The recruitments which have been on-going since the second quarter of last year assumed a more frenetic and urgent dimension since the conclusion of the last presidential elections on March 28 this year where the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP led government of President Goodluck Jonathan lost to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Although most of the affected agencies claim that the exercise is routine and geared towards filling observed existing vacancies and in full compliance with extant laws, procedures and guidelines in the civil service, the timing and speed have raised concerns and suspicions among the Nigerian populace.
Indeed multiple sources at some of the agencies indicate that “the exercise has not breached any laws of the land on recruitments, appointments and service rules.” Enquiries on whether the exercise can also be taken care of within the scope of the 2015 budget was also affirmative.
While there are yawning vacancies in most of the establishments and agencies, the mode of recruitments fall short of strict tests on fairness, merit and other principles in the 1999 constitution especially on the doctrine of federal character. Section 170 of the 1999 Constitution says that “subject to the provisions of this constitution, the Federal Civil Service Commission may with the approval of the president and subject to such conditions as it may deem fit delegate any of the powers conferred upon it by this constitution to any of its members or to any officer in the civil service of the federation.”
The last major massive recruitment of officers into the federal civil service was in August 2011 when about 250 people were recruited into the office of the Auditor- General of the federation. The positions were advertised and interviews conducted in line with the rules.
Apprehensive that the recruitments may still be upturned by the incoming government of Muhammadu Buhari, despite meeting government regulations and conditions, many of the affected agencies have resorted to backdating of letters of appointments to 2014 and 2013.
This ploy, according to some inside sources will make it difficult for the officers to be relieved of their appointments as they would have to contend with the strict and ubiquitous civil service guidelines on recruitments, promotions and discipline.
“Some of the engagement procedures were downright ridiculous. Some of the officers were initially engaged through Short Message Services, SMS on their cell phones, before their appointments were regularized through the proper channels. Confirmations of appointments were also issued to them in conformity with the plot, without undergoing proper interviews as stipulated in the civil service laws. This obviously is to cover the lapses,”.
A staffer of one of the affected agencies who spoke on condition of anonymity accused some unnamed directors and deputy directors of being the mastermind of the recruitments. According to him, they argue that they are not bound by civil service rules and regulations since their agencies are somehow independent of the Federal Civil Service Commission and have the powers to recruit, promote and discipline their own staff. They further argue that only on rare occasions are people deployed or seconded to their organizations.
The officer lamented that the recruitments have been subjected to severe abuses and inflicted with the odious ‘Nigerian factor’ as most of the new recruits lack basic requirements of merit and are not compliant with the federal character principle. They did not also pass through the required statutory processes of engagement, although their letters of employment seem to imply full compliance.
Some of the affected agencies include the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, The Debt management office, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC, National Identity Management Commission, Nigeria Investment and Promotions Council, National Sports Commission, NSC, among others. The APC had warned last month in the wake of the sack of the former Inspector General of Police, IGP Suleiman Abba and some other key helmsmen of some government parastatals that it would review disengagements and sacks that do not comply with laid down rules. With the evolving twists in the pattern of recruitments, the APC has however kept mum.
Calls to the spokesperson of the Muhammadu Buhari Presidential Campaign Council, Mallam Garba Shehu were not taken as his line kept on showing indications of being busy. SMS sent to him was neither acknowledged, nor replied. But extensive feelers drawn from the party and some aides of the president- elect are emphatic that the current exercise is futile.
One of them said, “ there is no way the government of Buhari which is propagating change in everything will allow anything, no matter how well intentioned that will embarrass it, or negatively affect the economy. Be rest assured that every manoeuvre, or manipulation of the outgoing government will be looked into and unearthed. Plans are afoot to set up committees that will work on critical areas of the economy in the interest of the people and the prosperity of the nation. Our emphasis is on corruption, and if we find anything that has any taint of corruption, whoever is involved will answer to it. No sacred cows. But we will make sure that proper investigations are conducted in a fair and judicious manner”