Disquiet over job racketeering in public institutions

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Gbajabiamila

BY ROTIMI DUROJAIYE

Recently, President Bola Tinubu rose in defence of his Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was serially accused of underhand dealings, selling federal appointments to the highest bidder, and favouritism in political appointments.

One theory has it that “the presidential gatekeeper’’ is so meticulous at his job to the extent that the majority of Tinubu’s hangers-on and political soul mates who believed that they should have unfettered access to the presidency find it difficult to see him, then this group of people might resort to blackmail to dent his (Gbajabiamila) image and get him booted out.

The second theory is that there could be some cabal within Aso Villa who is secretly selling appointments, knowingly and unknowingly, to the Chief of Staff.

Whichever way one may look at the issue, the fact is that there is persistent job racketeering at the federal level in Abuja that predates this administration.

It is not strange to hear that job openings are being filled secretly by the custodians of these sacred public institutions.

A lot of youths whose families can afford it are patronizing this route rather than waiting for fake advertisements from the so-called Federal Civil Service Commission without any cogent result to that effect.

Panic grips LUTH as presidency probes appointment of CMD
Anxiety has gripped the management of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi Araba, following the decision by the Presidency to probe the emergence of Prof Wasiu Lanre Adeyemo as the Chief Medical Director of the hospital.

The decision followed a rash of protests and petitions against the appointment, which was allegedly done without proper authorisation.

Recall that the selection process of who to succeed erstwhile LUTH CMD, Prof Chris Bode, whose tenure ended on March 24, 2023, remained inconclusive till the exit of former President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, of this year.

Curiously however, some highly connected officials of the Federal Ministry of Health were alleged to have hurriedly dispatched a letter appointing Prof Adeyemo as substantive CMD, acting on a purported Presidential approval signed on Sunday, May 28, 2023, at a time Buhari had already performed official hand over to President Bola Tinubu two days earlier on Friday 26th May.

What remained more baffling to The Presidency was that out of the six Federal Teaching Hospitals in Nigeria which had interview processes for CMDs conducted same day and remained inconclusive, only LUTH was hurriedly finalized by the concerned top echelon of the Health Ministry, taking advantage of the transition of government.

Miffed by the development, President Tinubu through his Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila directed a full probe to establish the culpability of officials of the Federal Ministry of Health and former key Presidency top shots connected with the development.

“Through various petitions addressed to The Presidency and the Health Ministry, Fasanmade had stridently challenged the emergence of Adeyemo, first as the Acting CMD since he, Fasanmade, was the most senior at CMAC, while Adeyemo also served as his Deputy”

A memo dated October 17, 2023 referenced: 58787/S.1/C.1/300, which emanated from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, demanded a written report from the Coordinating Minister of Health, Prof Ali Pate, on what transpired throughout the interview selection process.

In the said letter signed on the SGF’s behalf by the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Nnamdi Maurice Mbieri, the SGF directed that the Health Minister should be prompt in his response to “enable government to take further necessary action on the matter”.

Upon receipt of the memo, the Health Minister directed the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Daju Kachollom to explain why the Ministry hurriedly issued a letter of appointment to the LUTH CMD in a substantive capacity when the relevant due-diligence agencies of government especially the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission had not yet given final clearance on the process.

It was gathered that Kachollom said that none of the present actors in the Ministry was in office when the alleged infractions leading to the LUTH leadership tussle took place.

A source in the Health Ministry promised that justice would be done and that laid down administrative procedures would be followed.
With the development, a new selection process is in the offing with Adeyemo and Prof. Femi Fasanmade, a former Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee, slugging it out.

Through various petitions addressed to The Presidency and the Health Ministry, Fasanmade had stridently challenged the emergence of Adeyemo, first as the Acting CMD since he, Fasanmade, was the most senior at CMAC, while Adeyemo also served as his Deputy.

