I am compelled to write again on the exploitation of the Nigerian job-seeker. In 2008, some jobseekers got injured while others lost their lives during a recruitment exercise conducted by Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). And here we are, in 2014, with the same NIS conducting another recruitment exercise, this time more fatal!
For the Nigerian jobseeker, the March 15, 2014 NIS ill-fated recruitment exercise represents another mirage-like chance of securing employment. It brought to the fore the scary magnitude of unemployment in our country, the alarming number of jobless youths and their recurring exploitation by employers of labour roundly financed by public funds. Besides, it exposed the grave dangers Nigerian jobseekers face in their endless quest for the ever elusive employment.
Generally, a jobless person is poor, a dependent who relies on parents, relations or friends for feeding, shelter, transportation and clothing. Some of them are orphaned, very poor, and with no persons to assist them. Their poverty is akin to that described in Mario Corelli’s The Sorrows of Satan, where the victim is unsure of the next meal at any given time. In countries where the government is awake to its responsibilities and committed to the welfare of the citizenry, social welfare schemes exist for the payment of monthly stipends to the jobless, sick, poor and aged. Unfortunately, in Nigeria such persons are left to their fate! Except for sporadic acts of charity, they are on their own! They lack shelter, electricity, potable water, affordable healthcare facilities, quality education, good network of roads, etc. They live in shanties, drink pond or stream water, scavenge for food, live on alms, and depend on self-medication, herbs and native doctors for medicare.
The Nigerian poor who is very lucky to go to school gets no job upon graduation, neither is there any financial empowerment for him to embark on self-employment instead. The much hyped financing for small and medium scale entrepreneurs is hijacked by the elite. The available public service jobs are all taken up by the children, wards, relations and friends of politicians and other influential and connected citizens. The job adverts placed by most private sector organisations contain scary, ridiculous requirements and the jobs, if eventually secured, mostly pay peanuts and subject employees to modern-day slavery and exploitation. Yet, the jobseeker expends the little feeding money he has on job applications!
Hitherto, job-seeking Nigerians were required to send in written (typed or long-handed) applications for jobs, delivered through the post office. With the advent of the internet, most employers now require applicants to complete online application forms or send applications through e-mails. To do this, the job-seeker has to purchase internet airtime at a cybercafé or [rarely] use a kind person’s internet-connected computer. The erratic nature of internet services in most cyber cafés doubles an applicant’s cost in the process. But the government can provide cyber cafés in local government areas for poor citizens to make free but regulated use of the internet.
Sadly, Nigerian employers have turned their recruitment exercises into income-generating ventures. In all, poor jobseekers pay for every job application, with no assurance that the most qualified or exceptional will secure the job! The jobs are generally allotted to highbrow politicians, public officers, and other connected and influential persons prior to the aptitude test. Few days to the fatal NIS 2014 recruitment test, someone told me that a high-ranking NIS official claimed to have been allotted 10 employment slots and each was for sale at N500,000! Eventually, poor Nigerian jobseekers are taken for a ride, while the employers and their “consultants” smile to the banks. This has become a yearly routine and a norm among ministries, departments and agencies financed by public funds.
Applicants must buy scratch cards (from banks) which contain codes which are pre-conditions for accessing employers’ web portals or completing online application forms, as was the case with the recent NIS recent ill-fated recruitment exercise. Furthermore, applicants borrow money for transport to aptitude tests venues, if invited. Later, they are required to spend money again to know the outcome of the aptitude test via the internet. Worse still, the unlucky ones pay with their limbs or lives as happened in the NIS 2008 and March 15, 2014 recruitment exercises.
Nigerians who seek or secure employment with military and para-military organisations are required to procure T-shirts, shorts, canvass shoes, bed sheets, etc, even though the provision of these items for recruits is provided for in the annual budgets of these organisations! Generally, female jobseekers are sexually exploited by officials of recruiting bodies and prospective employers. Most times, the heads of government agencies create fronts who defraud jobseekers of huge sums of money with false promises of employment, only to deny them when the bubble bursts! Between middle of 2012 and early 2013, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) claimed to have uncovered and arrested members of syndicates which used the name of its Comptroller-General to defraud many Nigerian jobseekers of huge sums of money, with promises of employment with it. Unfortunately, it seems nothing was done to ensure that the fraudsters refunded the moneys to their victims.
No justification exists for these burgeoning acts of exploitation of poor jobseekers. They are reprehensible, unacceptable and the government should put a stop to them. Unashamedly, government agencies now justify the evil practice by reference to precedents laid by previous recruitment exercises of other public bodies! The embattled Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, arrogantly did so last year when Nigerians protested the N1,000 demanded from applicants for the NIS job application. Do ugly precedents offer a justification for their repetition or continuation? Moro and his “consultant” should be compelled to refund to each applicant a minimum of N5,000, because the cost incurred by each applicant far exceeds the N1,000 paid to Moro and his “consultant”. I know candidates who got invitations to the aptitude test a day before and had to take flights to their venues.
I join other right-thinking Nigerians in calling for the sack of Abba Moro. He lacks a pricking conscience and sense of morality that would prompt a person in his shoes to resign. The revelations so far show that he went solo as regards the recruitment exercise. He it was who condemned and cancelled the 2012 recruitment exercise carried out by the immediate past Comptroller-General of NIS, Mrs. Rose Uzoma, and engineered her removal from office. Then, the rumour was rife that he was infuriated by Uzoma’s refusal to allow him have the recruitment exercise his own way. We have now seen the disastrous outcome of a recruitment exercise done the Abba Moro way.
Ikechukwu A. Ogu, a legal practitioner, writes from Central Business District, Abuja (firstname.lastname@example.org)