Milking the famished – The Nation

  • Taraba’s demand of fees for application forms from job seekers is insensitive and immoral

A plan by the Taraba State Government to recruit fresh personnel into its civil service is beclouded by controversy over the requirement that applicants pay for the application form. Considering the circumstances, the recruitment plan seems like a Greek gift and the fee attached for applicants like milking the famished.

Few weeks ago, the state government through an announcement by the office of the head of service in the state made known it was lifting an embargo on employment into the state civil service that had been in place. Following that announcement, the state’s civil service commission (CSC) directed interested indigenes to apply by obtaining an online application form at the rate of N3,500. The commission also asked workers who want to transfer their services from local government to state service or across ministries, departments and agencies to obtain transfer of service form for N3,000.

Some Taraba youths under the aegis of Taraba Concerned Citizens Forum kicked, however, against the fee being charged for employment application form. They staged a peaceful protest penultimate Monday at the civil service commission over what they described as extortion by the state government in the name of selling employment forms, wondering why it would exploit poor applicants in the name of employment at such a difficult economic time. “We want the state government to abolish the fee and allow applicants to access the employment form free of charge. We equally want the process to be free, fair and transparent, and devoid of political interference,” the youths urged.

In his response to the protesters, Taraba State CSC Chairman John Mamman acknowledged their right to protest and commended them for conducting themselves peacefully, but he chided them for breaching due process and not appreciating the state government’s move as they should have. “It is their right in a democratic society like ours to protest, but in doing so, they were supposed to write to us to express their grievances prior to the protest. I want to, however, thank them for making the protest peaceful,” he was reported saying, adding: “We are about to employ 2,000 persons into the service and I expect the people to appreciate the governor for the initiative to employ people into the service to reduce unemployment and not protest.”

Recent history in the state indexed where the youths were coming from. Taraba government had in 2017 conducted a similar recruitment in which more than 30,000 applicants applied, but less than 10 percent of those were eventually absorbed after government had raked in over N100million from sale of forms. Besides, it was widely alleged that those who got employed were mostly applicants with government connection. With such background, it was difficult not to see the new recruitment plan as sheer ploy by government to generate revenue from desperate job-seekers. Stakeholders in the state who held government insincere with the offer of fresh jobs wondered why it couldn’t call up outstanding data from the 2017 exercise if there were new openings, or why it wouldn’t rather first regularise hundreds of graduates presently serving in various agencies as casual workers if opportunities truly existed.

Our view is that with an unprecedented level of unemployment in the land, dangling the carrot of recruitment to pool revenue from desperate applicants is a most callous thing to do and highly immoral too. It symptomised a buccaneer trait in government where there should be welfarist sensitivity. Many years after, dark memories linger regarding the 2014 Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment in which hundreds of thousands of job seekers – some accounts said more than 700,000 – applied for barely 4,000 openings and, after paying N1,000 application fee online, were indiscriminately drawn to recruitment centres where there was scant evidence of prior preparation for such huge numbers, resulting in nearly 20 applicants being trampled or suffocated to death in crowd stampedes.

Mamman made matters worse by arguing that people should appreciate government for the initiative to employ rather than protest. It isn’t magnanimity but statutory obligation on the part of government to create jobs, and it is shameful when officials in charge of jobs don’t seem to know this.

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