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Published On: Mon, Mar 31st, 2014

The NIS recruitment and government’s approach: What next?

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Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba MoroBy Evelyn Okakwu

The typical Nigerian graduate has over the years been prone to countless abuses. While financial and other private institutions subject these young ones to various forms of social, moral and even sexual abuse, Staff and other members of the public sector ensure that these helpless set of Nigeria’s future leaders are subjected to an equally dangerous development by forcing them to pay large chunks of money before getting these jobs; most often than not, the frustrated youths pay money, without getting the said jobs.

Cases of youths abused in various ways for this purpose have time and time again been aired by the media with little or nothing done to alleviate the trend.

The situation is so unfortunate that every sector of the country’s workforce seem to depict total negation of the actual right to human dignity which all Nigerians including these applicants deserve.

The latest of these scenarios is the one that occurred during the exercise by the Nigerian immigration recently.

A lot has been said about the events that followed the exercise. Even the President of the federation has reacted by declaring the exercise null and void.

For many Nigerians; it is hoped that that singular act will mark the end of such forms of treatment. But can this dream really become a reality? Or are we just on a short break before yet another nightmare befalls us? After the reaction of the president, four of the applicants who participated in the exercise still went further to seek redress from the law courts on the issue. They are Charles Ugwonye, Friday Danlami, Chinedu Onwuka and Samson Ojo . But their action has been viewed with mixed feelings even from indifferent stakeholders in the country.

In this interview with Bucky Shonybare, a Human Resource Consultant with the 555 HR consulting limited Abuja, she analyses the whole scenario alongside the reaction of President Jonathan.

What’s your opinion on the suit filed against the Interior minister and a set of other stake holders regarding the exercise?

I think the applicants are actually right in going further to do that. We need to take a step further at certain points in this country to prove that we, as followers also know what our rights are. Section 33 of the 1999 constitution tells us that every person has a right to life and whatever will constitute an intentional attempt to deprive them of their rights is a lawful offence”

But that is the opinion of the HR consultant; Barrister Samuel Akenpuum had this to say on the issue: They will not succeed. It is, as any lawyer will tell you; a mare academic activity, because the exercise you are talking about has already been cancelled. You are saying that you want compensation for being unjustly treated in an exercise which has already been cancelled? The court does not work on speculations; it works on facts. If you say that there was an exercise and the government has already cancelled the exercise, then where is it before the court to act upon? If the court was to say anything on the exercise now, it will describe it as a mare academic exercise.

But does that mean that these people have gotten their compensation just from the statement of Mr. President? Bucky Shonibaren answers this question:

“Now the compensation promised by the President is certainly dicey. If you say that any person who has been injured should be given automatic employment; does that mean that if I have a scratch then I have a right to ask for automatic employment? The word ninjury is relative.

If someone hits me on the head, even if I don’t have a physical injury I can claim that I have been injured. So how do we really define what the term injury here means?

It will not be out of place to deduce that a lot of youths are already going from one hospital to the other in search of a report to ascertain that they were injured.

What would have been obtainable is a case where certain categories of injuries are specified to warrant a given kind of compensation. Also, there has to be a lot of factors considered”.

She adds that a major constitutional problem is the absence of globally acceptable responsibilities of an employer to the employee, in the Nigerian Labour law

“The staff of any organisation is part of its resources, and that explains that they are not liabilities but assets. As such, an employer will need to ensure the following, as duties to his employees:

The first is a right to safety: the employer seeks to ensure the growth of his financial assets through the contributions of his employee. The only way to make sure that this comes to be is to keep his or her employee in safe hands so that the employee in turn will treat the other variables that will ensure financial returns safely. It’s a give and take philosophy.

The next one is the right to fairness: employers should learn to treat their employees with equality; without any form of prejudice, or resort to stereotypic conclusions. You must as an employer be able to explain in clear terms why you are not accepting a prospective employee and the reasons must be fair and just; not traceable to ethnic or any other kind of affiliation. Even disabled persons should be accorded equal rights to the extent of their capabilities.

The next is the right to dignified treatment. Here we have a lot to learn as a country. We don’t have a system where the dignity of prospective employee comes into play. Young Nigerians seeking employment are often made to go through such traumatic experience such as having to pay such huge sums or money or being exposed to sexual or moral abuses. All these are issues that have been provided for by international labour laws, but we do not want to look into this important issues in Nigeria”.

What in your opinion is the way out?

A lot of Nigerians prefer government jobs, not just because they cannot have jobs in other agencies, but because they believe that it’s better to work with the government where they will have to work for just a short while per day or may even not have to come at all to work and still get their salary at the end of the day.

First of all we need to do a reorientation of the mind-set of young people so that they understand that a job is something that should earn you honour.

Now on the part of the employers, I will not exactly say that there is a global best practice out there, but we have seen better days in other places. Like in the recent recruitment; on the banner, we have 4,552 positions that need to be filed and thousands, even millions appeared. That alone is a negative development. Before any recruitment is done, the first thing you need to do is to determine where there is a need for that job. Is there a request for that particular job?

After that the next step is to make a job profile; this provides the detailed analysis for what is needed to be done; that becomes a yardstick for further short listing using the knowledge skills and abilities; (the KSAs)

The Interior minister said during an interview that practically everyone was invited for the job; that is wrong. There should be an automated level of short listing at different levels before you now get to the final stage. When you make the adverts about job openings and interest is indicated. You know we have over a hundred million youths in Nigeria and over 50 per cent of them are unemployed. So it’s not out of place for many of them to apply for the job. But there should have been an automated way to sieve out some Curriculum Vitae (CV) based on certain questions.

In fact there is so much that can be done on the computer; we are not really harnessing the use of the technology. You don’t even have to ask them to send their CVs. You should have a list of questions on a dialogue box that is based on the job profile which has been developed to ascertain their level of capability.

After that is done, there may be other tests like the psychometric test, the medical tests which can all be done on the computer, with specific timing.

You could even have the results given from the computer after it is marked by the system. You don’t have to gather people together.

But the physical fitness test is a part of what the people applying for such positions have to go through.

Who says that an NIS official has the capacity or right to determine the physical fitness of a candidate? These things should be done by a medical practitioner and it’s not everybody that should be involved.

All these procedures should have been followed before you invite them for a one on one interview.

With the large chunk of applicants that we have in this country, problems like this can only be averted with proper training of those in the admin and recruitment offices so that their capacity becomes good enough to accommodate the trend. Alternatively government should employ the services of external Human resource consultants by way of outsourcing. There are a lot of consulting firms that can handle this volume of employees; even if what is needed is to bring together a team of Human Resource consultants to deal with the challenge of recruiting such large number, what stops you from doing such? One important point to note is that the way an employee is treated at the start of a working relationship determines the employee’s perception of the said establishment, after employment.”

Whether this statement explains the lukewarm attitude of most government employees or not; one thing is certain that there is a need for a transformational approach towards recruitment in public sector, if the desired transformation in the sector should come to pass.

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