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FG to sanction several government agencies for backdoor employment of family members and friends

Some federal ministries, departments and agencies have continued to engage in backdoor recruitment of family members and friends despite the employment embargo imposed by the Federal Government since 2020.

The Federal Government has, however, threatened to sanction those involved in the illegality, including the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation Limited, Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Customs Service, among other MDAs.

Investigations showed that some agencies issued employment letters to jobseekers, which were not accredited by the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation and the Federal Civil Service Commission, while others simply replaced retired or dead officials with friends and family members.

But the replacements were done without the approval of the OHCSF and the Federal Civil Service Commission.

It can be recalled that some civil servants, who were engaged in employment racketeering, were caught in the Federal Ministry of Works.

It was also reported how the OHCSF uncovered over 1,500 civil servants with fake employment letters in a ministry.

Corroborating this, the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, said her office had detected a total of 1,618 workers whose letters of employment were either fake or illegal in the Federal Civil Service.

This is despite the embargo placed on employment by the government.

In 2019, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was reported to have employed many individuals without following the due recruitment process.

Many groups, including the Niger Delta Youth Consort of Nigeria, protested against the NNPC for excluding the region and southerners in the secret recruitment.

The National Coordinator of the NDYCN, Chuks Onuoha, described the practice as unacceptable, but the then NNPC spokesman, Kenny Obateru, denied the recruitment.

According to him, what the NNPC management did was to fill the vacancies with personnel who were already in the system and were qualified rather than recruiting fresh ones from outside the system.

But applicants, who got to the final stage of the screening process, accused the oil giant of substituting their names with favoured candidates.

“The NNPC replaced most of the EH positions under the guise of a hurriedly planned scheme codenamed Internal Open Resource where some people, who contracted third party staff members and did not meet the requisite experience and qualifications in the advertised EH vacancies, are being deployed through the backdoor in an unfortunate and disappointing bid to jettison the EH merit list,” the President, Transparency in Recruitment at Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Felix Sunday, had lamented then.

The current NNPC spokesman, Garba Deen Muhammad, asked our source to send a message to him on WhatsApp three Fridays ago, but he had yet to respond to the message as of the time of filing this report.

Similarly, the Federal Inland Revenue Service was enmeshed in a recruitment scandal in 2021 after it emerged that it secretly engaged 2,000 workers, a development that put a strain on its budget.

The Nigerian Civil Service Union, which disclosed this in a petition to the FIRS Chairman, Muhammad Namu, in June 2021, also revealed that the agency was finding it difficult to pay salaries at some point after the secret engagement of the staff members within a period of 18 months.

It demanded an end to the re-engagement of retired directors and other categories of staff.

The media aide to the FIRS chairman, Tobi Wojuola, refused to respond to the allegations against the service when contacted.

Reacting to allegations of illegal recruitment, the Nigerian Customs Service spokesman, Timi Bomodi, insisted that there had been no backdoor recruitment in the service.

He said, “We advertise every recruitment in newspapers; there is no ministry and department of government in Nigeria that is as transparent in its recruitment process as the Nigeria Customs Service.

“All the 774 local government areas are represented in our recruitment. Applicants are made to sit aptitude tests and are selected based on their competences. You don’t need to know anybody before you can be employed in the service.”

Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria was accused of recruiting 909 staff members within two years without advertising the vacancies. Although the Federal Character Commission investigated the allegation, nothing has been heard about the case.

Our experiences – Applicants

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Jobseekers have, however, described the recruitment process in the MDAs as lacking transparency.

A former applicant to the NCS, Sola Ogunbiyi, said the recruitment process for government jobs in the country was fraught with irregularities.

He said, “I applied to join the Customs in 2019. I am not happy with the entire process. The entire process made me lose interest in Federal Government jobs and shaped my view that the jobs are only for those with connection.

“You cannot tell me that all the people working in the civil service were employed based on merit. I got to my hometown because I am based in Lagos and heard about how some people had been helped by a popular politician to join the Customs and other government agencies just to service his structure.

“The following year, I got a job at one of the leading commercial banks in the country after a rigorous exercise than that of the Customs. Look, the qualities of those being employed by government agencies and private firms are miles apart; this boils down to the recruitment process. Until we get it right, a lot of things will continue to go wrong.”

Another applicant, Yemisi Odubanjo, stated, “I have tried to apply to federal agencies but all my efforts are futile. That has not been the same with my efforts at private organisations.

“I have been able to get some of the jobs I applied for. I think the process of recruitment in government agencies is not transparent enough. It is either you know someone or bribe your way through; otherwise, you cannot get a job solely on your certificate and potential.

“I applied during the last FIRS recruitment and that was the last time I sought government jobs. I was asked to pay a huge amount to get the job, which I could not afford.”

Commenting on the issue, a Senior Vice President for Africa, Human Health Education and Research Foundation, Dr Ifeanyi Nsofor, said the budget would suffer if there were backdoor recruitments.

He stated, “The problem is that how will they pay those who are employed through the backdoor? Who will pay them? For instance, if it is the health sector, that aspect of the budget suffers as a result because they have to start paying people who they didn’t plan for while taking money.

“So, service delivery will suffer; people may die if those services are not provided, and people can have all sorts of complications that they may have to live with for their lifetime.

“Ultimately, it is a matter of life and death because people will not work for free. You have to pay them and where will you get the money from? Something has to be given and most of the time, it is from service delivery, drugs, or other commodities or other capital projects.”

Meanwhile, the Civil Service Commission said it would sanction ministries, departments and agencies engaged in backdoor recruitment.

In an interview with newsmen, the Chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission, Tukur Ingawa, explained why the employment ban by the government remained in place despite the high level of unemployment in the country.

According to him, the government decided to enforce the employment ban as a result of its dwindling revenue and the COVID-19 pandemic.

He stated, “Working in close conjunction with the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the year 2019 was the last time recruitment into the Federal Civil Service was conducted. The general suspension of employment in the Federal Civil Service was put in place in the year 2020.

“The Federal Government’s suspension of recruitment in 2020 was informed by the dwindling government revenue due to the incidence of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

When asked if the government was not bothered by the high youth unemployment, Ingawa said, “Of course, the Federal Government is deeply worried about it. It has initiated several policies and programmes through the instrument of multilateral collaboration among the ministries, extra-ministerial departments and agencies to empower and invest in the Nigerian youth for entrepreneurial gains.

“The Nigerian Youth Investment Fund, as an instance, is being driven by the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development with the Central Bank of Nigeria to make the youth entrepreneurs.”

On the practice of replacing retired or dead officials by the MDAs, Ingawa said the relevant agencies would investigate such cases and punish those involved.

The chairman noted, “To answer your question, the Federal Civil Service Commission is the only body constitutionally charged with the responsibility of personnel recruitment, promotion and discipline in the mainstream Federal Civil Service; working in close conjunction with the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and Ministries, Extra-Ministerial Departments and Agencies.

“That is to say, it is the only body that is legally recognised to issue letters of appointment into the service. The Federal Civil Service Commission recently disseminated a statement in that regard. The appropriate agencies of government will look into these cases as they arise and the culprits will face the wrath of the law.”

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