Recruitment exercises conducted by many public and private organisations in Nigeria showcase the level of exploitation faced by jobless and job-seeking Nigerians. No doubt, Nigeria has a high unemployment level and few employment opportunities exist for the innumerable qualified citizens who seek them daily. It is no less true that successive governments pay lip service to combating the problem, for no sincere efforts are made to create employment opportunities for jobless Nigerians. Those who venture into self-employment are frustrated by the epileptic electricity supply, zero financing, bad road networks, poor transportation system and other unsettling factors. Yet our institutions of higher learning continuously produce both quality and otherwise graduates, while staff retrenchments by public and private employers bloat the unemployment level.
The above scenario has engendered exploiters who take advantage of the desperation and helplessness of job-seekers. In the first group are worker-engagement centres which are business concerns that scout for organizations in need of employees and advertize their existing vacancies. They demand registration fees from job-seekers, promising them employment with their clients (employers). Where a job is secured, it is usually agreed between the centre and the employer for the fresh employee to forfeit one or two month’s salary to the centre as fee for its services.
The second group is made up of resource outfits (consultants) hired by several organizations to carry out aptitude tests/interviews for prospective employees. These resource outfits usually have stand-by candidates who pay huge registration fees and await notice of vacancies anywhere. These candidates are promptly notified of any aptitude test/interview the outfit is engaged to conduct. After such aptitude tests/interviews, these stand-by candidates are mostly among the successful applicants shortlisted and forwarded to the prospective employer for recruitment. Here, applicants who would have been otherwise successful are shortchanged.
In the third group are persons who extort money from jobseekers, promising to secure employment for them. This is very rampant when government agencies are recruiting. These extortionists are either insiders (employees of the recruiting organisation) or outsiders who have or claim connection to the top echelon of the organization. Occasionally, they deliver on their promises, but most times they fail and also hardly refund the money so collected, leaving the applicants disappointed and frustrated. In some states, people pay up to N100,000 to secure a teaching job in public primary schools! For jobs in federal bodies, a job-seeker may be required to part with N150,000. In successful cases, the victims do not complain for, in their reckoning, the job is worth the price.
The fourth group consists of the regimented organizations. Hitherto, persons who wished to join the military and paramilitary bodies were freely provided with T-shirts, canvass shoes, shorts, bed-sheets, pillows, etc required for the recruitment training exercise, at the government’s expense. It is no longer so, as applicants are now mandated to come along with these items and no form of reimbursement is made to them. Many applicants spend up to N20,000 to meet these requirements. In some cases, the applicants are required to undergo medical examination at their own cost prior to the written test, as happened during the 2008 recruitment exercise conducted by the Nigerian Immigration Service. Think of it. Should applicants be subjected to medical examination until after they must have passed the written/oral test and are being considered for employment?
The requirement by mainly government agencies for job-seekers to purchase internet scratch cards from banks or other sale outlets which charge commissions is another form of exploitation. The applicants incur further costs by buying air times at cybercafés to access the employer’s website and apply online. Some travel from their villages to distant towns to access the internet. For private organisations (especially banks), applicants at times discover that their websites are empty of any online application form. An applicant spends around N1,000 to do this, considering the erratic nature of internet services in Nigeria. This is the kind of exploitation faced by candidates of JAMB, WAEC and NECO when registering for examinations or checking results. The government should direct these examination bodies to revert to the former and affordable system where candidates submit forms and check results through the post office, mindful that NIPOST has improved its services.
In 2008, the Nigerian Immigration Service conducted a recruitment exercise. Applicants were required to buy internet scratch cards, apply online, buy sports kith, undergo medical tests and fitness exercises, etc. Not only did applicants spend much money in the process, some of them reportedly lost their lives as a result of the fitness exercise. The same year, the Nigerian Police Force and its consultants made every applicant to buy a N2,000 internet scratch card, apply online and incur other expenses for recruitment into the Force. Pray, has the last been heard on the reported probes by the National Assembly into these cases? However, these organisations should be directed to refund all the applicants the monies they spent in the process, and compensate the families of deceased applicants.
Another form of exploitation job-seekers suffer comes in the form of aptitude tests which do not examine their competence in their fields of study or job schedules but in subjects that have nothing to do with such. It could also be by subjecting experienced persons who desire job change to the same aptitude test alongside fresh graduates, with no store set by cognate experience. A job-seeker should be examined on his field of study, general knowledge and, if relevant, cognate experience. The result of the current practice in Nigeria is that job-seekers now cram specimen questions and answers contained in Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) books in order to pass aptitude tests and, possibly, get recruited.
The jobless are also exploited when employers, in their adverts, limit the category of qualified applicants to holders of first class and second class (upper) degrees. A related and equally condemnable practice by Nigerian employers, especially private organizations, is to require fresh or jobless graduates to possess post-graduation cognate working experience. Most times, these are geared to reduce the number of applicants and recruit from behind some persons actually disqualified by the advert. However, it is a known fact that many Nigerian graduates obtained their flying colours certificates through exam malpractices, mercenaries, money and favoritism. A fair aptitude test/interview on the relevant field of study and general knowledge is a better determinant of a graduate’s professional competence than paper qualification.
Bereft of any justification is the seeming connivance between some employers, especially institutions funded from the public purse, and their consultants to exploit job-seeking Nigerians by compelling them to pay through the nose to secure jobs. This is moreso when, eventually, only very few of the applicants get employed in the process, while many of the successful ones may not have applied or spent a kobo. Should poor job-seekers be turned into sources of revenue for employers or remuneration for their consultants? Most organisations are unfeeling to the need to assist jobless applicants to defray the transport and lodging costs they incur to attend aptitude tests/interviews.
These acts of exploitation of the jobless and job-seeking are callous and unpardonable. A jobless person is poor and needs all the money he can muster, to keep body and soul together. Employers should advertize their vacancies in newspapers and accept applications in hard copy (through the post or hand delivery) or through emails, as alternatives to filling online applications forms. If the services of consultants must be used, the names of the job-seekers should be published in newspapers and at the offices of the recruiting organization prior to aptitude tests/interviews. Hopefully, this may forestall stand-by candidates and other strange names emerging later as the successful applicants. Generally, recruitment exercises should be fairly and equitably done.
Of what purpose is the requirement for graduates to fill forms and submit credentials at the Federal and States’ Civil Service Commissions if they cannot get jobs thereof? These Commissions should handle all recruitments into the Federal and States’ Public Services and, thereby, spare job-seekers acts of exploitation. Again, what is the relevance of the National Directorate of Employment which has failed to even scratch the face of unemployment in Nigeria? The activities of recruitment bodies and consultants deserve close monitoring and regulation by the Federal and States’ Ministries of Labour and Productivity. For the Nigerian job-seeker, unemployment, nepotism and tribalism in the process of employment are enough crushing worries. It is reprehensible to subject him to any further exploitation.
Ikechukwu A. Ogu is a Legal Practitioner and writes from Central Business District, Abuja. Email: [email protected]