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How FG paves way for secret recruitments in MDAs

‘Well -connected’ children get ‘juicy jobs’ with ease

A waiver clause contained in a federal government circular of 2017 has paved the way for secret employment into the Federal Civil Service by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Daily Trust findings have shown.

The circular has given federal government establishments “the cover” to recruit personnel without recourse to necessary procedures, such as advertisement in national dailies for all interested Nigerians to see and apply.

In the last few years, hundreds of well- connected children have secretly secured placements in ministries, agencies and parastatals, Daily Trust learnt.

Prominent agencies that used the waiver clause to recruit new hands or fill existing vacancies include the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), some agencies under the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy such as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and the Nigerian Satellite Communications Limited (NIGCOMSAT).

Other agencies that allegedly carried out secret recruitments include the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) among others.

While many Nigerians, especially jobless graduates continue to complain about the secret recruitments, some of the agencies involved in the act cited provisions in the circular and other documents to defend their actions.

The circular that covers agencies to recruit

Daily Trust reports that the circular with reference number: 58775/II/T/358, dated July 11, 2017, titled: ‘Streamlining procedures for recruitment into federal agencies’ was issued from the office of the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal following reports of massive and indiscriminate recruitments in MDAs.

Part of the circular reads: “Many MDAs have been carrying out recruitments in the guise of ‘replacement of existing staff’ without following the due process.

“This scenario has created negative effects on government activities and efforts in the on-going reform of the payroll and personnel cost management as it has not only created ghost workers in the payroll who receive fraudulent and enormous salaries but has also perpetuated nepotism and regional imbalances in the public service.”

According to the circular, which was signed by Dr. (Mrs.) Habiba M. Lawal, the then Permanent Secretary in the SGF office, the federal government decided to streamline the processes and procedures for recruitment and appointment into the public service.

Among the nine guidelines contained in the circular was that of “obtaining a waiver to recruit from the office of the Head of Service of the Federation.”

Daily Trust checks show that many government establishments have been hiding under the waiver clause to circumvent the due process of conducting recruitments into the Federal Civil Service.

The Federal Character Commission (FCC) is empowered by Section 4(1) (g) (i) of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act Cap F7 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, to monitor and ensure compliance.

The FCC had in 2016 listed conditions for approving a certificate of compliance for recruitment into the Federal Public Service.  A circular dated February 17, 2016, with reference number: FCC/099/SB/VOL.II/123 FCC had listed the conditions to include; evidence of advertisement in two national newspapers, one each widely read in the North and South lasting for six weeks or approval of waiver not to advertise. Other conditions include the application of the federal character balancing index in the distribution of the harvested vacancies; submission of a copy of report of interview monitored by the representatives of the commission and submission of a copy of an interview by the MDA indicating the scores of the candidates interviewed state by state without compromising merit but with transparency.

The conditions also include: submission of the list of successful candidates, state by state or zone by zone as appropriate; and adherence to the federal character balancing index to the current analysed nominal roll of the MDA among others.

Waiver clause overrides other provisions

Our correspondents report that armed with the “waiver clause”, which gave the MDAs adequate protection not to advertise, thousands of jobs have been distributed to ‘lucky’ citizens.

“Countless government agencies have given automatic employments to those with connections in high places,” said Usman Khalid, an engineering graduate from one of the universities in the North East.

“For instance, I know many of my colleagues who have been recruited at the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). The various jobs were not advertised in any of the national dailies as required by law.

“I am not envious of their luck but it is very painful. Assuming the jobs were advertised and those who succeeded were considered, some of us who have nobody to do the manipulations for us will not complain,” he said.

It was gathered that between mid-2019 to end of the year, the FIRS had recruited some staff at the tail end of the tenure of the then chairman of the service, Tunde Fowler.

A staff of FIRS who spoke anonymously confirmed the recruitments. “In the latest exercise, hundreds of lucky graduates got their appointment letters. They did not participate in any examination; they only got their letters. Some of them have the jobs at hand but do not have any schedule of work,” he said.

Efforts to get the reaction of the FIRS’ Director, Communications and Liaison Department, Malam Abdullahi Ahmad, did not yield results as he did not respond to the message sent to him as at the time of going to press.

A government source told Daily Trust that 56 people were employed by the NCC between January and February without advertising the vacancies in national dailies.

The source, who pleaded anonymity, said the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, got a waiver to fill some vacant positions in some agencies under the ministry, including the NCC, NITDA and NIGCOMSAT.

But NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, denied conducting any recruitment secretly in recent time. He told Daily Trust in an interview that recruitment is always according to the due process laid by the law.

