It is in line with this thinking, I presume, that the Nigerian Senate has decided to investigate the employment fraud in the federal ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). I am, however, worried if this effort will not end up as other assignments the Senate had undertaken in past which really produce no effective results.
The upper legislative chamber’s decision to investigate this matter at this time is most welcome in view of the dysfunctional public service that has unfortunately become a burden to the Nigerian public. This investigation is necessary for so many reasons. Justice, equity and freedom are gifts from God, but they must be secured by God’s people here on earth. We must resolve that the only way to build a great nation is to be able to care for the vulnerable, and protect our people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
For Nigeria to survive as one united and indivisible country, we as a people must understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. Every Nigerian therefore deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. The Nigerian senate must therefore make the hard choice to nip in the bud this vexatious employment racketeering which has eaten deep especially in the Federal public service for a very long time now.
The joint committee of the Senate, on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs and Establishment, Labour and Productivity must hold the bull by the horns and be bold enough to put in place measures, that will stop some members of the National Assembly who are also involved in this racketeering, and others who are profiting from this evil act, to see reasons why they should not continue with the practice, in order to give every qualified Nigerian child the opportunity to compete in a free and fair system in the process of securing gainful employment.
Let me hasten to say, that fraud in federal public service has been in operation long before the coming of the present democratic dispensation in 1999. Sometime between 1998 and 1999, an incident happened that I will never forget in a hurry. A Minister who wanted jobs for his not too bright cousins and nephews threw caution over board and decided to subject a Director General of one of the agencies under his ministry to all manner of intimidation and harassment. The Minister threatened not to allow the agency have its allocation for that year, if four of his nominees for various senior positions in that agency were not employed. Even though as at that time, three persons out of the minister’s nominees were just fresh graduates. The minister did not just want them employed but wanted them placed on various positions between Grade levels 15 and 14. The over bearing minister will not accept the explanation of the Director-General of that organisation then, that there were no vacancies for such positions, as the existing once were already filled by staff who have worked hard over the years to merit such position. The Minister never cared a hoot; all he wanted was the displacement of the older staff to create the vacant positions for his candidates. After a protracted battle, two out of the Minister’s four nominees were employed and placed on positions far higher than their experience and competence. As soon as these people assumed duty, some very old and senior members of staff of the organisation, from the same ethnic stock saw their entrance into the Federal Public service as an opportunity to place ethnic card and curry the favour of the all powerful Minister then.
Before one could say Jack Robinson, the system that was once very functional and effective became dysfunctional, as most people became aggrieved. No matter the offences of these new intakes they were untouchable for the period the Minister remained in office. For years before I finally left service, they learnt nothing on the job and made no meaningful contribution to the organisation. They only specialised in intrigues. Today, they have settled into the system and are now holding very high positions.
With this ugly experience, one was still very hopeful, that things were going to change for the better, with the advent of a democratic system of government. One has since realised that, the initial hope of our elected representatives were misplaced as the sharp practices of some elected members over the years have become overwhelming and embarrassing.
For some years now, I have left Abuja; I might not be in a position to say exactly the way things are now, but what I know for sure before now was that some committee members of both Houses of the National Assembly in connivance with some senior officials of some ministries, departments and agencies were in the habit of padding budgets presented to them, in a deliberate effort to make some quick money. Ministries, Department and Agencies who refuse to play along this line often times had their budget slashed to an embarrassing level. As if this is not enough harm to the economy, most committee members had a long list of their relations and girl friends that must be employed without due process. This attention to the recklessness in the National Assembly which needs to be stopped was recently posed by a media adviser to President Jonathan, Mr. Bolaji Adebiyi, who asked “where most federal legislators were getting the money from, with which they embark on a grandiose project, in their various constituencies?. Will it be safe for us to argue, that they are embarking on these projects with their monthly salary and allowance?
Anyhow, I expect the present crops of members of the National Assembly to disassociate themselves from these practices. What is however, of importance to me and most Nigerians, is for our legislators to act in a way that will ensure the common good of the people of Nigeria, whom they are elected to represent. What has become obvious is that the poor farmers and traders in our villages, who have laboured so hard to send their children to school so that, they could be of help to them are not reaping the benefits of their labour. The way things are now; their children stand no chance of securing gainful employment in our federal public service, if some drastic measures are not taken to stop the ugly trend of nepotism and favouritism in the federal public service.
The earlier our law makers realise that, helping the poor, the truly poor, is a much worthier goal than merely narrowing inequalities the better it would be for our dear country Nigeria. If the rich get poorer, thanks to high taxation, some people may get pleased but few are better off. If the poor get richer, however, the whole country will benefit. Focusing resources and policy on poverty would be worthwhile on humanitarian grounds. But, also, the disadvantages of growing in extreme poverty condition pose a challenge to a belief in equality of opportunity. And helping the underclass rejoin society is in the best interest of all.
Mr. Omonhinmin is a Lagos based Media Consultant.