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24.11.2022 Featured INVESTIGATION: Secret Employment, Job Racketeering in Osun As Oyetola Prepares To Vacate Office

Published 24th Nov, 2022

By Sodeeq Atanda

Shady transactions and faulty employment processes have dominated the Osun State public system in recent weeks, as government officials brazenly allocate job slots to politicians and desperate job-seekers overstretch themselves to raise funds to buy employment slots. To get to the root of the situation, SODEEQ ATANDA spent six days in the state interacting with people in the know of events while extracting useful information and evidence.

With Nigeria’s unemployment rate currently standing at 33.3%, teeming job-seekers are left to outsmart one another in the job market or jeopardize the system in the process. This leaves them as easy preys for job racketeers and corrupt government officials.

This is currently the situation in Osun State. The state, under the leadership of Isiaka Oyetola, has activated state machinery to recruit hundreds into various ministries of the state in defiance to lawful public recruitment process. The major beneficiaries? Members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with a track record of “loyalty”.

“It is a secret process,” said an APC member who asked not to be named.

SECRET RECRUITMENT INTO HEALTH SECTOR

In the ongoing underground employment spree in the state, several categories of health workers have been employed and posted to different workstations.

During a conversation with FIJ, one of the new employees, who craved anonymity, said, “Yes. I am one of the health workers employed by this government. Although my employment did not come easily, I thank God for the opportunity.

“I can confirm to you that many nurses, doctors, CHEW have collected their employment letters too. But we are apprehensive as to what becomes our fate if a new government comes on board, considering the fact that we have just been employed.”

According to the employment letters, exclusively obtained by FIJ, the appointment of the new recruits into various cadres in the health sector took “immediate effect”. By this, they have been placed on the state government’s payroll, entitled to all benefits and privileges guaranteed under the labour law.

An appointment letter dated September 2, 2022

In another part of the state, a source who requested anonymity, confirmed that the government had been recruiting new staff into different ministries in an attempt to fill hundreds of job vacancies in the state.

The source was quick to add that political consideration forms one of the underlying requirements in the process. He described this as unfortunate, as it will rob the government of quality hands in the public sector.

“Recruitment has been ongoing for some time now. At the moment, I know of health and education ministries. For education ministry, the government made a proper media announcement, but for health sector, there was nothing like that,” he said.

“Let me clarify it for you; the ongoing recruitment in the education sector is a sequel to the first batch that the government announced as the merit list. In the first batch, the government recruited 1,000 teachers, but in the second batch, they promised to recruit 1,500.

“To get employed in either of the ministries (education and health) in this phase, you must be connected politically. A young lady whom I know was lucky to be employed in the recruitment drive did so through a House of Assembly member.”

In another appointment letter ontined by FIJ, it was explicitly stated that the offer takes “immediate effect”.

Another appointment letter issued by State of Osun Primary Healthcare Development Board

“It is an ongoing process. As we speak, I know two persons who have just collected their appointment letters today,” said a young health professional who lost out due to his weak political connections.

“I swear to God, I would not have felt sad about the process if they had allowed us to write an examination to determine suitable persons. They are just hand-picking their people without due process.”

THE USUAL PRACTICE; OYETOLA HAS DONE NOTHING WRONG

Speaking with FIJ on the process of employing the health professionals, Ajayi, a civil servant and registered member of the APC, said the secret recruitment exercise going on in the state is not a strange practice.

“It is a way of ensuring that the governor rewards some of his party loyalists. By employing people in that manner (secret), the governor would have the opportunity of allocating slots to people he feels have been helpful to his political life and political party’s operations,” he said.

“You may be aware that we are challenging the outcome of the July 16 governorship election, and we cannot be sure of victory in court. So, the governor must not miss the opportunity to fill vacancies in public service and in doing that, you cannot blame the government if they politicise it.

“It is not only about Oyetola, but about how Nigerian politicians behave when exiting office.”

He told FIJ about his nurse-friend who was a beneficiary such exercise during the administration of Bisi Akande, the first Fourth Republic governor of the state.

“One of my friends who is today a successful nurse in this town may not have succeeded were it not for the underground recruitment in the health sector by ‘Baba Akande’ while leaving office.”

THE GRAND POLITICAL PLAN IN EXECUTION

FIJ found out that since losing the governorship election, there has been a calculated design by the government to absorb a huge number of new employees into the state civil service. This was, however, hinged on political cooperation of would-be beneficiaries.

Monsuru Olanihun (not real name), a Community Health Extension Worker (CHEW) and one of the new health sector recruits, told FIJ that what the government of Osun had done was to reward their political services.