‘’NCC is not involved in secret recruitment. The allegation isn’t true. All our recruitment always follows the due process,” he said.

The NDIC was said to have carried out a secret recruitment in December 2018 while the new staff resumed work in early 2019.

It was gathered that the corporation also recruited over 100 new employees in 2017, all of which were conducted without advertising the jobs.

When contacted, the Director Communications and Public Affairs of NDIC, Dr. Sunday Oluyemi, said the corporation does not engage in secret recruitment and that all recruitments in the agency were usually appraised by the relevant government agencies and approved by FCC.

Also, Daily Trust recalled that in April 2019, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was enmeshed in a recruitment waiver scandal. It was reported that over 900 persons were “secretly” hired by the bank after allegedly bypassing the laid-down procedures of advertising the vacancies.

However, the CBN’s defence was that it obtained a waiver from the FCC to skip advertising in carrying out its “targeted recruitment.”

But the FCC challenged the claim, saying it had not given the CBN any such waivers since 2013.

The acting chairman of FCC, Shettima Abba, was quoted at the time as saying that such waivers lapse after three months and would require re-validation to become legal.

It was learnt that the last time the bank publicly recruited workers was in 2013 after it advertised the exercise in the media.

An employee in the CBN told our correspondent that the recent ‘secret recruitments” were termed “replacements.”

Attempt to get comments from the CBN management was unsuccessful as the Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okorafor, could not be reached on the phone. Our correspondent sent him an email and a WhatsApp message on the issue but as at press time, he hadn’t responded.

Between 2016 and 2019, some agencies in the power sector had brought in some mid-level staff and new employees without full public notice.

The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) early in 2020 inducted about 200 fresh engineers it recruited in 2019.

It was gathered that the recruitment was not fully in the public glare as records say only 3,000 Nigerians applied for the opening.

When contacted, the Executive Director, Human Resources at TCN, Mr. Justin Ishaya Dodo, confirmed that the recruitment of 200 engineers followed due process.

“We got a waiver from FCC and we have the Certificate of Compliance. It is when you don’t have a waiver that you will have to advertise it,” he noted.

The Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) had a provision in the 2018 budget for the recruitment of staff. It was not clear if it did that recruitment, but Daily Trust observed that there was no publicity for Nigerians to apply for any such opening in the agency.

Responding on the development, NEMSA’s spokesperson, Mrs. Ama Umoren, said the agency was meeting with the FCC on its recruitment process.

“We are working with FCC for approval before any recruitment,” she said.

At the REA, there were various recruitments for administrative officers and legal assistants between 2016 and 2018. It was observed that although the population of the staff increased with the new hands, there was no record of any recruitment notice by the agency.

The Director of Promotions at the agency, Ayang Ogbe did not take his call and was yet to respond to a text message sent to him about the observed recruitment in the last three years.  However, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) had attempted a recruitment process in 2014, which it publicised but that process was never completed years after.

In the oil sector, it was gathered that PPPRA is another agency that was involved in secret recruitment in October 2019.

A source familiar with the recruitment told our correspondent under the condition of anonymity that the agency only sought for waiver and went ahead with the recruitment.

In contrast, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) recently announced it had employed about 1,050 graduates. It said experienced hands would also be engaged soon. Our correspondent reports that all of the processes that led to the recruitment were advertised, and interviews and other processes conducted for the shortlisted applicants.

Reps decry secret recruitment

In July last year, reports of clandestine recruitments had prompted a resolution by the House of Representatives to probe alleged recruitments in some MDAs, specifically in the oil sector and the CBN, among others.  The resolution was sequel to a motion by Yusuf Gagdi (APC, Plateau) who‎ had alleged that instead of following due process of law, some MDAs were using the “back door” to recruit for vacant positions.

Gagdi, who had expressed worry over the conduct of such MDAs, pointed fingers specifically at the NNPC, CBN, and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and said even though the federal government could not employ all the graduates, “there is the need for the few openings available to be filled competitively, based on the federal character principle.”

Why MDAs go for waivers

A source in one of the agencies involved in recruitment without advertising the vacancies said they were constrained by many factors.

“When you advertise vacancies for 50 positions, for instance, you end up receiving over 500,000 applications. Where do you start with the process of screening the applicants?” he asked.

Commenting, Barrister Aliyu Musa said the issue should be looked at from two perspectives. “You should not blame the agencies for employing people if they have a guideline from the office of the HoS, once they have a waiver.

“However, the other issue revolves around morality-whether those being considered for the jobs are just being favoured at the detriment of other citizens,” he said.

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