Job Racketeering, A Major Evil In Nigeria’s Civil Service

The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating alleged employment racketeering and gross mismanagement of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System disclosed that no fewer than 35 ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, of the Federal Government refused to submit themselves to probe. While this isn’t the first time government parastatals will shun federal lawmakers, this particular no-show suggests having something to hide. If only Nigeria was a country that cares about probity and accountability, these MDAs accused of job racketeering would have jumped at the opportunity to clear themselves of any wrongdoing.

Chairman of the ad hoc committee, Yusuf Gagdi, accused the MDAs of applying for a waiver for recruitment without advertising the same, adding that such were usually used to perpetrate fraud. It is common knowledge that government jobs go to the highest bidders in Nigeria. This is after those in the corridors of power have cornered the choicest of such openings to their loved ones and cronies. Even when the vacancies are advertised in the national dailies as required by law, those who sorely need the jobs or are deserving of it will not apply because they know that the slots have already been distributed and that the announcement is a mere formality.

The racketeering, nepotism and favoritism plaguing government jobs are now carried out with so much impunity that certain Grade A parastatals don’t even bother to publish job vacancies. In 2016, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was exposed for secretly recruiting 909 staff between June 2014 and February 2015 in violation of due process and federal character principles. The prime parastatal explained this away as “targeted recruitment”, stressing that it obtained the waiver to do this from the Federal Character Commission (FCC).

This is the same FCC whose former desk officer, Haruna Kolo, confessed to collecting over N75m in bribes from job seekers on behalf of the Commission’s Chairman, Ms Muheeba Farida Dankaka. While testifying before the panel, two witnesses, Abdulmalik Isah Ahmed and Ali Muhammed Yaro, said they had paid the sums of N1million and N2million to Kolo, then of the FCC and Badamasi Jalo who was coordinating payments for other candidates for employment into the Commission. Trading is regrettably what recruitment into Nigeria’s civil service has been reduced to. Any wonder why there is low productivity and inefficient service delivery?

The truth is that the first casualty of such a mercantile and compromised system is meritocracy. There is equally the flouting of even distribution of employment opportunities among the constituent parts of the country which the FCC is meant to enforce. The Commission is a creation of the Constitution which in Section 14(3) provides that “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”

The inherent evil in Nigeria’s civil service which the House of Reps probe is unearthing is what has robbed the country’s public sector of efficient and effective service delivery. Qualified candidates with something to offer are sacrificed for mediocre and least qualified ones. Outside those who got these jobs out of sheer nepotism, others pay millions not out of passion or necessity but for job security that guarantees steady salaries even when they barely report to their duty posts. Worse still, this racketeering is being perpetrated without care for the resultant over-bloated workforce where 20 persons are employed for a role that can be done by no more than three persons.

This ultimately yokes the government with a huge wage bill. This much was noted by the Director-General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabuaeze, while decrying the wage bill of the federal government occasioned by the huge number of staffers. Warning that government must not be taken for a direct job creator, the DG disclosed that the federal government’s wage bill which was about one trillion naira as of 2015 now stands at over N5 trillion. Yet, the economy was in a far better place in 2015 than it is currently. In the face of these realities, it is disturbing to hear that the FCC Chairman usually demands 10 percent of all employment vacancies in federal MDAs.

This allegation came from commissioners representing most states of the federation at the FCC who accused the Chairman of breaches in operational and undue interferences in recruitment processes. Naija News believes that job racketeering is the bane of fit-for-purpose civil service in Nigeria. Paying for government jobs is similar to the malpractice in our electoral process where electoral office seekers engage in vote buying. Just as the country and its people pay a steep price when moneybags procure public offices, trading in public sector jobs also comes at a cost to the nation, one of which is the erosion of the moral fiber of the society.

“Nigeria will know no peace until the son of a nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody,” these eternal words of Mallam Aminu Kano ring true in the context of what the witness Ahmed, told the Reps ad hoc committee: “I graduated 11 years ago without a job and I had the chance to become a Boko Haram but I did not because I want to be a good citizen of Nigeria…” Who knows how many others have been forced into all manner of crimes, including violent ones because they were robbed of their deserved employment in the civil service. The rampant job racketeering scourge must also be partly responsible for the disillusionment that is forcing young Nigerians to stow away in the rudder of a ship over the Mediterranean to search for opportunities in Europe.

Naija News insists that something tangible must come out of this probe by the House of Reps ad hoc committee. The MDAs evading the Reps’ summons must be compelled to appear before the lawmakers. Most importantly, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) must live up to its responsibilities by fishing out and prosecuting government job racketeers and their accomplices.

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