The Federal Character Commission says it is unaware of a waiver authorising the Central Bank of Nigeria to conduct a secret recruitment of hundreds of new employees, comprising dozens of family members of serving and past senior government officials, including President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew.
The acting chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Shettima Abba, told PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday that following media reports and public outcry in response to the recruitment, the commission wrote to the CBN demanding its staff list from 2013 to 2015.
Mr. Abba said the response from the CBN would enable the Commission confirm whether the recruitment was done in accordance with the law. The bank has two weeks — up to next Tuesday — to respond to the letter, he said.
But the chairman said his office was not aware the CBN was granted any waiver to carry out the controversial recruitment, saying the last waiver to the bank was in 2013.
“Prior to my appointment, details from the file showed that by early part of 2013 CBN requested for waiver to enable them carry out recruitment of some professional staff, including doctors, nurses, mid-wives, engineers and lawyers, etc,” Mr. Abba said.
“For one reason or the other, they (CBN) did not conclude the recruitment before they wrote back to say they had suspended the recruitment, and that they would need to write again for re-validation. Towards the end of 2013, they wrote again for re-validation, which was granted.”
The chairman said available records confirmed that the recruitment was carried out, as candidates were invited for interview in three centres, including Abuja, Lagos and one other city, with the committee in charge of financial services at the Character Commission invited to monitor the exercise.
Mr. Abba said although the CBN indicated interest in 2015 to recruit a number of junior staff as money counters, drivers, cooks, clerks and so on, for all its 37 zones across the country, he was not aware of any fresh waiver granted since 2013.
“If an agency gets a waiver, it will lapse after three months if the recruitment process is not concluded. The agency has to write again for re-validation,” the chairman explained.
“In the records with the Commission, they (CBN) have several requests for waivers, but I cannot say how many. I don’t know whether there has been a new request from them in recent times. Since I came in, I only acted, looking at previous records.
“Since junior workers cannot be recruited in Abuja, they (CBN) were advised to find a way of recruiting locally in the catchment areas. This swelled the number of people recruited,” he said.
Details of the recruitment, first reported by news website, SaharaReporters, angered many Nigerians in a country with a growing rate of unemployment.
Under the Federal Character Commission regulation, 2008, recruitment into government offices are to be duly advertised in at least two national newspapers giving qualified Nigerians a minimum of six weeks to apply.
The CBN recruitment did not follow that rule, Saharareporters reported.
Worse, the list of candidates secretly recruited by the CBN, according to the website, included President Buhari’s nephew, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s daughter, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu’s son, and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’aba’s daughter.
Others are Nigeria’s Police Inspector-General, Solomon Arase’s daughter, and Minister of Internal Affairs, Abdulrahman Danbazzau’s son, among others.
CBN’s acting Director of Corporate Communications, Isaac Okorafor, told PREMIUM TIMES last week the bank did nothing illegal, as it got an approval from the Federal Character Commission to carry out “targeted recruitment of specialists” without advertisement.
The chairman of the FCC, Mr. Abba, said all Nigerians, irrespective of parentage or political affiliation, have equal right of being employed in any organisation. He said his organisation was concerned more with due process and compliance with the federal character principles.
“The constitution says there must be equity, equal opportunity and equal access to all manner of persons. The constitution gives all the states of the federation equal opportunity to be employed,” he said.
“For the fact that you are Atiku’ son; a minister or president’s daughter does not disqualify you from getting job anywhere in Nigeria, so far as you follow due process and you have the requisite qualification.”
Civil society groups and lawyers on Thursday criticized the exercise, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the employment offers.
The Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, CENSOJ, Eze Onyekpere, said the exercise portrayed the nature of governance in Nigeria, “characterized by hypocrisy, patronage networks, steeped in mediocrity and lacking in merit and strivings for the best person for the job”.
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