OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES DR GOODLUCK E. JONATHAN (GCFR)
OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES DR GOODLUCK E. JONATHAN (GCFR)
Commercialisation of Job Applications
The Honourable Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu
The Honourable President of the Senate, Senator (Dr) David A.B. Mark, GCON, FNIM
The Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Dimeji Bankole
The Honourable Minister of Justice, Justice Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN
As many Nigerians watch with consternation the growing level of unemployment in our country, endowed with numerous natural resources, many have failed to spot the new dimension being introduced into the unemployment market.
Quite a number of government ministries, parastatals, and agencies have recently designed and started testing a daring formula to extract money from the desperate unemployed in the country. The recent introduction of application fees in the form of scratch cards, bank draft etc in some of the advertised jobs in the country calls for the urgent attention of well meaning Nigerians. This limiting condition introduced into the recruitment exercises has prevented a lot of qualified unemployed youths from getting employed, as they are expected to pay the required application fees before they can access application forms for roles being advertised by intending employers. Considering the current level of economic hardship in the country, many have failed to raise such application fees on time to make these applications.
This situation is not only being construed as an exploitative measure, if not an outright fraud, but is also perceived to be worsening the hardship among the unemployed youths. The realisation that government agencies, ministries, and some state governments are the ones championing this recent scam is heart-rending. Your Excellency, you would agree with us that it is callous and a misnomer to mandate someone (directly/indirectly) to purchase application form for a job he/she is not even sure of securing? This goes contrary to the expectation of the people of a government elected to cater for the wellbeing of its citizens. We urge you to use your good office to put an immediate stop to these negative tendencies that have continuously been used to emasculate and exploit the vulnerability of the masses.
Current statistics show that more than 50 percent of graduates in the country remain unemployed (Daily Champion, 13 April 2010) and there has not been any tangible government effort to support and cater for the wellbeing of these unemployed youths. It is disheartening that while other governments all over the world make life easier for its unemployed through the provision of unemployment benefits, creation of job centres with free telephone and Internet facilities to support applicants during job hunting and application process, ours view the conception of this dubious scheme to exploit her vulnerable applicants, as a new form of revenue generation. This ugly situation has forced many young talents to embark on criminal and hazardous adventures they would not have ventured into, under normal circumstances, which have resulted in dangerous implications for them and the nation in general. One would expect the government to introduce measures to cushion the effects of the soaring unemployment rate among the youths, as majority of them have been compelled to rely on parents and relatives who are equally struggling to make ends meet. This situation has also forced some unscrupulous parents and relatives into corrupt practices in their places of work in order to support their unemployed youths. More over, it would not require an extensive study for one to realise that the current spate of violence and level of insecurity in the country is a direct consequence of this high level of unemployment.
One wonders what kind of principles some of the government agencies or ministries have that make them liaise with banks and IT companies to extract money from the unemployed youths (under the guise of offering them employment opportunities), who ought to have been placed on unemployment benefits, as practiced in other countries of the world. It breaks the heart more as one tries to find the justification for such callous actions. A case at hand is the recent advert from the Imo State government promising 10,000 employment opportunities to graduates. The would-be applicants were expected to pay N2000, in order to obtain the application form. Some other instances are the adverts placed by the Nigerian Army and Navy for a direct short service recruitment program, in which candidates were compelled to purchase scratch cards at the price of N2000 and N1000 respectively, from Oceanic bank and UBA branches nationwide to enable them access the Nigerian Army and Navy online registration / application process (Tuesday Guardian of 14 November 2009). We view this as outright fraud. Why should a state government demand such amount from people it wishes to help? Doesn’t the government realise that most of those youths, by virtue of the fact that they are unemployed and without any other means of livelihood cannot afford such amount of money, particularly when every other prospective employer seems to be heading in the same direction of extorting fees from the helpless unemployed? Or is the government expecting them to get the money from retired parents, who hardly receive their pensions, or relatives that are being owed salaries and allowances? We are expecting the Imo State government to tell Nigerians the number of youths it eventually employed.
