Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal
By Onwuka Nzeshi, Omololu Ogunmade and Senator Iroegbu
The Senate Wednesday mandated its Committees on Federal Character and Employment, Labour and Productivity to forthwith begin investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption in the employment processes in the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) as well as ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government with a view to bringing culprits to book. The committee has eight weeks to conclude its assignment.
This came as Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South), while buttressing the allegations of bribe-for-job scams in the public sector, disclosed how one of his constituents was asked to pay N200,000 to secure a job in an agency, which he said he was forced to give to him to help the constituent get the job.
But as the Senate prepares to probe the bribe-for-job scandal rocking the NIS and other MDAs, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, Wednesday said the immediate past Comptroller-General of NIS, Mrs. Rose Chinyere Uzoma, was neither sacked nor singled out for punishment.
Also, the House of Representatives resumed from recess on a dramatic note Wednesday by confronting the rumoured plot to impeach its leadership, and ended up turning the heat against the unnamed conspirators by passing a vote of confidence on the same leadership.
Ndume, who noted that employment is given nowadays ahead of an interview, said he was shocked when the applicant returned his money, saying the cost had been raised to N400,000.
Moving the motion at the first Senate plenary session this year, Senator Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi Central) said the “Senate notes with serious concern the media stories on irregularities in employment at the Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and other ministries, departments and agencies in Nigeria.”
According to Bagudu, a statement credited to the sacked Comptroller General of NIS, said over 4,000 employment slots were approved by the Federal Government but were sold to job applicants while others were allocated to some personalities in breach of due process.
He also noted that employment letters were offered for sale at the rate of between N400,000 and N500,000 through a syndicate operating in Gwagwalada and Karu in violation of the federal character principle.
Supporting the motion, Senator Awaisu Kuta (Niger East), regretted that employment in Nigeria goes to the highest bidder while qualified applicants are shut out.
He alleged that the paid-for letters of appointment are indiscriminately issued to some applicants, adding that the Federal Character Commission (FCC) has been conniving with the institutions to promote irregularities in the recruitment process.
Kuta, who called for the immediate dismissal of culprits of the scam, also recommended their prosecution, adding that people usually take into consideration ethnicity on matters of employment to the detriment of those who are eminently qualified.
Also speaking, Senator Suleiman Adokwe (Nasarawa South) said Nigeria cannot afford not to have standard best practices as is obtainable in other parts of the world.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu also expressed regret that "our children are victims of the unemployment problem" which gives rise to corruption.
He was supported by Senator Boluwaji Kunlere (Ondo South), who said applicants are not only told to collect letters of recommendation from their senators but are also fed with lies that the senators had been allotted 30,000 employment slots which they had sold in Abuja.
He noted that when people secure employment through corruption, they will automatically become looters when they become directors in the nearest future.
Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, also confirmed the existence of the bribe-for-job scandal when he disclosed that people had approached him demanding as much as N500,000 as payment for employment of his constituents.
Ndoma-Egba said the malaise was symptomatic of abject poverty and a time bomb waiting to explode.
He described the trend as a manifestation of systemic failure, evidence of loss of values and was in breach of the constitution, which he said had turned Nigeria into a transactional country.
On his part, Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West) canvassed the need to set up an agency with the sole responsibility of monitoring employment processes in the country.
While welcoming his colleagues back from a four-week recess, Senate President David Mark urged the lawmakers to “resist the temptation to sacrifice governance on the altar of politics as the 2015 elections approach. Not to do so is to inordinately pander to the mere selfish craving for career advancement.”
He said the Senate would not relent in its commitment to ensure that the nation overcomes its security challenges as he expressed confidence in the ability of security agencies “to nip these pernicious crimes in the bud.”
Despite the Senate’s resolve to investigate the bribe-for-job scandal rocking the NIS and other agencies of government, the Minister of Interior Wednesday said that the immediate past immigration boss was neither sacked nor singled out for punishment.
