How Ministers, Bureaucrats, Lawmakers Hijack Federal Jobs

Ordinary Nigerians are finding it difficult to get jobs into federal agencies because top bureaucrats, public officials and lawmakers are hijacking the opportunities, Daily Trust reports.

Vacancies in federal ministries, departments and agencies, which are seldom publicly advertised, end up being filled up by candidates handpicked by ministers, senior civil servants, traditional and religious leaders, and National Assembly members, according to Daily Trust investigations covering more than one year.

In the last three years, very few federal agencies advertised job opportunities, while others filled them up secretly in the name of “replacement.”

Secret recruitments continue despite pronouncements by various agencies such as the National Assembly and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate them.

Daily Trust reports that the Federal Character Commission (FCC), an executive body established to ensure fairness and equity in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructures among the various federating units of Nigeria, has been accused of being complicit.

An insider told Daily Trust that officials of the character commission “allow heads of the agencies to secretly recruit once job slots are allocated to them. Through this, they claim the federal character is achieved since the FCC members are from the six geopolitical zones.”

Some of the federal agencies at the forefront of this illegal hiring include Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD).

Insiders told Daily Trust that the job racketeering is being done by the agencies in conjunction with National Assembly members.

“The National Assembly members are given huge slots. The officials in the Presidency are also given. Officials of the supervising ministries such as the minister, permanent secretary, some directors are all given slots,” the source said.

The source said sometimes when an agency was planning to recruit 200 people, it would end up hiring 1000 or even more because the lawmakers must be given their slots.

FCC officials told this reporter that the agencies shy away from advertising vacancies to avoid stampede.

183 agencies in illegal hiring

A report by the Federal Ministry of Finance revealed that 183 out of 185 federal agencies had recruited 13,780 staff in two years.

Out of this number, 6,917 were recruited without any formal approval; 2,314 were employed by seven universities with governing council approval; while 4,549 had correctly obtained approval from the Office of the Head of Service and FCC.
The ministry’s review revealed that out of the 185 agencies, only the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Army sought approval for their recruitment.

Jobs for the influential

The most recent case of hijacking opportunities meant for Nigerians is that of a scholarship to study an undergraduate degree course in railway engineering in China extended by a Chinese firm, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation Ltd (CCECC).

When young Nigerians converged at the CCECC office in Abuja for the interview, only applicants whose names appeared on a “special list” provided by 10 serving ministers, a northern governor and a presidency official were allowed for the interview.

In March 2016, Daily Trust reported how the CBN recruited 909 staff in two years without advertising the vacancies.

Investigations showed that some of the basic requirements for employment were not followed in the recruitment. For instance, the various positions to be filled by candidates were not advertised, and the figures also suggested that the exercise was lopsided in favour of certain sections of the country contrary to the provisions of the federal character.

Details of the recruitment carried out between June 2014 and February 2015 showed that out of the 909 staff engaged, 213 of them are from the South-South region, CBN governor’s geopolitical zone.

The recruitment list contained names of sons and daughters as well as family members of senior Presidency officials, ministers, key ruling party chieftains, lawmakers, among others. The FCC said it would investigate the scandal, but has yet to do so.

The apex bank conducted its secret recruitment even though in September 2015, it issued a statement signed by the former director, Corporate Communications, Ibrahim Mu’azu denying any general recruitment in the bank.
Mu’azu said CBN would not embark on general recruitment exercise without due process.

“Whenever the Bank is ready to do this it will be duly publicized through its website, and other media platforms available to it, without a fee,” the statement added.

But Daily Trust learnt that the last time the bank publicly recruited workers was in 2013 after it announced and advertised the exercise. An inside source said the bank recruited almost every month, since June 2014.

Security agencies are not exempted from this scandal. In May 2017, Senate committee chairman on federal character and inter-governmental affairs, Tijjani Kaura, said an investigation is ongoing into the alleged lopsided recruitment into Department of State Services (DSS).

A report alleged that out the 479 cadets commissioned on March 5 by DSS, a large number of them were from the north, with Katsina State where the DSS chief hails from having 51 slots, more than the entire slots of the southeast. But the presidency defended the recruitment saying the matter was taken in isolation of the context it was done.

