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How job racketeering gained dominance

By Babatunde Ayedoju

Folorunso Ajayi (not their real name) had just completed his mandatory one-year programme with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and was now set to launch fully into the labour market. Of course, he had been on the lookout for a good job even before the commencement of his one-year service to his fatherland. Each time the young graduate heard about a job vacancy somewhere, he did not hesitate to apply accordingly and travel for the interview, if shortlisted. Whenever he had no money for transport, he would borrow from friends and family members.

One day, Folorunso met one of his old friends who was in the civil service. An old friend told him about a purpose recruitment which was about to be done into the civil service and promised to help him get the job if he could raise N20,000 (back in 2010). The young graduate who had nothing close to that in his bank account promptly borrowed the money from a family member and gave it to his supposed helper.

The days became weeks and weeks became months but there was no job in sight, yet the old friend kept assuring Folorunso that a job was coming. Finally, the bombshell came, “There was an order from above to suspend every form of recruitment.” Meanwhile, the N20,000 was gone. What would now happen to the money that had been paid? Folorunso asked his friend.

“Do you think I am lying to you? Do you think I am trying to dupe you? There was meant to be a recruitment but an order came from above to suspend it. If you think I am lying to you, I can look for your money and refund it to you.” That was the response Folorunso got concerning the money he was never going to get back from the so-called friend who claimed that he could help him get a civil service job.

This is the experience of many Nigerians who get swindled by people who offer them jobs at both federal and state levels in exchange for huge amounts of money. Such job racketeers usually claim that they have employment slots in the civil service but the job seeker must pay an amount of money to be able to get one of them.

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The monumental corrupt practice has caught the attention of our leaders as sometime in July last year, during a plenary, a House of Representatives member from Osun State, Oluwole Oke, urged the House of Representatives to investigate allegations of corrupt practices surrounding the recruitment of personnel into ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

While reading a prepared motion listed on the Order Paper of the day, Mr Oke told his colleagues, “The process of employment into the civil service has become one that is fraught with endemic corruption. Public institutions have since stopped the process of advertising for jobs and vacancies. Even in the few instances where adverts are published, the slots are already commodified and available for the highest bidders. Most institutions now selling employment, notwithstanding the qualification of the applicant and the ability of the applicant to perform optimally on the job.”

The Deputy Speaker of the House, Benjamin Kalu, who presided over plenary on that day, then set up an ad hoc committee with 37 members—one lawmaker per state and the Federal Capital Territory. The committee went ahead to beam its eagle eyes on the Federal Character Commission (FCC), the organization saddled with the responsibility of ensuring equitable recruitment into the federal civil service, and tertiary institutions.

Shortly after the ad-hoc committee went to work, its Chairman, Yusuf Gagdi, disclosed that some personnel of the FCC were found to be involved in racketeering, as the ad-hoc committee said it had discovered gross violations of the FCC Act by top management through indiscriminate employment waivers to MDAs, lopsided employment and blatant extortion and sale of job vacancies.

Gadgi disclosed that a former IPPIS desk officer at the agency, Mr Haruna Kolo, confessed to collecting over N75 million from employment applicants on the instruction of the FCC Chairman, Dr. Farida Dankaka, an allegation that Dankaka denied.

The ongoing crisis at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH), Ile-Ife, Osun State, also presents a classical case of job racketeering. November last year, the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare reportedly issued a statement signed by its Director of Press, Patricia Deworitshe, confirming the indictment of some officials of OAUTH, including a former Acting Chief Medical Director, Afolabi Owojuyigbe, of engaging in job racketeering.

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The ministry stated that an investigative panel, which was led by Aderemi Azeez, found that Mr Owojuyigbe carried out over-employment in the hospital, without provision in the personnel budget, a development that has led to nonpayment of some workers for almost a year, as the Health Ministry insists that there is no money to pay the workers who were said to have been hired illegally.

According to the statement, the panel disclosed that Mr Owojuyigbe, a consultant anesthetist, employed over 1,973 staff as against the waiver for 450 vacancies granted to the hospital by the federal government in the 2022 employment process.

A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which was cited by a Nigerian tabloid observed that 32 percent of Nigerians who secured jobs in the nation’s public service in 2019 paid a bribe. Country Representative of UNODC, Oliver Stolpe, had insisted that the findings were not based on perception but on empirical findings backed by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). 

Being aware of the embarrassment of job racketeering in the Nigerian Civil Service, Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, Tunji Olaopa, shortly after his swearing-in last year, vowed to deal with all those involved in racketeering and other sharp practices in the Federal Civil Service.

He said, “We will do everything possible in collaboration with some of the intelligence and security agencies to make a few scapegoats and communicate a new face for the Civil Service Commission.”

Dr Salman Adisa, a psychologist, while pointing out that job racketeering happens at local, state, and federal levels, attributed it to large-scale unemployment among graduates. He also blamed it on corruption, saying that people are no longer given jobs based on merit but based on how much money they can cough out, a development he likened to putting square pegs in round holes.

The seasoned psychologist who said that recruitments into both civil service and law enforcement agencies are bedeviled with tales of racketeering added that there are instances of graduates or job seekers having to part with as much as N200,000, yet at the end of the day they are not able to get the jobs they paid through their noses for.

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He equally blamed the trend on politicians whom he noted sometimes promise to get jobs for people if voted into power, saying that in the end, if at all such promises are fulfilled, people are employed into positions for which they are not qualified.

Adisa noted that job racketeering had become a social problem difficult to eradicate because of the caliber of people involved in it, but insisted that it could be minimized. His words: “Government should ensure that perpetrators are punished accordingly, with their information published in the dailies. The buyer should not be given the job and the seller should be dismissed.”

Likewise, Dr. Mrs. Kemi Adebola, a sociologist, said that job racketeering had been going on in Nigeria for a long, attributing it to a large number of graduates in the country which exceeds the employment slots available, leading to a scenario of the highest bidder getting the available jobs.

Quoting Karl Marx who said that the world is a survival of the fittest, Adebola explained that the fittest is always a matter of economic power.

“Some people have made job racketeering a business. So, even if they don’t have the influence, they promise job seekers employment, seeing that a lot of young graduates are desperate for employment. That is why people pay and still don’t get the jobs they paid for and their money is not refunded,” she added.

Adebola, while noting that a lot of racketeering victims, most times, do not have adequate qualifications for the jobs they applied for, added that anybody who is caught should be punished, both buyers and sellers, “because buyers know that they are not doing the right thing.”

Above all, she equally recommended that government should create more jobs for citizens, saying, “They shouldn’t send us to school without creating jobs for citizens.”

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