The main plank of his argument was that the foundational error committed by the now dissolved Governing Board of LUTH, led by Alhaji Sali Bello, whose four-year tenure already expired more than six months ago when it still went ahead to appoint Adeyemo as the Acting CMD and even though he was not the most Senior Consultant in LUTH.

Ex-CMD of OAUTH accused of widespread job racketeering

In another development, a report by the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s investigative panel exposed a dire situation at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital in Ile-Ife, Osun State.

The former Chief Medical Director, Dr. Olumuyiwa Owojuyigbe, was implicated in over-employment and job racketeering, causing the non-payment of salaries to health workers.

Dr. Aderemi Azeez, leading the investigation, discovered a significant over-employment situation orchestrated by Owojuyigbe. The hospital, against waiver approval for 450 vacancies in 2022 employment, hired a staggering 1,973 individuals. This substantial surplus resulted in financial strain, leaving several workers unpaid for months.

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Pate, acknowledged the investigation’s conclusion.

“We are addressing the OAUTH situation. The investigation has just been completed into this unfortunate situation. We understand the difficulties being faced by numerous innocent health workers and will do our best to resolve them equitably,” the minister wrote on his verified X (Twitter) handle.

In a statement titled ‘OAUTH Ife and the Unrest,’ and signed by Patricia Deworitshe, the Director of Press at the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the ministry addressed the unrest at OAUTH, pinning it on the job racketeering and over-employment orchestrated during Owojuyigbe’s tenure.

The statement partly read, “The hospital conducted the exercise in two phases (230 and 220) after securing the approval of the Federal Character Commission not to advertise the posts.

“During the first phase, the hospital recruited 600 instead of 230, and a total of 1,823 staff members were recruited in the second phase instead of 220.

“At the end of the two phases, the hospital recruited 2,423 staff instead of 450. As such, 1,973 staff members were recruited in excess of the approved waiver.”

The hospital’s recruitment process vastly exceeded approved limits, employing 2,423 instead of the authorised 450 staff, with an alarming 1:1 clinical to non-clinical staff ratio contrary to the recommended 3:1.

Moreover, numerous recruits lacked essential academic qualifications and evidence of National Youth Service Corps certificates.

Owojuyigbe, the Acting CMD since March 2023, has been absent since July, while Balogun Tajudeen, acting Director of Administration, is suspended for their involvement in the saga.

Responding to inquiries about the workers’ fate, the ministry stated that the Office of the Head of the Civil Service is conducting an investigation, indicating that they are the authority responsible for granting waivers to public institutions. Ex-CMD of OAUTH accused in panel report of widespread job racketeering

Disturbing revelations in House of Reps

Disturbing revelations have continued to emerge following the House of Representatives investigation into job racketeering in ministries, departments and agencies of government and the abuse of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information Service.

The investigations have, so far, uncovered a high level of corruption among government officials, many of whom have confessed to receiving monies from unsuspecting job seekers in exchange for jobs.

The Committee led by lawmaker, Yusuf Gagdi, who represents APC, Plateau, in the past month discovered that top staff of the Federal Character Commission, an agency charged with the responsibility of ensuring fairness, equity, transparency, and accountability in the sharing of federal vacancies have been indicted in the alleged racketeering.

Although the investigation is still ongoing, the ad-hoc committee found a gross violation of the FCC Act by the top management of the agency where they indiscriminately granted employment waivers to MDAs, conducted lopsided employment in most agencies and out rightly sold job vacancies to desperate unemployed people.

FCC investigation

The shocking revelation from the FCC came to the fore when an erstwhile IPPIS desk officer at the agency, Haruna Kolo who was accused of collecting monies from people to offer them jobs, confessed that he had collected over N75 million from applicants on the instruction of the FCC chairman, Farida Dankaka for employment.

Kolo told the committee that the FCC Chairman, Dankaka instructed him to receive the money in his personal account and pay her in cash, which he did at several meetings at her house.