Moro in a text message to THISDAY Wednesday said that contrary to the widely held view, the immigration boss was not sent packing because of the alleged secret recruitment exercise, but had simply proceeded on routine disengagement leave.
Uzoma on Tuesday was ordered to vacate her position and hand over the helm of affairs to the most senior Deputy Comptroller General of Immigration, Mr. Rilwan Bala Musa, who will act as comptroller general, pending the appointment of a substantive head of NIS.
Her departure brought to an end the much publicised recruitment saga in which some aggrieved legislators and senior staff of NIS accused her of secretly recruiting in favour of people of South-east and South-south origin, including relatives of President Goodluck Jonathan.
However, Moro has dismissed the claims and insisted that the former immigration boss left on her pre-retirement leave because she was due for retirement.
“Uzoma was not singled out for punishment neither was she sacked. She is proceeding on her normal routine accumulated disengagement leave,” he said.
Moro disclosed that the ministry was partnering with a private firm in order to institute transparency in the recruitment exercise and end the saga surrounding the whole process.
He said: “The ministry is partnering with a private company to automate the process of recruitment. It will ensure transparency, be less cumbersome, and ease the problem of crowding.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Wednesday confronted the rumoured plot to impeach its leadership, but ended up turning the heat against the unnamed conspirators by passing a vote of confidence on the same leadership.
Some newspapers had Wednesday reported that there was a plot to impeach the Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, and his team.
The reports claimed that a group, Transparency Network, was behind the plot. Members of the group were allegedly aggrieved over the award of contracts for the purchase of 400 units of Toyota Camry cars purchased for the committees of the House in 2012.
Although the reports did not disclose the identities of the alleged conspirators, the plot was billed to be executed Wednesday at plenary.
However, as the House resumed sitting Wednesday, there were no signs of moves to unseat the leadership. Instead, it was Tambuwal's men who seized the initiative and moved a motion to counter the presumed plot.
Chairman, House Committee on Works, Hon. Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi (PDP/Enugu), raised a point of order on a matter of privilege. He drew the attention of the chamber to media reports on the alleged plot and referred to those behind it as dreamers.
Ozomgbachi, who condemned the said plot, described it as a distraction and an attempt to cause disaffection among the lawmakers.
He recalled that the purchase of the cars was a collective decision taken by the entire House and wondered how some faceless persons could turn around to make an issue out of it.
The lawmaker said that the crisis which trailed the purchase of 380 Peugeot 407 cars in 2008 was still fresh in the memories of members and the present crop of lawmakers would not want history to repeat itself.
“We are too old and too mature to be led by the nose. This House has always risen to stand by the Nigerian people. It is a commitment and we will never change our course.
“Any member with a grudge should have come to the floor to raise it instead of hiding behind the scenes. For this speaker (Tambuwal), we shall continue to defend his integrity and the integrity of the House,” he said.
As if to further completely bury whatever was left of the alleged plot, another lawmaker, Hon. Rasak Bello-Osagie (ACN/Edo), took to the floor and berated the so-called group seeking to oust the Tambuwal-led leadership.
Bello-Osagie expressed dismay that the House was giving attention to such an issue at a time it had more crucial matters such as the review of the 1999 Constitution and the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) pending before it.
“This is the most profound evidence of distraction we have seen in this House. I want to move for a vote of confidence to be passed on Mr. Speaker and the leadership of the House and I hereby, move,” he said.
The vote of confidence motion was promptly seconded by the Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, who ruled out any possibility of an impeachment of the present leadership of the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
An elated Tambuwal put the motion to vote and it was unanimously affirmed without a dissenting voice.
Tambuwal expressed displeasure with the development, saying those plotting to unseat him were out to destabilise the House and rubbish its achievements in the last one-and-a-half years.
“I want to assume that somebody from outside and not a member of the House will raise any of the issues mentioned in the publications.
“I urge every member to ignore the publications as one of those things that will come to us in the course of our duty,” he said.