The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has, since the final quarter of year 2012, commenced a new task of chasing after job scammers who are using the organisation to extort ordinary Nigerians.
Since September last year, the NSCDC has seen itself battling with allegations of job racketeering. For the Corps, dealing with the menace is as exhausting as pursuing vandals.
The public has alleged that getting employment with the para-military outfit is on a "cash and carry" basis, and they have every reason to believe so.
Allegations of employment racketeering are not limited to the NSCDC, but the organisation stands out because of the number of applicants it takes in every year.
Day after day, accusations emerge from the general public on how top ranking officers demand money from applicants to help gain employment into the Corps.
A victim, who simply gave his name as Hassan said he was deceived by someone introduced to him, to part with his money for employment in the Corps.
"I was told to pay N200,000 to get a job with civil defence, but up till now, I have not received my employment letter."
When asked why he parted with such money without inquring if the Corps was actually recruiting, Hassan said the friend who introduced him to the racketeer told him, he (scammer) had found jobs for people close to him earlier.
However, from the conversation with our reporter, it was obvious that Hassan never bothered to find out if the scammer was a staff of the Corps. He sheepishly parted with his money as a result of desperation.
"You know that even when they (NSCDC) said they are not recruiting, they normally do underground recruitment. That's why I took the risk," he pointed out.
Another victim, Bojo Bobori from Cross River State, who read education administration and planning in the University told Daily Trust that he paid N300,000 for placement into the Corps.
Unfortunately, it was his friend who set him up to be duped. His friend, (name withheld) from Edo State who claimed to be a senior aid to the Commandant General of the Corps, Dr. Ade Abolurin led a team of four that extorted N300,000 from him (Bobori).
"What pained me most was that he is my friend. Anytime he comes to Port Harcout, he passes the night at my house. When he relocated to Abuja, I was the one that connected him with a friend who gave him accommodation. That was why I trusted him when he told me he could get a job for me with the organisation."
He said a collaborator, who claimed to be the Secretary to the Commandant General was his contact, and each time he calls, she assured him he was going to get the job.
"Each time I call her, she will tell me to calm down that the CG is not around to sign the letter, which she said has already been typed. She always speaks so calmly and confidently, so I had no reason to doubt her."
Bobori called on the government to "look into our plight and give us jobs."
As stipulated in the penal code, both the giver of bribe and the taker have questions to answer, and when asked by Daily Trust if he knew his action was criminal, he noted that: "I didn't know that my action was wrong. I didn't deem it wise to give such money. But you see, sometimes when you are desperate and you are hungry, you want to get something to sustain you."
"I reported it when I discovered there was a fraud. I was going to Gudu and I saw them training somewhere and after their training, I called one of them and asked when he received his employment letter and he said it was December. Right there, I know my friend had played a fast one on me." So, I started looking for a way to get the issue reported.
560 suspects apprehended
The NSCDC has so far arrested at least, 560 suspected employment scammers between late last year and today, with the majority of them not staff of the Corps, the Corps' Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Okeh has said.
According to Mr. Okeh, 135 cases have been successfully tried and prosecuted, while others were still undergoing prosecution nationwide.
Recently, the organisation arrested and paraded a four-man employment racketeering gang that has been promising unsuspected applicants' employment into the NSCDC.
The suspects were; Wilfred Ahetuamen from Edo State, who was the principal suspect, Ikechuckwu John, Grace Benedict and lastly, Rachael Agirshi, who is at large.
Okeh said the syndicate was arrested on 13th January, 2013 based on intelligence reports.
From the confessions made by some of the suspects, their tactic is a simple and straight forward one.
First, they let their prospective victims believe they do not only work with the NSCDC, but are very close to the Commandant General.
Mr. Ahetuamen (one of the arrested suspects) always tells his clients that he is an aid to the Commandant General of the Corps, Dr Ade Abolurin, and it was easy for them to commit their money.
His latest victim was his own friend, Bojo Bobori who he charged N300,000 in order to offer him employment to NSCDC.
Also, they target their close friends and family. As such, they have higher probability of success, as the victims could hardly suspect foul play.
In addition, they, scammers are in a group with a specific role for every member of the syndicate.
In order to authenticate his fraudulent act, Mr. Ahetuamen (suspect) uses Grace Benedict to discuss with Bobori (victim) on phone claiming that she was the Secretary to the Commandant General, while he sent the account number of Rachael Agirshi to him for payment of the said amount.
However, Mr. Bobori was able to pay only N280,000.00 with the hope of paying the N20,000 balance immediately he received his letter of appointment, which obviously, he didn't get.
When interrogated by Daily Trust, Grace Benedict said she was not aware that Mr. Ahetuamen wasn't working with the Corps, stressing that she was deceived into the criminal act.
Similarly, Ikechukwu (a member of the gang) who received almost N100,000.00 from the money realised from the deal, said he was deceived.
Mr. Okeh said fraudsters have designed several internet sites for the purpose of defrauding applicants seeking employment into the Corps.
He listed some of the sites as; www.nscdc.wap.ka.mobi, fedjob.com, amongst others.
The Corps spokesman maintained that "the Corps recruitment process has never been through internet, sales of form, scratch cards and payment of money through an agent or consultant.
Mr. Okeh warned the public that the Corps was not recruiting presently, and they should not fall for any antics of fraudsters.
"The general public should note that the corps is not recruiting, and have no intention to recruit now."
While also warning Nigerians to desist from telephone transactions, he assured that the Corps was determined to hunt down all employment racketeers, and bring them to book.
Just after the NSCDC dissociated itself from the above websites, a new one; www.interior.gov.ng came up, and was circulated on social media as well as Blackberry Messenger
But the Management of the NSCDC was fast to warn applicants to ignore the online advertisements on recruitment into the Corps.
"The Corps wishes to state with emphasis that the general public should be wary of the website: www.interior.gov.ng asking applicants to upload their cvs and warning them that the closing date is 17/1/2013.
"This includes any other unofficial websites created for the purpose of advertising job vacancies on behalf of the organisation, with the intention of defrauding applicants by demanding for money.
"As a matter of fact , the Corps recruitment exercise in the past have never been through any website, purchase of scratch cards nor application forms, rather, it was by placement of advertisement in National dailies by the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Service Board for applicants to apply" Mr. Okeh maintained.
While warning applicants to desist from patronising those who through the websites are demanding money for recruitment. Mr. Okeh said the Corps had not at any time commission or hire consultants and agents on job/recruitment matters, and it has no intention for such.
He warned applicants to exercise restraint and be careful of fraudsters, as the Corps will not take responsibility for anyone who as a matter of fact, patronises websites and job scammers by paying money."