The ex-IPPIS desk officer disclosed that he resigned from FCC on November 2, 2022 to begin work at Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, yet received salaries from the FCC on two occasions, which he claimed he reported to the FCC Human Resource Officer, who said it would be sorted out.

In his words Kolo said, “When she came to Federal Character as the executive chairman, she appointed me as a protocol officer, which I carried out my duty diligently. (She being the FCC Chairman)

“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’m responsible for taking whoever is employed to IPPIS for capturing. No one can go there without a letter from the Chairman or Human Resource Officer of the FCC.

“When she came, she wrote a letter to the Accountant General instructing that no letter from FCC should be honoured unless she signed the letter. So, whenever there is new employment, she signs, gives them to me and I take them to the Accountant General’s office for capturing.”

The embattled officer further revealed that “Shehu is the one that brought those who paid money to my account for a job, some paid N1 million, others N1.5 million all to my personal account, my Ecobank account. She asked me to give cash to her, which I did through POS so there is no evidence of transfer or anything.

“On the allegation of working at seven places, I was never at any time involved in seven jobs, they are making the allegation based on the assumption,” he stated.

Kolo disclosed that the “The second allegation on my subsequent employment at AMCON, was a result of her personal favour to me, we were four in number, and she gave the appointment letter to myself, Kadijah, and Olusola, we all proceeded for an interview at AMCON headquarters in Abuja after which we were called upon for training on January 16, 2023, after the training, I and Olusola were called to Lagos.

“Unfortunately, Kadijah, who is the chairman’s biological sister, was rejected; the chairman accused me of being responsible for her rejection.

“I see no reason why the chairperson will make allegations of such magnitude to my humble self. I have been threatened even at gunpoint and had to leave Abuja. Sir, I want this committee to know that after this sitting if anything happens to me, the FCC chairperson should be held responsible,” he submitted.

The adhoc Committee Chairman, Gagdi revealed that Kolo’s bank statements had been obtained and some names which made suspicious transfers to the account flagged and summoned to appear at the investigative hearing.

Gagdi said the committee found that one Gbadamosi Jalo made several transfers to Kolo.

While reacting to the allegations leveled against her by Kolo, the FCC chairman, Dankaka swore with God and Holy Qur’an that she never collected any monies from Kolo, insisting that she has never instructed her former subordinate to collect money on her behalf.

“I swear with Almighty God, I am with this Qur’an. Thank God the secretary brought this Qur’an. If I ever collect one naira from this Kolo, may almighty destroy what I worked for. If I have ever in my life asked him to go and collect one naira from anybody with Qur’an let it be destroyed.

“I have not set my eyes on this Kolo since December. I don’t know the driver that they are talking about. I have never set eyes on the driver. He said he comes to my house to give me money, he does not come to my house to give me money,” she said.

Also, Mamman Alakai, the commissioner representing Nasarawa State in the FCC, who was equally mentioned, denied collecting money to secure employment for job seekers.

Musa Ibrahim, one of the potential beneficiaries had told the committee that he, alongside nine other persons, paid millions into the account of a linkman to Alakai, identified as Abdullahi Ibrahim.

“A report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for instance, observed that 32 percent of Nigerians who secured jobs in the nation’s public service in 2019 paid a bribe”

But the Commissioner during his appearance before the ad hoc committee said he had never received money from anyone for a job offer.

“A traditional ruler in Nasarawa called to inform me that one of my aides collected money from him for job slots. I asked that the number be tracked by the police and I discovered it was Ibrahim. I wrote a petition to the police and he was traced,” Alakai said.

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, Ile-Ife, Osun State, have been working without pay.

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.

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 processes 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 for instance, observed that 32 percent 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.

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 a person will be there to serve themselves and not the public good.

The Ministry of Health must go beyond the investigations by bringing all the culprits in the OAUTH scandal to justice because this is a matter that smears the integrity of public institutions in Nigeria.