March 16, 2014
Nation-wide it was a tragic weekend for millions of applicants for the 4,500 employment vacancies declared by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) yesterday. Again avoidable deaths, tears and sorrow characterized a simple recruitment exercise of 4,500. This unacceptable development runs against the best employment practices as contained in Nigeria’s Labour Act and relevant conventions and resolutions of International Labour Organization ( ILO) guiding decent work as subscribed to by Nigeria.
As at the last count, 19 applicants reportedly died in notable centres, namely Benin, Abuja, Minna and Port Harcourt. It will be recalled that in 2008, similar exercise by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) ended in the unacceptable deaths of scores of applicants.
Just as it was in 2008 (six years ago) the gender dimension of the deaths involved females and pregnant women in Benin. When we consider the pregnant applicants, we have invariably also killed unborn applicants. For a country that just marked International Women Day with funfare, the deaths of female applicants do gross violence to the Federal and states’ government claim to respect human and women rights. These nation-wide unprovoked deaths have negatively dented the notorious image of Nigeria as a country in which lives are being casually wasted in the communities, on the roads and now at recruitment centres.
When tragedies get addictive and widespread, (as it is regrettably becoming the regular trade mark of the Nigeria Immigration Service) these are no more “accidents” or a flash but clearly avoidable incidents. Indeed the deaths are nothing less than INDUSTRIAL MURDERS whose known perpetrators are known. Nigerians do not need another probe panel on this tragedy. In 2008 under Yar’Adua’s administration after similar carnage called recruitment, the Federal Government instituted a probe into the circumstances which led to the death of scores of applicants nationwide. The outcome of this probe was never known. Nigerians are probes-fatigue. Indeed the probe has not stopped this weekend’s industrial murders. This certainly should not be another opportunity for probe-panel beating.
PRESIDENT MUST ACT
Nigerians demand for direct government actions on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan to demonstrate that no life of an applicant will be further wasted at any recruitment centre. The President should take preventive actions to prevent shameless exhibition of incompetence and non-service delivery by some of his ministers.
Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro must get to the bottom of the recent deaths, falling which he must resign from administering a Ministry increasingly notorious for employment scandals and employment tragedies. The Minister is wrong to blame the victim applicants/job-seekers. The blames must go to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) bureaucracy which reportedly collected illegally as much as N6billion from applicants but failed woefully in putting appropriate mechanisms for genuine aptitude tests and applicants crowd control.
LABOUR MARKET POLICY
What the nation needs urgently is a far reaching new labour market policy that will put an end to this serial primitive recruitment exercise which, leaves in its trail despair, tears and dead bodies rather than living employed applicants. Nigeria parades labour market institutions such as Federal Ministry of Labour, trade unions and employers associations. After the centenary celebration, Nigeria must put an end to bazaar inhuman recruitment programme reminiscent of the hated slave Market of the 16th century and colonial forced labour under Lord Lugard in 19th century.
The nation has witnessed much of distortions in the labour market in recent time from casualization to employment rackets at the centre of which has been the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). We recall with pain how the disgraced former Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Mrs. Rose Chinyere Uzoma, allegedly sold ’4,000 employment slots approved by the Federal Government to job applicants and allocated some to other government personalities. A syndicate specialized in employment racketeering which fleeced Nigerians of amounts ranging between N400,000 and N500,000 to secure jobs in Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies, (MDAs).
It is not clear why a nation that is signatory to relevant ILO standards with respect to Decent Work would be so vulnerable to avoidable labour disaster over 200 years the world terminated the horrendous slave market.
STOP THE UNEMPLOYMENT ZUNAMI
Two critical labour market issues flow from the recent immigration recruitment tragedy. They are worsening unemployment situation and official lack of appreciation that labour market functions differently from any other factor market, and needs human face. The two can be summed up as absence of decent employment agenda by Nigeria’s governments at all levels in general. The two issues are also governance issues which task the responsibilities and sensitivities of the Federal as well as State Governments of the Federation.
NIS has placements for 4500 new employees but at the last count, over 6 million applied. Nothing dramatizes Nigeria’s unemployment crisis than the painful fact that so many applicants were called for such scandalously limited opportunities! The official unemployment rate is said to be 18%. But NIS’ dramatized labour demand and supply statistics clearly belie this official unemployment rate according to Bureau of Statistics. What Nigeria has at hand is disaster that is already happening before us.
The point cannot be over-exaggerated! We indeed have unemployment Zunami. If the labour absorptive capacity of the Federal departments such as immigration is so limited, we can then imagine the limitations of the private sector already constrained by factory closures, under capacity utilization, absence of power and high cost of production.
DECLARE EMERGENCY ON UNEMPLOYMENT
Nigeria is actually in a state of emergency as far as unemployment, underemployment and idle capacity are concerned. What the governments at all levels need is to officially recognize this grim reality and roll out (not just declare) emergency measures. America after the Second World War was not confronted with this scale and dimension of unemployment; school leavers of different grades before President Roosevelt declared a new deal, the bedrock of which was affirmative commitment to full employment at all costs including paying people to dig and fill same holes.
Jonathan administration should urgently break the jinx of the painful paradox of a country with so much to be done in all sectors, with so much resource endowment and yet inexplicably saddled with such huge idle hands. Today school graduates have all the degrees, Bsc, B A, Msc, MA, Ph.D but they lack the singular degree to terminate income poverty, which is JOBS.
The event of the last week is a rude awakening for the administration to create jobs, jobs and jobs (in-that-order). Promotion of mass employment opportunities is fundamental for Nigeria’s economic recovery while conversely idle capacity pushes the country into under-development. We cannot be part of the 20 leading economies with idle school leavers and army of under-employed such as okada riders whose value addition is suspect. The first challenge for Nigeria is to place employment at the heart of economic and social policies. We must pursue job-led growth and NOT jobless growth.
EMPLOYMENT AND NATIONAL CONFERENCE
The issues of unemployment and job creation should dominate discussion at the National Conference billed to commence on Monday March 17, 2014. The crisis of unemployment is one issue that cuts across all the regions of the country.
Issa Aremu, mni
GENERAL SECRETARY, NUTGTWN
VICE PRESIDENT, NIGERIA LABOUR CONGRESS (NLC)