By Nick Dugba,
In August 2016, the State Government had, in a resolution of the State EXCO decided to lift the ban on employment which was placed during the administration of Jolly Nyame over a decade ago.
Ironically, it was during that era that the State witnessed great developments such as the establishment of the State Polytechnic and University. With the corresponding ban on employment, it can only be imagined where graduates from these higher institutions of learning would put to practice, by way of employment, what they have learnt in school.
However, the vacuum created as a result of the ban on employment was capitalised on by unscrupulous persons, to their advantage. A lot of shady practices took place in the Civil Service such as illegal sales of recruitment forms, replacements without recourse to due process, the issue of ghost workers and even ‘ghost schools’, as Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board, (SUBEB), Yakubu Agbaizo, would say.
In fact, the current discordant tune as regards workers salaries between the Governor and Labour in the State, might not be unconnected to the efforts by the government at sanitising the system of unwholesome practices and instituting reforms in a Civil Service that has since lost its glory.
The present administration under Darius Dickson Ishaku came with the determination to reform the Civil Service and weed out the system of sharp practices. That was why the lifting of the ban on employment in August 2016, was received with joy by the teeming Taraba youths.
In November 2016, the Civil Service Commission (CSC), had begun the sale of Civil Service forms in preparation for the new recruitment, perhaps in the new year. But events have shown that this task might be difficult to accomplish and might indeed result to a policy somersault.
This is because the 2017 Budget did not provide for fresh recruitments in the State. Though several Ministries, Departments and Agencies, (MDAs), have not hidden their intention to recruit new staff, none of them was able to prepare a subhead for fresh recruitments.
The House of Assembly, while performing its oversight during the budget defence session, was surprised by the attitude of the MDAs which ran counter to their goals and aspirations for 2017.
The legislature through its committees had told those MDAs that since the highest decision-making body of the State (EXCO), had given the go-ahead for recruitment into the civil service, it was the responsibility of the various MDAs to liaise with the State Planning Commission and the Civil Service Commission towards recruitment of their staff based on their exigencies.
During the budget defence of the Civil Service Commission, the agency in charge of recruitments, the House Committee on Justice, Judiciary and Cabinet Affairs, had a ‘raw deal’ and were worried about the State of decay in the State Civil Service in the State.
Chairman of the Commission, Fidelis Kaigama, had told the bewildered committee that for the past seven years he had been in the Commission, only N1 million was allocated to him as running cost and that the Commission had never prepared a budget.
This damning revelation was at the heels of the recent sale of recruitment forms to Tarabans at the price of N2000 each. The Chairman then asserted that the contract for the sale of forms was given to a bank as against the direct sale by the Commission which in the past was riddled with irregularities and fraud. An investigation by this reporter has, however, shown that over 10,000 applicants have already bought the civil service forms amounting to over N20 million for positions that have not been advertised.
But the committee probed the Commission further on the entire exercise which is likened to ‘putting the cart before the horse’. In fact, a member of the committee, Charles Maijankai, described it as ‘jumping the gun’. He said that the Commission should have advertised the existing vacancies before putting the forms on sale. He regretted the fact that sometime in 2016, a similar exercise was done and he expended a lot of money to buy forms for his constituents, but it ended up a sham.
The reality now is that the Civil Service Commission, by the circumstances it found itself and the lethargic attitude of the MDAs towards Staff recruitment, there is nothing purposeful as far as recruitment into the Civil Service can be done at least for now. Moreover, the budget has already been passed!
Therefore, with this state of affairs, it is quite unlikely if prospective and qualified Taraba youths could be absorbed into the Civil Service in the near future. Several factors including the ones mentioned earlier, stand against any genuine intention to do so unless something serious is done about it.
But the questions are, why were the MDAs unable to prepare an estimate to capture the proposed recruitment in line with the lift of the ban on employment by Governor Ishaku and the exigencies of their MDAs? Was it a mere case of oversight? Was it a case of negligence or lack of initiatives or was it as a result of the systemic rot? Can we say, bureaucratic bottlenecks and red tapism were responsible? Well, your guess is as good as mine.
In its report of the 2017 Taraba State Appropriation Bill, the House Committee on Finance and Appropriation, observed that “in spite of the decision of the State government to embark on employment of civil servants to fill the vacancies existing within the State Civil Service, no clear provision has been made in the 2017 estimates for employment”.
Whereas it can be confidently said that the MDAs had the ‘blank cheque’ to undertake this task, they have preferred to play the ostrich, for reasons that are best known to them.
Amazingly, the sum of over N420 million was allocated for remuneration of 396 political office holders in the State which include: 20 Commissioners, 76 Special Advisers, 131 Senior Special Assistants, 22 Special Assistants, 28 Chairmen of Boards and Parastatals and 119 members of Boards and Parastatals.
While speaking with this reporter, Chairman, National Youth Council of Nigeria, (NYCN) Taraba State Council, Udi N. Adamu, condemned the manner by which the Youths were always fleeced of their hard earned resources in the name of securing jobs for them. He pleaded with Taraba youths to be patient as the Council was doing all it can to protect their interest.
“We have not seen where there is a sale of forms without vacancy. It is sending a bad message out there. It is speaking bad of the government. This is the third time that I have witnessed sales of forms and at the end of the day, there is no any result. If you meet the people concern, they will begin to shift responsibilities as if there is a breach of communication in the whole system”.
He advised the “Youths to remain calm” adding that if the governor has lifted embargo on employment, the youths are happy for that.
Ultimately, to be fair enough, youth employment ought to have been given more priority than political appointments in the 2017 budget, more so that graduates of Taraba origin have not benefitted from the State in over a decade.
It is only when that is done that this present administration would justify its slogan that it has come to ‘rescue’ the youth from unemployment.