IN the face of the Federal Character Commission, FCC, stipulation that all fresh recruitments into the Public Service nationwide comply with the Commission's guidelines and formulae on equitable distribution of posts, Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government, MDAs, seem to have done nothing in this regard. This development has remained appalling in a country, where the National Bureau of Statistics says about 67 million youths are unemployed.
DATELINE was November 2012 and the setting was Lagos. The following conversation ensued between this reporter and a friend, Mr. Mathias Anefiok ( not real names), an officer of the Nigeria Prisons Service, NPS. It was a telephone conversation.
"Charles'o are you still interested on the Civil Defence job? if you are ready I have the connections. Bring two hundred and fifty thousand for one star," Anefoik stated.
This reporter responded thus:"Are you sure the arrangement is genuine because that amount is scary and I can't even imagine myself paying such an amount for a job, besides you know that the person, who I want to assist does not have a Kobo."
That brought the conversation to an abrupt end because according to the NPS officer, this reporter was not serious. Emerging facts reveal that the practice of extorting money from prospective employees of MDAs of the federal government, pre-dated the conversation, this reporter dismissed its authenticity, despite his encounter with Anefiok.
But following the recent sack of the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Mrs. Rose Uzoma over allegations of bribery and corruption in the employment processes in the NIS and the subsequent revelations that the practice is becoming a norm in MDAs, this reporter swung into action.
A reporter's encounter
Hence, he called the NPS officer on Saturday, January 19, 2013, informing him that he was still interested in getting the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps,NSCDC job for his cousin.
"I will call my contacts tomorrow and inform him, but remember that the amount is two hundred and fifty thousand for one star. Let's talk tomorrow so that I will give you feedback or you stop at my place when you close from work tomorrow?," Anefiok said.
However, when this reporter called at 3: 44 pm on Sunday, January 20, 2013, this was the NPS officer response: "My brother, I have called the guy and he said he would call his sister to know how we can reach them."
Asked who the contact's sister was, Anefiok said, "the contact is our(NPS) officer but his sister is an NCDC officer based in Headquarters in Abuja. She is the one who facilitates it, but the brother brings people to her."
Probed further on who the NSCDC officer involved in these illegalities in Abuja was, Anefiok, said: "I don't know her rank but I was assured that with that amount, she can secure the appointment for anyone. But for now I can't say if it is genuine, but we will keep the money until we are sure that the process is real, then we will release the money to them."
While this gave this writer an insight into the bribe-for-job saga in Nigeria, a married couple,Mr and Mrs Augustine Chukwu, was also saved by this reporter from falling prey to another job syndicate.
Chukwu, a Lagos based importer, who resides in Satellite Town, had called his wife in December last year, informing her about a federal government agency. He told his wife, a Political Science graduate from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka that four hundred thousand naira was needed to secure her employment.
The wife, however sought the views of this writer on the authenticity of the alleged vacancy. He dissuaded her from paying any money to the so-called middlemen.
While the above instances of highlited the activities of syndicates, that extort money from unemployed Nigerians, under the guise of securing jobs for them in MADs, Nigerians are presently angry over this frightening level of corruption.
The Customs & NSCDC syndicate: In the 2012 recruitment exercise into the Nigeria Customs Service,NCS,for instance, the existence of a job syndicate in the Service was uncoverd. No fewer than 44 candidates got their appointment letters through bribing some officers.
But the syndicate met their waterloo after collecting the sum of N7.5 million from some applicants. Following the detection of the fake employees, the syndicate were consequently arrested, while their collaborators in the NCS were dismissed.
A statement by the Public Relations Department of the NCS to that effect, dissociated itself from the scandal.
"An internal audit set up by the Comptroller-General of Customs to re-screen the recently recruited cadets and men on training have discovered 44 candidates who got their appointment letters through bribery by conniving with some corrupt officers of the Service,' the statement noted.
It stated further:'"A syndicate that specialises in extorting various sums of money has been busted. Already, five of such serving officers have been arrested. They include Muktar Ismail Mustapha of Kano/Jigawa Area Command, Uche Umesiete and Bala N. Y of the systems audit department.
Others are Dogo Yakubu Soja and Suleiman T. K both in the Establishment department."
On its heels was the the 2012 recruitment exercise, which was reportedly carried out without any form of advertisement, as stipulated by the Prisons, Immigration Civil Defence Management Board.
Investigations also showed that the recruitment which involved school certificate holders, incurred the wrath of many officials of the NSCDC, who were rattled by the style of recruitment.
It was gathered that during the recruitment which started in June last year, special preference was given to those who tendered letters from members of the National Assembly, ministers, special advisers and other government officials.
NSCDC admits taking bribe:
Defending the exercise following the public outrage that trailed it, the NSCDC Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Okey, said it was meant to replace retired and dead personnel, as well as those who had left the corps.
He said the NSCDC had the mandate to recruit junior officers between level 1 and 7 without recourse to the Prisons, Immigration Civil Defence Management Board, which is in charge of recruitment in all paramilitary agencies in the country. "We are not recruiting new personnel; what we are doing is replacing retired and dead officers with our volunteers. It is an internal exercise and we have the mandate to do so,"Okey added.
