This piece is as much about David Mark as it is about the “hallowed chamber” he leads. It was prompted by an event earlier in the month involving the chairman, Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Deaconess Joan Ayo. During its 2012 budget performance before the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service Matters, Deaconess Ayo was confronted by the vice chairman of the committee, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, who alleged that there was rumour making the rounds that “some staff of the commission were compelling young job seekers to part with N500,000 ($3,000) to get jobs”.
Senator Ojudu noted that “such a rumour is not good for the image of this committee, it is not good for the image of your commission and the image of the country.” The FCSC chairman responded by saying the commission had zero tolerance for corruption and corrupt practices and that she was hearing the rumour for the first time from Senator Ojudu. She challenged the senator to show proof of the alleged money-for-job scandal.
Of course, Deaconess Ayo was being economical with the truth. I don’t know if Senator Ojudu was able to provide proof as requested by Deaconess Ayo, but the exchange threw up an issue that is equally troubling. Talking about rumours, we have heard allegations that senators collect bribe before approving budgets. But this pales in comparison to the fact that many government agencies now insist that job seekers must get letters from senators before they are considered for employment. And this is no rumour because I have been involved with two federal agencies where this issue came up. It seems the only reason our senators enjoy this privilege is that they have control over the budget of these agencies. It is understandable if senators use their influence to help their “constituents”, but it is criminal for them to legalize it.
Dr. Sam Amadi, Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), put this phenomenon in perspective during the 7thRalph Opara Memorial Lecture organised by the National Association of Seadogs (NAS), on Friday, November 2, 2012. In a speech titled, “Terrorism, Insecurity and Irredentist Movements: the Challenges for Nation-Building in Nigeria”, Dr. Amadi noted, “Today, Nigerian leaders have added to their sin of the exclusion of Nigerian citizens from the wealth of the nation, the sin of excluding them from employment opportunities. Every employment in private and public sector in Nigeria today is based on a letter of sponsorship from one Senator or Governor or Minister.
“Poor Nigerian working family that spent life savings to educate their children have little hope of them getting a good job because the people in power distort the recruitment process from merit to privilege. This is the new aristocracy in a republic. Recruiters in the public service will not ask for aptitude. They ask for a letter from a Senator, Governor or Minister. What will the much deprived graduate without such reference letter do if he is never considered for employment many years after leaving school than to seriously consider resort to violence and criminal enterprise?”
This is what the average job seeker in Nigeria has to contend with. Senators Mark and Ojudu can’t say they are not aware of this phenomenon. And if they are not aware, I am using this medium to bring it to their attention. They should denounce the agencies that are bringing the Senate into disrepute.
For the amount of money the country spends maintaining the Senate, the last thing we need is for our so-called lawmakers to become a menace to society by shamelessly acting out the despicable role of thoughtless enablers and overseers of an extremely dysfunctional polity.
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