This exposes either how ignorant some of our rulers are of the hardship facing the majority of people in the country or their insensitivities to the perilous conditions they have plunged the masses into. Assuming that the youths could afford the amount of money required to make one of such applications, do they (employers) realise the number of applications these unemployed graduates make in a month? If all the potential employers continue to adopt this pay-before-applying-strategy, do they realise that an applicant may have to spend about N50, 000 naira on the average per month, to make 25 of such non-guaranteed job applications? Where do they expect such money to come from? We think that this is just another way of discouraging unemployed youths from making applications. If the government ministries and agencies are eager to generate revenue, there are other viable ways of doing this than exploiting the same people they are meant to help. We do recognise the fact that Nigeria being a member of the International Labour Organisation respects the provisions of ILO Conventions, and there are provisions under the current Labour Act of the country, for fee-charging employment agencies, but it has to be put into consideration that in other ILO member countries, the unemployed are adequately provided for financially to cater for situations when they may recourse to the services of fee-charging employment agencies.
The harrowing experience most Nigerian youths are being forced to go through can hardly be overstated. The rigorous process of making online applications via snail-speed Internet networks to the stressful and mostly non-productive series of aptitude tests, where thousands are invited to slug it out for few available positions (it still baffles one, why the employing organisations are too inefficient to do a proper screening of applications, in order to scale down the number of candidates invited for tests) is already a nightmare that will be compounded by this recent introduction of application fees. The life of an average graduate is a sad story of neglect, discouragement, hardship, and limitations to his potentials. And as one battles with the already existing problems in the rough terrain of the employment market, while trying to get a foothold into gainful employment, one’s life is being made more miserable by this inhumane caveat precluding one from applying for a job without paying for it!
As a result of this, we the members of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund Scholars (PTDF 2007 Scholars Forum) have resolved to push for a presidential caveat/directive or amendment of the existing Labour Act, to stop this developing hazard, as well as call for a reform in the entire recruitment exercise in the country. This is to combat the hardship and neglect that the average Nigerian youth is being made to face. We have analysed the implication of this recent situation and envisage its ugly implications for the future of the nation. No doubt, most private sector employers are still watching to see how the nation reacts to this new wave of exploitation. One can only imagine what would be the fate of the unemployed by the time every organisation advertising their jobs starts to exploit would-be applicants through the aforementioned means.
We therefore ask Your Excellency that you use your good office to initiate a reform of the present Labour Act or to use a Presidential Caveat to tackle this issue and other issues that have negatively affected employment process in the country. We expect the following suggestions to be taken into consideration in the process:
i. All forms of fees/charges, which applicants/job seekers are made to pay in pursuant of job applications (application fees, result status checking fees etc) should be prohibited/abolished. Any organisation found to be engaging in such should be fined/ adequately dealt with.
ii. All applicants shortlisted for interviews/aptitude tests must at least be reimbursed/compensated for most of the expenses incurred (especially transportation fare) for attending such interviews, by the interview organising body.
iii. The entire recruitment process, including the advertisement period and short-listing of successful candidates must not exceed a maximum of 6 calendar months.
iv. Interview feedbacks must be communicated to unsuccessful candidates by the interview organising body as soon as possible after the interview but not later than 28 days after the completion of the interview via email, or post.
v. List of successful candidates of any recruitment exercise must be made available to the public through at least three popular dailies in the country.
vi. On no account must any job advert discriminate against potential candidates on the account of age or gender. This particularly refers to the archaic 28-30 years age limit barrier included in most job adverts in the country. The must-be-experienced clause making waves in most job adverts MUST be removed from all employment adverts except in situations where there is ample evidence that such experience are required in that particular role. Companies or organisation must be prepared to train their employees – Every unemployed youth should be given a chance. Discrimination by age or gender is now a suable offense in the civilised world. We know this to be a verifiable fact in the UK for example.
vii. Employment agencies operating within the country must be prohibited from demanding registration fees from candidates. They can only be allowed to obtain a certain percentage of money from any potential employee after successfully securing a job for the person, and not before.
viii. In the view that most government agencies have the necessary resources to successfully conduct a recruitment process, they should be compelled to desist from using the services of fee-paying employment agencies to organise recruitments, or be made to bear the total cost of such services rendered by the recruitment agencies.
We also call on well meaning Nigerians, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and all tertiary institutions trade unions, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), oil and gas workers trade unions, Nigeria Medical Associations (NMA), Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) etc to support this cause. If we fail to fight this ugly menace now, the future of our unborn children will terribly be at stake.
May God continue to bless you Mr. President and endow you the wisdom to effectively pilot the affairs of the nation.
God bless Nigeria. Long Live Federal Republic of Nigeria.
PTDF SCHOLARS - 2007 FORUM