“It is important to emphasise that it is in the interest of peace, stability and the general well-being of the nation that all component units are fairly represented in organisations such as this. Where this comes short, efforts must be made to correct such lopsidedness as the DSS did between 2014 and 2016,” the presidency said in a statement.

The FIRS, during the first quarter of 2016, recruited five directors secretly along with over 200 other staff. The recruitment exercise was not advertised to enable other eligible Nigerians to apply.

The National Population Commission (NPC), for instance, was granted a waiver to replace 86 exited staff but ended of hiring 184, according to Daily Trust investigation in September 2016.

The hiring was later suspended because it was done secretly in violation of the requirements of federal chance.

An inside source, however, said the disagreement on sharing formula of the jobs slots was responsible for its suspension.

The political heads of the commission disagreed over the number of slots issued to each commissioner and that may have led to the suspension of the exercise, the source said.

Daily Trust reported how the Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu revoked the recruitment of 245 graduates as senior staff of the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) hired in 2015.

One of the successful applicants told Daily Trust that the minister “rejected the list because his state was not properly represented on the list of successful applicants. He has brought additional names that he wants to be added to the list. That is the cause of the delay in posting the applicants.”

Why we grant waivers – FCC

The character commission does not grant waivers to organisations to circumvent its circular on a procedure for recruitment which stipulates that organisations who intend to employ must advertise in two national dailies, its spokesperson, Idriss Abdullahi, said.

He said an exception was when the number to recruit is minimal such as one to 20 new recruits, the commission grants waivers to MDAs to cut cost and save time.

“Where a waiver is granted it may be because of the number and in very rare situations the need to fill the vacancies to meet up with an urgent policy demand,” he said.

He said the FCC is mindful of the stampede that happened at the immigration recruitment some years ago and would not want an agency receiving thousands of applications just for a few job openings.

Ordinary Nigerians protest

The secret recruitment is not restricted to “lucrative agencies” as even not-so lucrative jobs are still hijacked by influential Nigerians. During the last recruitment of policemen nationwide, 67 persons on the police candidates list from Katsina State were replaced with some names provided by some “highly placed individuals”.

Daily Trust learnt that about 238 persons were shortlisted for medicals in Kano and upon return 67 names were allegedly removed and replaced with others who didn’t attend the medical screening.

An applicant, Aisha Muhammad, narrated her experience with the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) 2016/2017 recruitment.

The applicant who holds a master’s degree in agric economics said after her application, she wrote an aptitude test in Abuja, first level interview in Lagos, and second level interview in Abuja.

“The irony is some applicants got their appointment letters after the second level interview. Meanwhile the bulk of us never got a response,” she said.

She said after about a year, she received a call from someone saying she was offered a one-year contract job by an outsourced company engaged by NIRSAL. “It was terrible. It was clear that you have to know someone to get hired,” she lamented.

Another applicant, Nana Yunusa, an accountant that applied for NIRSAL job, said “This really demoralized me. This is a job I had applied for over 10 months; which I had undergone series of scrutiny from the employment firm (Nextzone) and the agency itself (NIRSAL) through tests and interviews for a position that was specifically stated- supervisor, but here I was being offered a contract engagement through an outsourcing consultancy firm for a position way below what I am qualified for. Considering the terms of engagement, I declined the offer.

“I am talking to you as a complaint because I feel I have been conned into being offered a job I didn’t apply for when others with strong connections were able to get in. If they hadn’t contacted me at all, I would have had the peace of mind, owing probably to my inability to meet up to standards, but not to be insulted with a term of engagement that I didn’t apply for,” she said.

For Abba Muhammad, a graduate of engineering with a second class upper division, he applied as a graduate assistant in a federal university in one of the northwestern states.

“I passed all the processes: aptitude test, interviews. But it was evident that I couldn’t be hired despite my performance because I don’t know anybody influential,” he said.

He said he experienced the same thing when he applied to another university and polytechnic. “It was clear that it is not about merit because I passed all the processes to reach the top. But couldn’t secure the job because I don’t know a lawmaker or any first-class traditional ruler to speak for me,” he said.

Muhammad, who is now a master’s student, said he has left everything to God, while he’s pursuing his second degree in engineering.

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