“I am a CHEW as well as a member of the APC. Prior to the governorship election day, the party promised us that they would employ in government. We were engaged to canvass votes for the governor,” he said.

“Aside our involvement in the door-to-door campaign, we were saddled with the responsibility of going from one health centre to the other to collect the Voter Identification Numbers (VINs) of health workers in the 332 health centres in the state.”

“It is correct that I have collected my appointment letter and it is a reward of my commitment to the party.”

Corroborating Olanihun’s revelation, a health worker in a public health centre told FIJ what transpired in days leading to July 16 governorship election in the state.

“I don’t understand what these politicians take workers for. Some young persons came to our centre few weeks away to the election and asked us to make our VINs available to them,” she said.

“Of course, we knew it was for political reason; some of us declined. Some of us argued that we were not toddlers and we could not be deceived to vote for any candidate through that method. Is it not ridiculous that a political party so fixated on winning the election was requesting for our VINs?”

Olanihun further explained that in 2018, the government hired one ad-hoc health worker each in the 332 political wards in the state, and placed them on N20,000 monthly stipend.

“The 332 ad-hoc health workers hired in 2018 with a monthly stipend of N20,000 per worker were assured of permanent employment anytime the government wants to employ. So, when the election was approaching, the promise of permanent confirmation was the carrot placed before us,” he said.

“Prior to the election, we had formed a structure to simplify the channel of communication between us and the government. Something like an association. In each local government, we had a coordinator. This means we had 31 coordinators according to the number of local governments and one area office in the state.

“In turn, these 31 local coordinators also a selected a state coordinator among themselves. The representative was the one who directly received communication from the government and relayed it to local coordinators, from whom all the ad hoc staff became abreast of latest information. But at the end of the day, very few of us got the job.”

While speaking with one of the “disappointed health workers”, FIJ found out that the so-called interview conducted by the board of the primary education healthcare for new employees was for the “favoured ones”.

One of the disappointed ones, name withheld, told FIJ he was of the hardworking persons at his centre. “My supervisors can testify to this,” he said. “But at the end of it all, I was not considered.”

LATEST ATTEMPT TO PACIFY THE DISAPPOINTED HEALTH PRACTITIONERS

FIJ also found out that the government is working to pacify those who have not been issued appointment letters in this ongoing health sector recruitment.

Subsequently, FIJ obtained the a chat during which Rahman Najeemdeen, the state coordinator of the ad hoc health workers, asked all coordinators to urgently compile their group members’ names and forward the list to him.

“On the ongoing recruitment, which will perhaps end this week, all coordinators must endeavour to compile all the names of our colleagues not yet employed,” he said.

Rahman Najeemdeen speaking

“We want to know the total number of our colleagues who have not been issued letters, because we are not relenting. Efforts are ongoing underground. Anybody who is an ad-hoc staff member but is yet to get an appointment letter, we want to know their number.”

CASH FOR JOB

News of applicants paying for the job is not strange to Olanihun, but he would not admit. He fumbled for words while denying it, but he was betrayed by the expression on his face.

“You might be hearing that some people are paying to get the job, but I do not know anyone who has paid for it,” he said.

As for Ajayi, his hope of buying three slots for job-seekers around him is still hanging in the air. He has paid about N300,000 to a top civil servant in a ministry, but the jobs are not forthcoming.

“For now, I don’t know if I have wasted my money or invested it. I have paid almost N300,000 to one civil servant at the state level to help me facilitate three job placements for three persons close to me,” he said.

“It is more than two months now, yet he has not fulfilled our agreement. I am worried. I have told him to refund my money if he cannot facilitate the jobs, but he keeps telling me to be patient.”

In a charge to new officers of the state civil service commission recently, Governor Oyetola had told the commission to, among other things, “ensure due process and abide by the extant laws of the civil service in the areas of appointment, promotion and discipline”.

NO RECRUIMENT INFO ON OSUN PRY HEALTHCARE DEVELOPMENT BOARD’S WEBSITE

FIJ’s check on the website of the Osun Primary Healthcare Development Board returned no relevant information about the recruitment.

It was found that the last recruitment advertised by the board on its website was for the engagement of midwives on a short-term basis. The electronic form for the recruitment was termed “OSPHB 2020 Midwives engagement”.

The board’s website homepage showing the strolling link for the 2020 engagement of midwives

FIJ also found that the state’s website gave no information on the recruitment exercise, in line with civil service rules in Nigeria that clearly stipulate that recruitment into government MDAs should be publicly advertised within a reasonable period of time. The only brief information seen on the website was a highlight of the functions of the ministry of health.

This story was produced in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).

Published 24th Nov, 2022

By Sodeeq Atanda

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