Unemployed graduates in Nigeria have expressed anger and disappointment with the secret recruitments carried out by government agencies since the All Progressives Congress came to power in 2015, asking the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo to reverse them.
The unemployed youths spoke to Saturday PUNCH under the aegis of the Unemployed Graduates of Nigeria, Association of Nigerian Graduates Against Unemployment and the Youths Arise against Unemployment and Poverty.
They said it was a betrayal of trust for a government that enjoyed massive support and goodwill from Nigerians, including unemployed youths, to allow back-door employment for children of politically powerful individuals while majority of Nigerians continue to live in abject penury.
Under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, several agencies have engaged in secret recruitments of employees as against advertising vacancies in line with the provisions of the law and federal character.
Such agencies that have engaged in secret recruitments in the last two years include the Central Bank of Nigeria, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Nigerian Prisons Service.
Investigations by The PUNCH in December 2016 had revealed that the authorities of the NSCDC had enlisted about 100 candidates who were relatives, wards and protégés of politicians and influential personalities from the northern part of the country into the service.
The CBN had similarly given plum jobs to relatives or wards of people who are politically connected with the government.
FIRS had in 2016 also employed 349 new employees without any public advertisement of vacancies just as the NPS admitted to the House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions during a public hearing that it had recruited 605 persons without placing any public advertisement.
The youth therefore called on the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to toe the line of honour based on the promise of change made to Nigerians by this government and reverse the irregular recruitments and also punish heads of the affected government agencies.
The Convener, UGN, Michael Odor, who described the irregular recruitments as a deliberate ploy by the ruling elite to continue to impoverish the masses, called for the reversal of the recruitments and punishment of the heads of the agencies found culpable.
He said, “Such recruitments are wrong and the actions have inflicted injury in the hearts of many Nigerian youths. Acting President Osinbajo has to reverse all the recruitments and let everyone that is interested apply afresh.
“He should also sanction the heads of agencies found to have carried out such recruitments because it is important to be accountable to Nigerians.
“It is a deliberate attempt by the elite to continue to put the masses in a position of constant need so that they can always lure the poor with money and use them whenever they want. We are sitting on a keg of gunpowder.”
Similarly, National Public Relations Officer, Association of Nigerian Graduates Against Unemployment, Mr. Oni Kehinde, called for sanctions against heads of affected agencies, saying government “must deal with them for the illegal recruitments.”
Kehinde described the implications of the irregular recruitments as grave for the country and its struggling economy, adding that “such recruitments are meant for some selected few connected to the ruling cabal.”
He said, “Osinbajo should revisit and reverse all the recruitments done by the agencies. A common man should be able to apply and stand an equal chance with everyone else to get the job as long as he has the required qualifications. It is obvious that the recruitments the agencies had done under this government are not meant for the masses.
“I have not seen the child of a pepper seller gain employment in any of these government agencies. The implication is bad for our economy because they are giving jobs to people who will resume work late because they know they are cousins or wards of ministers, so they are only loyal to their uncles and not the country.
“When it comes to employment and empowerment, this government will score less than one per cent when you consider what it promised us.”
Public Relations Officer, Youths Arise Against Unemployment and Poverty, Mr. John Ovie, also called for the “punishment of all those involved in the illegal recruitments in government agencies.”
Ovie said if the government failed to reverse the recruitments, it would totally fail Nigerians, whom it had promised positive change in the way the government was being run.
“This government promised Nigerians change when it came in but it appears that it is worse than the previous ones. Even common recruitments, this government cannot make them transparent.
“With its mantra of change, we ought to have seen the change from Day 1, but clearly, it has all been lies,” he said.
A graduate of Accounting from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, Adebimpe Olukayode, 26, who had been looking for job since 2013, also urged the Federal Government to sack the heads of agencies where such recruitments took place.
She said, “Today’s political leaders are the ones taking corruption to another level. They said the change should start from us, yet they are not walking their talk. Why should any of them fill those agencies with their children?
“Many of us struggled throughout school, their children never did, yet they would still place them at a more advantageous position than us. There should be fairness in recruitment in government agencies.
“I want to plead with Acting President Osinbajo to ask the agencies to reverse the shoddy recruitment; it’s not fair. It’s unjust; it’s criminal. As a matter of fact, the Acting President should also sack the heads of the agencies involved in illegal recruitments. Or at least, he should penalise them.”
Olukayode’s thoughts were echoed by a Biochemistry graduate of the University of Lagos, Isaac Chibuike, 32, who also called on the Federal Government to “quickly” reverse the shoddy employment processes.
He said, “It was unjust for the agencies to have filled their vacancies with the children of the political elite. They said the previous administration was corrupt. Is what they did righteousness?
“It is high time corruption was dealt with at every level. I think Acting President Osinbajo could play a major role here. He and Buhari said they would fight corruption to a standstill; they should not just stop at those who looted funds; they should continue from here.
“For starters, let the Federal Government reverse the recruitment and then let an investigative panel be set up to look into those who spearheaded the recruitment processes. Anyone found guilty should be fired. Let every recruitment process be open to all, irrespective of our class in the society.”
For Kazeem Fawole, 32, who has been looking for a job for the past seven years, making recruitments open in Federal Government agencies would have ensured a level-playing field for all graduates.
The Ladoke Akintola University of Technology graduate also called on the Acting President to reverse the shoddy recruitments and fire the heads of agencies responsible.
He said, “Some of us graduates were sidelined in all the recruitments. I think it would be wrong to be preaching against corruption when some political leaders are practising it.
“I think Osinbajo could step up and fight corruption from within. He should mandate all the agencies to reverse the shoddy recruitments that took place and punish the agencies’ heads. That’s how we will know that the government is serious about fighting corruption.”
SERAP, CACOL back calls
In the same vein, Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni, said “whatever is done that is contrary to due process, transparency and the right of Nigerians to know what happens in any government establishment cannot stand and must be reversed.”
He said, “When recruitments are done through the back- door, the most likely scenario will be that Nigerians in their multitude will be shortchanged abundantly and that should not be so in a democracy.
“If we voted for a government, it means it is by the power of majority of the people that the government came into existence to exercise governmental powers and the way it must exercise the powers must be in the interest of the majority of the people.
“A situation where people are employed clandestinely, contrary to the demand of transparency and accountability cannot be allowed. It is in that regard that we align with the view that all the recruitments must be reversed and the heads of agencies that engaged in clandestine methods should be sanctioned.”
Like SERAP, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership also described the secret recruitments as tantamount to treason, saying they were “inequitable and not in accordance with the principles of public good.”
Executive Chairman, CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said, “There should be equal opportunities for everybody to have access to anything that will benefit the citizenry.
“Doing recruitments secretly means there is preferential treatment, which is not allowed under the Nigerian Constitution because everybody is equal before the law.
“And once the provision of the law is not followed, it means it is an illegal exercise. Not only should such recruitments be null and void and of no effect, those who made it possible for certain people to be secretly recruited should be punished because it is as good as a conspiracy against the citizenry. It is almost as bad as committing treason.”
However, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said graduates who feel sidelined by such recruitments could seek redress in court, adding that “government recruitments are required to fulfil the position of the law.”