The Senate may yet be capable of doing some public good. On the floor of the legislative chamber is a bill with the caption: Existing Vacancies in the Federal Civil Service (Prohibition) Bill. When passed into law, the bill is expected to put in place guidelines and procedures that will hopefully curb, if not eliminate, the trend of silent, subterranean processes of filling job spaces in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The bill will make it a punishable offence to fill vacancies in government establishments without due process of advertisement.
It will also set time frames for recruitment and will make it the duty of the heads of government agencies to ensure compliance so as to ensure the actualisation of the intendment of the Federal Character Commission. But the truth of the matter is that most of the nation’s laws are observed more in the breach especially by the same law and policy makers. They become efficacious only when the less privileged run foul of them. It is not as if there are no public and civil service rules dictating how to fill vacancies when they occur. The corruption, the nepotism and favouritism inherent in all of us are the stumbling blocks on the path to doing the appropriate thing to serve the common interest. What happened to the civil service examinations for prospective candidates that used to be the deciding factor?
The office of the Senate President has given the impression that it is about to set machinery in motion to revert to the pristine ways of doing justice to all as far as recruitment into the government services are concerned. That office had said that the passage of the bill and its assent would be one of the Upper Chamber’s legislative interventions to curb the increasing rate of illegal recruitment into federal government ministries, departments and agencies. Nigerians will be highly elated to see that happen.
Senator Dino Melaye had, in a twit, called attention to the anomalous situation in which notable Nigerians use their connections to disrupt, if not bastardise, government’s recruitment procedures that had stood the test of time. Regardless of the public opinion about the distinguished Senator, he made sense when he put the matter in its proper perspective. In that twit, he said: Nigeria will make progress only when the son of a nobody becomes somebody, when the poor unemployed won’t need a senator’s note to get a job. That used to be the case. And we ask, at what point did the nation let go of one of her cherished values?
The worry about illegal recruitment into government agencies is not necessarily because there are no rules guiding what to do when vacancies are created. It is not that the officials in charge do not know that Civil Service Commission exists and is charged with the responsibility of filling available vacancies. Those concerned know what they are expected to do but lack the moral force required to do what is right. They understand the requirements of transparency and national interest but for nepotistic and, in many cases, pecuniary interests, choose to mortgage their consciences and look the other way when national interest is sacrificed on the altar of self-interest.
Today, in Nigeria, the swan song is lack or absence of job opportunities. Compared with the number of jobseekers, it may be fair to argue that places are not enough to go round. But the issue is not just about the insufficiency of job places.
It has to do with equity, fairness and natural justice in spreading the few that are available in a transparent manner. There are recruitments on a regular basis in government agencies which is proof that government is expanding and retirements are creating openings. What happens in majority of the cases is that the vacancies are allocated to politicians, government officials and top civil servants who have fore knowledge of these vacant positions because of their privileged positions in the system.
We recall the recruitment into the Nigerian Immigration Service during the Jonathan administration. The irregularities were exposed when the entire process turned into a tragedy. The hollow ritual of deceiving desperate jobseekers to vie for non-existent positions became a national scandal which, in any case, was not enough to prick the soul of the authorities to check the outrageous practice.
We are waiting and hoping for something positive that will be in the interest of the average, unsung Nigerian to come out of the Senate. These illegal recruitments are the reason why there are square pegs on round holes in many a government establishment. They also explain why the public service is fast losing its vibrancy. It is not too late to reverse the trend.
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