Concerns mount over the increasing sufferings of the Nigerian youth as the House of Representatives committee probing job racketeering overshoots the deadline to submit its report
A loud silence is what has followed the sensational disclosures from the public hearings of the House of Representatives Committee set up to investigate allegations of job racketeering. Jobs meant for the millions of Nigerian youth and other qualified segments of the population have been diverted by politicians and their collaborators in government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) and subsequently shared with cronies, relatives, and privileged hangers-on. Slots not diverted are allocated and sold off by employment cartels to the helpless and hapless for vast sums of money. Job racketeering has become a cankerworm that has eaten deep into Nigeria’s public service fabric.
Unemployment and the grim reality of the Nigeria youth
Rather than merit, ethnicity, nepotism, favouritism, and religion have become vital factors determining whether the Nigerian youth gets employment in the public service. This is why most MDAs hardly advertise job openings and other employment vacancies. Job seekers reportedly pay between N1 to N5 million for slots and sometimes still do not get the jobs. Worse still is that some applicants resort to taking loans from families, friends, or even financial institutions.
This unfortunate trend is despite the alarming rate of unemployment in the country. A recent recalibration of methodology by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) controversially puts Nigeria’s unemployment rate at 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2023. The controversy is because the same institution put the figure at 33.3% for the last quarter of 2020, the last time it officially released data on unemployment. The fact that the NBS emphasized that the low figure for 2023 is not because the government had done much to change the reality of joblessness in the country highlights the woeful lot of the Nigerian youth. The destiny of this demography, which constitutes over 60% of the entire population of 200 million plus people, is what the House committee seeks to liberate. Or shackle further.
House of Reps wades in…
It has been over three months since the House of Representatives set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the alleged mismanagement of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), a human resources platform of the federal government’s public service. Chaired by Rep. Yusuf Adamu Gagdi (APC, Plateau), the committee’s mandate includes investigating alleged corruption in staff recruitment across government departments. The decision of the House had followed a motion moved by Rep. Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun) and adopted at plenary.
Public hearings of drama…
The ad-hoc committee wasted no time in getting to work. Over 600 MDAs would be engaged to unearth the extent of the misconduct in the federal civil service, its chairman said, citing the Federal Character Commission (FCC), Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, the Budget Office of the Federation, IPPIS, the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) as those that would be invited to hearings.
Engagements with the FCC took dramatic turns as commissioners openly sparred with their chairman, Mrs. Muheeba Dankaka, in several public hearing sessions. Initially, there had been unsuccessful attempts to evade appearance before the committee by the chair, claiming illness. “If she wants to collect 10 percent of employment, she says that the Chief Executive must come one-on-one with her. Why is she not here?” Moses Anaughe, a commissioner, countered in appearance before the Reps panel. He led other commissioners who accused Dankaka of selling job slots in foreign currencies using fronts such as her aides. The embattled FCC chairman denied the accusations but claimed that some documents that could have exonerated her were missing from the official files of the commission.
Dankaka’s woes were compounded when two job seekers appeared before the committee and alleged payment of N1 million and N2 million, respectively, for job slots. They demanded a refund of their monies, presenting bank statements to back up their claims. In another session with the committee, a former desk officer of the FCC, Haruna Kolo, testified on N98.5 million, alleged proceeds of job slots sales, allegedly traced to his personal bank accounts.
The committee is accused of corruption as ICPC steps in…
Amid all this drama, reports emanated to the effect that ad-hoc committee members were demanding bribes from MDAs being investigated. According to the online media report, some vice-chancellors of universities were made to pay N2 million into a bank account provided by a committee member through a middleman. Rep. Gagdi quickly denied the report, saying: “We will not compromise by hiding and aiding irregularities going on in the public service. No amount of statements accusing this Committee will deter us from doing our job. You may have your problem with a member of this Committee, but don’t blackmail the entire Committee.”
In any case, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) waded into the matter. They announced an investigation into the alleged extortion by unnamed members of the committee. “The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has commenced investigation into petitions received from Premium Times and Hon. Yusuf Adamu Gagdi, Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Ad-Hoc Committee on the Investigation of Job Racketeering and Gross Mismanagement in Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), over bribery allegations against the probe panel,” a statement from the anti-graft agency said.
Throwback to probes gone awry…
While the outcome of the ICPC investigation is awaited, it is instructive that the Gagdi committee would not be the first to be accused of bribery in the middle of a probe. There was a petition in the 9th Senate by aggrieved job seekers who alleged that the management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) of job racketeering. Recall also that in the 8th assembly, the House of Representatives initiated a probe into the utilization of the sum of N9 trillion accrued into a pensions fund. However, the exercise was truncated when the probe committee chairman, Mr. Johnson Agbonayinma, was forced to step aside over bribery allegations and the secret recruitment of his daughter into the investigated agency. These examples raise the big question: if the National Assembly, saddled with oversight and exposing corruption and job racketeering, has its members caught in the act, then what hope for the deprived Nigerian youth?
What have standing committees been up to?
Another pertinent question is: given the occurrence of job racketeering involving the FCC, what has the legislative committee seized with oversight over the commission been doing?
In the House of Representatives, there is a committee on Federal Character, which was chaired for two consecutive assemblies by the immediate past deputy speaker, Rep. Idris Wase. Why were there no mentions or investigations of job racketeering and lopsided appointments exposed during this period? Had the committee lived up to its billing and meted out deterrent measures to defaulters, there would probably be no reason for the current probe.
Awaiting the Gagdi panel report
It is over three weeks since the House resumed from its annual recess. Nigerians would want to know the outcome of the findings and resolutions of the Gagdi committee and the way forward for the teeming Nigeria youth.