Federal civil servants ignore employment ban, milk suffering job-seekers

The recent probe launched into allegations of employment fraud in the civil service amidst a ban on employment that was put in place by the administration of the former President, Muhammadu Buhari, has exposed more ills in the country’s troubled ministries, departments and agencies, DEBORAH TOLU-KOLAWOLE writes

In May 2020, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, former President Muhammadu Buhari placed an embargo on employment in the ministries, departments, and agencies of the Federal Government.

According to a memo signed by the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the suspension of recruitment by Buhari was a result of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the revenue projection of the Federal Government. It was, however, noted that employment waivers would be given to ensure that dead and retired workers were replaced.

Earlier in 2017, Buhari placed a similar ban on fresh recruitment into the public sector which according to him would help manage the rising personnel expenditure that was expected to rise to 12 percent in 2018.

To further ensure adequate monitoring of the ban, the Federal Government ensured that all civil servants were enlisted in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System widely known as the IPPIS.

Speaking on the impacts of the IPPIS recently, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan, noted that the IPPIS had continued to aid in the detection of civil servants with fake employment letters. In fact, during a media chat with journalists during the 2023 civil service week, the chief civil servant noted that the IPPIS helped to detect civil servants with inflated salaries.

“ Prior to the introduction of the current mechanisms put in place to drive the implementation of the IPPIS, the system was bedeviled with considerable leakages and wastes as well as the incessant infiltration of ghost workers etc,” she said.

However, amidst reforms, employment bans, and the introduction of mechanisms and employment waivers, The PUNCH reports that ghost workers and racketeering of jobs have continued to thrive in the civil service.

Recently, Haruna Kolo, an ex-aide to the Chairperson of the Federal Character Commission, Muheeba Dankaka, confessed to selling federal employment slots to job seekers at the directives of his former boss.

Kolo made the confession while testifying before a House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating job racketeering at ministries, departments, and agencies.

In his testimony, Kolo alleged that Dankaka set up a job racketeering ring, collecting money from job seekers.

He stated that to avoid digital trails, Mrs Dankaka insisted on cash only.

“On the allegations of job racketeering, the FCC Chairman instructed me to liaise with one Mr Shehu who is a personal driver and PA to the Taraba State commissioner. As a desk officer, I am responsible to take whoever is employed to the IPPIS for capturing. No one can go there without a letter from the chairman or Human Resource officer of the FCC.

I would have escaped if I wanted to

“When she came, she wrote a letter to the Accountant General instructing that no letter from FCC should be honoured except she signs the letter. So whenever there was new employment, she signed, gave it to me and I would take it to the Accountant General’s office for capturing.

“Shehu is the one that brought those who paid money to my account for the job, some paid N1m others N1.5m all to my personal account, my Eco bank account. She asked me to give cash to her which I did through POS so there is no evidence of transfer or anything,” he said.

Kolo said the chairperson compensated him, alongside three others, with a job at the Asset Management Company of Nigeria for the assignments he carried out. He said one of the beneficiaries is a sibling of Mrs Dankaka.

At the moment, Dankaka is facing allegations of corruption, nepotism, and highheadedness in the handling of the commission. Most of the allegations are coming from commissioners in the commission.

Earlier, some commissioners alleged that Dankaka had demanded a percentage of employment slots from MDAs though she denied the claim, stating that it was a case of “corruption fighting back”.

In her Defence, Dankaka said her move to stop the sale of job slots at the commission on her assumption of office did not go down well with some of the commissioners.

She said, “Before I came here, I have made my name. I have made my money. Let me tell you a small story. Some of them (commissioners) have reasons why they are attacking me. When I first came in, most of them were my close people. All of them were always in my office, but what they wanted me to do I told them I cannot do it.

“I am a very quiet person and I keep certain secrets as executive chairman. I have to swallow certain things and leave everything in the hands of God. Before I came to this place, they were selling (job) slots. The place was like a market. And you can find out from the people living in Abuja if I am lying.

“When I came in, I met all the commissioners and told them I don’t want anything that will destroy me and my family. All of them can bear me witness.”

