Abuja job racket
The recent firing of Nigeria’s immigration boss, Mrs. Rose Chinyere Uzoma, after admitting that she apportioned many slots to persons in the inner sanctum of power, including the mother of the president, has unveiled a seedy part of our culture. Few jobs, especially in the public sector, come without moral compromises. Bribes are the key to the employment kingdom.
Also, at lower levels, a syndicate with specialty in employment racketeering characterises job placements in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The obnoxious group reportedly charges prospective job seekers in federal ministries, departments and agencies, (MDAs), huge amounts of between N400, 000 and N500, 000. Shockingly, the syndicate reportedly fronts for heads of some MDAs with base in Gwagwalada, Karu and other strategic areas in the FCT.
At a recent plenary of the Senate, some senators raised the alarm over the injurious activities of the syndicate. Senator Abubakar Bagudu raised a motion on employment irregularities in the MDAs, which he justified by referring to a statement credited to Mrs Uzoma, the out-going Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), who reportedly said that: “4,000 employment slots approved by the Federal Government were being sold to job applicants and some allocated to other personalities.’’
She reportedly added that due process requiring advertisement meant to arouse the notice of interested members of the public to apply was not adhered to. It is also claimed that such recruitments always favour some states of the federation, in utter negation of the federal character principle.
What the immigration boss said, more fundamentally, is a scourge that has gutted every sphere of our national life. If entry level jobs in our civil service cannot come without the greasy palm, it is because even the plum office holders of the land secured their privileges after bribing their ways. It is common knowledge that whether it is the position of local government chairman or governor or minister or even president, it is almost impossible to enjoy any choice position without compromises that involve separating from huge sums of money and plying the “facilitators” with such good fortune.
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume at that plenary supported and corroborated Bagudu’s position with his own unpleasant experience with the syndicate: “A constituent came to me that he needed N200, 000 to secure employment in one parastatal. When I refused to give him the money, he said that was the only requirement needed and if I didn’t give him the money, the job was as good as gone … After much pleading, I caved in and gave him the N200, 000 only for him to come back to me days later that the price was no longer N200, 000 but N400, 000. This person was a graduate of geography who had stayed at home for four years without a job.”
What kind of country allows an employment opening to sell this way? What has happened to competence? Would whoever gets employed through payment of bribe not be interested in recouping his money?
Senate President David Mark bewails the desperation but could not find any tangible solution other than to blame the civil service commission and to direct victims to meet with relevant committees during public hearings and perhaps, point out those that demanded money for employment from them. He also charged the Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs and Employment, Labour and Productivity to do a thorough job in order to reduce the cankerworm or possibly eliminate the criminality/injustice in the employment chain.
The Senate leadership must realise that a good leader does not bemoan but rather inspires the followership towards a good result. In a situation like this, buck- passing will lead to nowhere; neither is the adoption of unworkable committee/public hearing method that has not brought forth any good in the past.
We see Senate’s attitude as incapable of bringing succour to victims. How can we be so sure that the affected committees would do justice over the matter when they meet with the heads of the MDAs? Given our penchant for sectional, ethnic and religious favouritism, there is no guarantee that the committees would not look the other way. After all, many members of the chamber did not exactly win their seats from local popularity based on wisdom, altruism or selfless service.
Furthermore, we doubt whether the matter’s mention would have been deemed necessary at the Senate’s plenary but for the fact that some senators are directly affected by the syndicate’s activities. It is shameful for a senator, where the minimum wage is N18, 000, to have doled out N200, 000 to a constituent, to be paid as a bribe for the constituent to get employed in a federal establishment.
The Nigerian law provides criminal punishment for a bribe giver and taker and it becomes worse where the giver is a lawmaker like we have seen in this case. In addition, what fate awaits those job seekers in the same FCT who cannot afford such a high amount and with nobody to bail them out?
If they borrow to secure the jobs, as top political office holders do – from richer people, from the banks, from political mentors, etc – they start their jobs without innocence but with the spirit to recoup. Corruption breeds corruption.