Further checks also revealed that the NSCDC through proxies, collected money from prospective employees before they were employed. This however, had existed as allegations until a member of the Corps recently admitted taking bribes before offering employment to applicants.
The subtle admittance followed a question thrown to the agencies by Senator Uche Chukwumerije during a session involving the Senate committee, Federal Character Commission (FCC) as well as MDAs.
Bribe before recruitment
Chukwumerije had asked the representatives of the agencies represented at the session to boldly raise up their hands if they knew they weren't taking bribe before recruiting new employees into their organisations. To the shock of all in the gathering, only the representative of NSCDC raised his hands, while others who had earlier boasted of observing merit in their recruitment processes could not summon courage to do same.
An encounter by VanguardFeatures,VF, with some unemployed youths, especially graduates revealed that bribe-for-job was not restricted to, NCS,NIS and NSCDC, as other paramilitary agencies were also involved.
"Any time these people are recruiting, people will come to you claiming they have links at the headquarters that would guarantee employment, if one pays money. Though, I tried the last prison recruitment I did not hear of such about Prison Service. What I knew about prison recruitment is that if you are highly connected, you would get the job. But most of these paramilitary agencies, collect money through proxies," an unemployed graduate, who pleaded anonymity, noted.
N22 million bribe for NIS 2008 recruitment: Aside the recent scandals, it will be recalled thata syndicate in the Ministry of Interior, had during the 2008 recruitment into the NIS, collected over N22 million bribe from 140 applicants. This was disclosed by the Spokesperson of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission,ICPC, Mr. Sina Babasola.
He said: '"A special syndicate which specialises in demanding and collecting money from prospective applicants seeking employment into the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) and Nigeria Immigrations Service (NIS) has been smashed by operatives of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC)."
While many expected that concerned authorities would have nipped the development in the bud , little or nothing was done, hence it resulted to the hydra-headed crisis it had become today.
Besides the MDAs, the activities of employment agencies across the country, have also constituted a challenge to job seekers, who are usually asked to pay certain amounts of money before being linked with a firm.
Fake agencies: These agencies, which in most cases are fake, are scattered all over country, while their target is extort money from job seekers. It was learnt that while the big agencies register with the Corporate Affairs Commission CAC, the smaller ones do not bother. They only give their agency names and begin operations.
Their mode of operations is usually through making job seekers pay various sums of money for registration, passport, consultancy, processing fees among others. At the end of the exercise, the job hunters neither get a job or a refund of their money.
VF also gathered that most agencies do not consult for any client,rather they publish vacancies every week from newspapers and ask those seeking for job to go there acting as though they were contracted for the task
Tired of complaints from applicants and media reports on the matter, the Senate recently mandated its Committees on Federal Character and Employment, Labour and Productivity to begin investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption in the employment processes in the NIS as well as MDAs with a view to bringing culprits to book. The committee has eight weeks to conclude its assignment.
Also speaking on the matter, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, confirmed the existence of the bribe-for-job scandal, as he disclosed that people had approached him demanding as much as N500,000 as payment for employment of his constituents.
Ndoma-Egba said the malaise was symptomatic of abject poverty and a time bomb waiting to explode. Corroborating Ndoma-Egba's stance, the Founder and International Coordinator of Journalists Initiative for Youth Employment, Mr. Obinna Chukwuezie told VF that government should be blamed for the situation, adding that had employment opportunities been created, people would not fall prey to such syndicates.
"Our concern is, will the Senate's investigation proffer solution to the menace? Nigeria has always been a country of countless committees, with reports and no implementation strategy. We think the government should criminalise breach of constitutional provisions in the recruitment process," he stated.
Can you see that the government is the cause of youth unemployment? There is a strong nexus between corruption and job denial? What do we do youths?", 'he asked. In addition, Chukwuezie said, "There should be employment standard regulation for government and recruitment agencies. A situation where a particular agency is responsible for job advertisement, shortlistment interview and selection will always entrench corruption."
Explaining further, he added: "There should be protection for whistle blowers like Journalists Initiative for Youth Employment. We have dedicated a phone line: 07031925898 for the public to report bribe for job experiences."
Continuing, he said, "We have also devoted a desk for compliants relating to abuse of recruitment process in our office, we also provide victims with legal support to victims."
Over 67 million unemployed
A retired Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tamaji, is also angry about the situation
He told VF : "The government must take this issue serious and punish those responsible for this," adding that, "employment should be on merit. I was enlisted into the Police Force on merit, when someone pays money to get employed, the person would steal when he gets the job, in order to recoup.This matter should not end with Senate investigations. It is appalling in a country where over 50 percent of its population are unemployed.'
Tamaji's anger was also strengthened by the Director-General, National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Mallam Abubakar Mohammed, who warned that the trend was dangerous.
Mohammed, represented by the NDE Director of Small Scale Enterprises, Mr. Kunle Obayan, said this at the graduation and resettlement of beneficiaries of Solar Energy Training Scheme, in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital in September last year.