Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Senate Should Not Probe Nigeria's Employment Irregularities

Last week, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-governmental Affairs, Senator Dahiru Kuta publicly asserted that civil service jobs in Nigeria now go to those who can bribe their way through. Senator Kuta named 3 federal bodies involved in the reprehensible act. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps according to the Senator, has syndicates that extort and dupe innocent applicants. He added that while some people in the Federal Roads Safety Commission, were dismissed for conniving with applicants, the Nigeria Customs Service recruited some people through the back door.

Another Senator, this time the witty Uche Chukwumerije using the Open Ballot strategy proved with ease that the allegations were true. All he did was to ask officials of the agencies at a public forum to raise their hands if they were not taking bribes before recruiting new employees into their organizations. Only an official of one of the agencies raised his hand meaning that others admitted guilt. If added to the story that the Nigeria Immigration Service recently organized recruitment in a hide-out, then employment exercises in Nigeria aptly fall into what can be called a national culture of corruption.

Whereas the attempted secret recruitment at the Immigration Service is condemnable, supervisors of that service who exposed it may have had their own agenda. Ideally, the latter having given approval for recruitment had no other role to play until the management presents a list of successful candidates for approval. Instead, the exercise was detected and scuttled before it matured because one group was trying to outplay the other. It is a phenomenon which happens everywhere. First, some ethnic minded executives often patronize their primordial clime. Second, although a Chief Executive is supposed to be in charge of the day to day running of an organization, he is, for material gains, usually subjected to routine supervision in Nigeria by the parent ministry. Third, there are politicians who perceive themselves as being in the most powerful arm of government and as such always seek to control everything in any organization- staff matters inclusive. Fourth, for the same reason of greed, there are part time board members who are at work for longer than the combined hours of even shift workers. Fifth, some people in regulatory bodies will not release approvals for recruitment to organizations until their own nominees whether qualified or not are included.

The other day, the Head of Federal Civil Service Commission, Joan Ayo, described the existence of the Federal character Commission in the civil service as unnecessary. Not too long ago, in order that one does not block the juicy part of the other's schedule, the Civil Service Commission was at war with the then Head of the Civil Service of the federation over the introduction of promotion examinations for civil servants. Interestingly, when everyone is settled, any irregularity, be it on recruitment, posting, promotion or whatever does not matter. What is important is each person's material gain.

So, everyone is in the game-the executives of ministries, departments and agencies use the authority of their offices; the business class and desperate applicants use money from whatever source, while politicians top it up with the use of influence. If so, is it not hypocritical for any group to position itself to probe the subject? We can only answer in the affirmative because to tolerate that is the same thing as allowing a thief to help search for a lost object. It is even more futile to allow the custodians of stolen goods to probe the theft. In earnest, it is most unfair for the nation to continue to use tax payers' money to create a new scandal in the guise of probing another. Everyone knows that allegations of employment slots reserved for political leaders are not fairy tales; they are real. Indeed, there is the story of one organization which in the recent past spent huge sums on advertisement for the recruitment of staff, arranged for thousands of applicants to write the examination, got its officials to painstakingly mark the scripts only to be coerced to recruit those who did not write the examination at all, as is done in party primaries where victorious aspirants are occasionally dumped.

It is wise to ask the Senate not to probe the subject as is being contemplated because the history of probes by the legislature in Nigeria has not been salutary. It is always either a case of diversionary tactics or one where a probe panel goes to equity with contaminated hands. Take the scandal at the Security and Exchange Commission for instance. What we hear daily is that the Director General has been found by the legislature to be unfit to hold the office and that the organization would get a zero allocation as its budget until the President sacks its Chief Executive.

Nothing is heard any more of the legislator who was heading a panel to probe the same organization in which he had allegedly perpetuated a myriad of improprieties! When will that aspect be probed and who should handle it? Certainly, it cannot be the legislature which has not been able to observe the basic principles of natural justice which bars a person from being a judge in his own cause. Similarly, probing employment racketeering cannot be left to those who use their political influence to impose candidates on organizations while they bamboozle the rest of us by condemning those who use money to get their people recruited.

Instead, it is time for our anti-corruption agencies to investigate all actors. Here, Senator Chukwumerije can lend a helping hand by going to a joint session of the National Assembly with his Open Ballot apparatus to ask his colleagues to raise up their hands if they have not been neck deep in employment irregularities in organizations. He should then hand over the result, whether rigged or not, to the anti-corruption agencies. Oh yes, now that corruption in employment exercises in Nigeria has dramatically assumed the form of the chorus of a melodious song in which everyone is a singer, it is time for our anti-corruption bodies to bark and bite across the board.

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