THE BANE OF JOB RACKETEERING 

THE BANE OF JOB RACKETEERING 

Staffing government agencies with unqualified staff comes at a huge cost to the nation

Recruitment into public offices ought to celebrate competence and meritocracy. That is no longer the case in Nigeria. For almost a year now, health workers at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH), Ile-Ife, Osun State, have been working without pay. With the health institution unable to meet its commitments to staff who are now in desperate need, the fate of patients can only be imagined. But why are workers not paid? Following a recent unrest at the hospital, an investigative panel by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has attributed the problem to alleged job racketeering, and over-employment in flagrant abuse of extant rules and regulations. 

The story is sordid and embarrassing. In 2022, the office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation granted the OAUTH a waiver to hire 450 clinical staff to fill then existing vacancies. But the acting chief medical director of the institution allegedly connived with other management officials to commercialise job opportunities which were then sold to the highest bidders, some for as high as N500,000. With that, the hospital management reportedly recruited 2,423 people, thus exceeding the provision of the personnel budget by 1,973 workers. Even worse, only 55 of those hired have clinical background while the rest were mere administrative workers, most of them with no requisite academic and professional certificates. Today, OAUTH has a staff strength of 7,279 out of which 4,245 are in the administrative cadre! 

 Unfortunately, this challenge is not restricted to OAUTH. It is a national problem. Yet, resolving issues of job racketeering, as indeed other malpractices, involves applying principles, and transparent measures. Last July, the House of Representatives assigned itself the duty of investigating the sleaze in some federal agencies and mismanagement of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). This includes inquiry on the allegations that the chairperson of the Federal Character Commission, Hajiya Muheebah Dankaka, is in the thick of job racketeering. Three months after the House completed the exercise, the committee saddled with the assignment is reluctant to put its report on the table. Meanwhile, some commissioners at the FCC have raised concerns over the delay, alleging unwholesome practices on the part of the lawmakers who seem to be working to bury their own report.  

It is a notorious fact that the federal government recruitment and payment of civil servants and public officers are fraught with corruption, enhanced by reports of filling vacancies through under-the-table deals. There are reports that some job applicants pay as much as N5 million to be hired, especially in ‘juicy’ agencies where a lot of ill-gotten money could be made. But this malaise is not restricted to federal agencies. In fact, in many of the 36 states and 774 local government areas most of the job placements are handled by syndicates. It is so bad that to secure a teaching job in some states, many applicants resort to taking loans from family members and financial agencies at exorbitant interest rates.  

 Various surveys conducted on recruitment process into the country’s public service have revealed that sentiment and other primordial issues like ethnicity, nepotism and favoritism attract higher premium than merit. A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for instance, observed that 32 per cent of Nigerians who secured jobs in the nation’s public service in 2019 paid a bribe. The findings were not based on perception but on empirical findings backed by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).   

 The public service has largely been unable to meet the expectations of citizens both in terms of basic needs as well as institutional transformation. When somebody pays to secure a job, it stands to reason that such person will be there to serve themselves and not the public good. We therefore urge the Ministry of Health to go beyond the investigations by bringing all the culprits in the OAUTH scandal to justice. But this is a matter that smears the integrity of public institutions in Nigeria. Staffing government agencies with unqualified staff comes at a huge cost to the nation. We must all strive to rid our country of this emblem of shame. 

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The public service has largely been unable to meet the expectations of citizens both in terms of basic needs as well as institutional transformation. When somebody pays to secure a job, it stands to reason that such person will be there to serve themselves and not the public good 

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