocrity on the system, while Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West), canvassed the need to set up an agency with the sole responsibility of monitoring employment processes.
But worthy of note was the submission of Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South), whom while buttressing the allegation of bribe-for-job, disclosed how one of his constituents was asked to pay N200,000 bribe to secure a job in an agency. Journalists were shocked to the marrows when he said he gave the money to the applicant upon approaching him for help, in view of the fact that in the face of the law, both the bribe giver and taker are culpable.
To show that perpetrators of the scam act with impunity, Ndume said he was shocked when the applicant later returned his money, saying the cost had been raised to N400,000.
In the end, the House tasked its committees on federal character and employment, labour and productivity to investigate the trend and report back to it in eight weeks. But will the investigation proffer solution to the menace? It is left to be seen.