The chairperson alleged that a commissioner bought a landed property and promised the seller to pay for it with job slots, but she thwarted the plan.

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Meanwhile, the Chairman of the House Investigative panel, Yusuf Gagdi noted that no agency has so far been indicted.

“This committee has not indicted the registrar of JAMB and we have not indicted any institution. You can only say that after we submit our report.

“We had a very good interaction with him and nobody should preempt the decision of this committee to say that somebody is faulty.”

No fewer than 40 ministries, departments, and agencies have so far been invited by the Chairman of the House ad hoc committee investigating employment racketeering in the civil service, Yusuf Gagdi, following the confessions of Kolo.

But Gagdi noted that despite the invitation extended to the MDAs, only four adhered.

“Most of these agencies are not respectful of constituted authority. We are supposed to have the presence of 40 agencies but only four are here,” Gagdi said while commenting on the failure of MDAs to show up to the investigative hearing which was held on August 9, 2023.

Sharing more light on some of the “lopsided“employment going on in some MDAs, Gagdi mentioned the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board.

According to the lawmaker, who challenged the Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, over 300 individuals recruited staff members of JAMB without a public advertisement of the job vacancies.

Gagdi who demanded that the agency immediately submits to the committee, the list of all persons employed between 2015- 2023, also accused JAMB of short-changing the country, failing to avail Nigerians the opportunity to apply when the jobs were vacant.

He said that from the documents available to the probe panel, the examination body had simply filled job vacancies without due process including short-listing and interview of job seekers. He added that the examination body relied on waivers for staff recruitment without adhering to the provisions of the law on the non-engagement of more than 100 staff members annually.

He further added that recruiting about 300 staff through waiver violates the federal character principle, adding that a waiver is to be granted only if an agency is collapsing.

“What makes you think advertising wouldn’t have been better? You have the capacity to screen the people that apply to get better hands to do those jobs. I am asking this because we are most interested in correcting the fraud associated with waivers,” he said.

Giving his defence, Oloyede said, “ “We used the waiver because we believe the exigency of the time and the nature of our work deserves it. If we are to advertise for the 300, we wouldn’t be able to meet up with what we needed them for.

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“I believe very strongly that it was very very necessary at that time that we recruited and I assure you that we did not shortchange those who are qualified,”

In 2022, The PUNCH reported how a whistleblower was almost sacked from a Federal Government ministry following his exposure of employment racketeering in the ministry. Also in 2022, there were a series of petitions to the Senate from aggrieved job seekers, alleging that the Niger Delta Development Commission management did not allow them to carry out any documentation despite issuing them letters of employment. One of the petitions, signed by a former deputy governor of Ondo State, Agboola Ajayi, alleged that employment in the interventionist agency was sold for various amounts depending on the financial strength of the applicant’s family.

The Accountant General of the Federation, Toyin Madein, during the investigative hearing said her office was working hard to fish out ghost workers, who existed in the system before the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.

Denying allegations that her office was engaged in the enrolment of ghost workers for personal gains, she said her office was working hard to address problems with the IPPIS. “Having realised that this is a system that needs to be reviewed, on my assumption of duty, I met a series of issues around IPPIS and that made me organise stakeholders with all the service providers around the IPPIS, where the service providers came and made presentations, questions were asked.

“The stakeholders’ meeting ran for two weeks where all the service providers were scheduled for each day and came with their technical hands while the technical team of the OAGF was also on the ground where we were discussing a series of issues about the system”, she said.

The Director of the IPPIS, Emma Deko, alleged that some universities were sending more names than required to be captured on the system. “We are all aware of the issue of ASUU. We were told to enroll them and the enrolment did not pass through the normal process because it was an ad hoc thing. It was an emergency. They refused to come on board.

“But when the government persuaded them to come on, we were asked to enroll them without going through the process. So I want to place on record that some of them were given numbers to enroll, to enroll people who were on their payroll prior to that time.”

The probe by the House continues as the lawmakers have vowed to get to the root of the matter.

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