Recently, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (PBAT) rose in defence of his Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was serially accused of underhand dealings, selling federal appointments to the highest bidder, and favouritism in political appointments. Dissecting the allegation, one is of the opinion that there is no smoke without fire, meaning that two things could be at stake.
One theory is that “the presidential gatekeeper’’ is so meticulous at his job to the extent that the majority of PBAT hangers-on and political soulmates who believed that they should have unfettered access to the presidency find it difficult to see him, then this group of people might resort to blackmail to dent his (Gbajabiamila) image and get him booted out. The second theory is that there could be some cabal within Aso Villa who is secretly selling appointments, knowingly and unknowingly, to the Chief of Staff. Whichever way one may look at this issue, the fact is that there is persistent job racketeering at the federal level in Abuja that predates this administration.
Really, it is not strange to hear that job openings are being filled secretly by the custodians of these sacred public institutions. A lot of youths whose families can afford it are patronizing this route rather than waiting for fake advertisements from the so-called Federal Civil Service Commission without any cogent result to that effect. I learned that somebody got a job in a government agency and was posted to an office in Gwagwalada where there is no table or chair. The new employee must pay for the chair and table. As successive governments are strategizing and devising means to reduce corruption in the system, the people saddled with the responsibility of managing government agencies, departments, and ministries are also scheming to burst the government stratagems to perpetuate their indiscretion of job selling.
Job-selling racketeering is an abysmal issue that is becoming rampant in almost all government agencies. There are cartels specializing in doing this in all government agencies, parastatals, and ministries. Therefore, the human resources department of all government sectors needs to be properly investigated by this government, which rode to power with the “Renewed Hope” mantra. It is a fact that job racketeering is ongoing, and the people doing this are becoming emboldened to advertise their trade to the highest bidder, ranging from 500,000 to 1.5 million and 2.5 million Naira in some instances, depending on the agencies. In some cases, desperate buyers are often duped out of their money by this faceless cartel in civil and public services. Accordingly, the price varies based on the agencies, ministries, or commissions the applicants wish to work for.
The Punch Newspaper of November 20, 2023, reported that an investigative panel set up by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare indicted Dr. Olumuyiwa Owojuyigbe, the former Chief Medical Director of the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, Osun State, of overemployment and job racketeering. Also, The Premium Times of August 29, 2023, reported that “in the past couple of weeks, a committee of the House of Representatives charged with investigating job racketeering in government parastatals has been engaging in extortion of money from heads of federal ministries, departments, and agencies, including those of tertiary institutions across the country, to exonerate them from the accusation of job racketeering”.
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A retired director in the Nigeria Apex Bank reportedly sold his slot employment position, which he reserved for his son, who incidentally had an extra academic year at the university and could not meet up for millions of naira some years ago. A friend was duped of 200,000 thousand naira by those who promised to enlist his wife in one of the government departments. Similarly, a nurse wrote a job placement exam for a leading government hospital in Abuja and came in third out of the multitude that wrote the exam. At the end of the exercise, her slot was given out to someone else who probably did not write or do well in the placement exam. For God’s sake, how can any reasonable person sacrifice competency for favouritism in the health sector?
No department or sector of the civil service or public service is immune from this rot, including public universities. Surprisingly, this iniquity has been extended to states across the nation. The habit and disposition of selling jobs that some of these big men in the present position got on a platter of gold for the desperate youth seeking job placement is barbaric and unfortunate. It depicts us as worthless, greedy, and selfish people who worship money. Our value system is deteriorating and completely being eroded at all levels of our existence. The concept of “Omoluabi,” literally meaning an “upright person,” has long been deleted and completely obliterated from our vocabulary.
The concept of meritocracy as one of the cardinal principles of public service is no longer relevant in Nigeria; rather, cronyism, tribalism, godfatherism, prebendalism, and political affiliation are the yardsticks for recruitment into the civil service and public service. This is the basis for the dysfunctionality of Nigerian public institutions, which are not optimally functioning like other nations. Nigeria has been programmed to operate anticlockwise against all norms. The civil service, the supposed engine that propels public policy formulation and implementation, is riddled with imposition, job racketeering, and favouritism. It lacks objectivity, equity, and justice in the treatment of staff. Some groups are naturally favoured by virtue of their sectional origin. Some people who were named and fingered in some government agencies for money laundering and those who retired voluntarily to join politics were surreptitiously railroaded back to the service to complete their years in service. What a system that legalises injustice at the expense of justice! The civil service is bleeding profusely because cronyism is hierarchically institutionalised as the order of the day.
Notably, all is not well with our public institutions because our mode of recruitment is subjective, parochial, ethno-culturally biased, and against universally acceptable norms, and this often results in abysmal productivity, even in policy making and implementation. The civil service recruitment is not transparent enough to attract the best brains; most Nigerian civil servants are obtuse, deaden, crude, and still depend on paperwork for the preservation of materials and data through a manual filing system, which is obsolete, rather than an automated information system of web applications that is safer and more reliable.
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Each day, right before our eyes, Nigeria’s best brains are being systematically poached by western countries (Europe, U.K, Canada, Australia, and America) to boost and sustain their virile systems in diverse fields of human endeavours. This is no longer slavery, but brain drain through tactical mobility of labour.
Bello, a public commentator, writes from Canada.