Two year ago, during its 39th meeting, the National Council of Establishment (NCE) resolved that bachelor degree and Higher National Degree (HND) holders should both enter the civil service on Grade Level 08, but federal ministries, departments and agencies are reluctant to implement the resolution except the paramilitary, who have upgraded.
Years after the Minna meeting, investigations show many government agencies at the federal and state levels of the civil service, except the paramilitary agencies, are yet to comply with the restoration of parity between graduates of polytechnics and university graduates.
The restoration of the parity between graduates of polytechnics and university graduates even in Nigeria’s paramilitary agencies is far from total, as the dichotomy still exists at the terminal point of their careers.
Although some of the paramilitary officers confirmed that all the HND holders on level 07 have been upgraded to level 08 with their degree holder counterparts, HND holders cannot rise beyond Grade Level 14 or 15 without obtaining additional qualifications (including a master’s degree) while a degree holder can rise in the service at Grade Level 17 (equivalent of the Permanent Secretary cadre).
PREMIUM TIMES reported the communique of the NCE meeting in 2016 which disclosed that one of the resolutions was an “entry point salary GL.08 for all candidates possessing Higher National Diploma (HND) from institutions accredited by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
The NCE resolution only addressed the disparity in entry points between HND and Bachelor degree holders but was silent on the terminal points where there is also a gap between the two qualifications.
In a circular in July 2017, the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, gave approval for the abolition of the dichotomy in all the paramilitary services, in compliance with the NCE resolution.
He directed that all officers with HND were to be upgraded to COMPASS 08, which is the Salary Grade Level for holders of Degree certificates at entry point.
“The nomenclature for the HND holders will start with the Rank of Senior Inspector, the Degree holders are with the rank of Assistant Superintendent II,” the minister said in the circular.
The Nigeria Customs Service was among the agencies to comply with the resolution. The Comptroller-General of the service, Hameed Ali, in April 2017 approved the removal of the dichotomy in the service.
Even at that, the agencies that complied have retained the dichotomy at the terminal point.
A latest recruitment by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), appeared as if even at entry point, the agency maintained the disparity between university and polytechnic graduates.
The latest recruitment advertorial published by the FRSC divided the personnel into three categories.
The first category, which is the officers’ cadre (Assistant Route Commander), is meant for degree holders while the second category, the Marshal Inspectorate Cadre is for the HND holders, for which the agency is asking them to apply for the post of Marshal Inspector 1.
HND holders cannot apply for the post in the officers’ cadre.
However, when contacted, spokesperson of the FRSC, Bisi Kazeem, said the agency had regularised the directive to remove the dichotomy between the two sets of degrees.
According to Mr Kazeem, while buttressing his point with some documents he made available to PREMIUM TIMES, HND holders have been upgraded to Grade level 08 since 2017 but their terminal point remains Grade level 14.
“Such officer can use additional post graduate Diploma (PGD) as a bridge to acquiring a Master’s degree in the relevant field to qualify them for entry into the officer cadre”, Mr Kazeem explained.
“Those who possess the professional qualifications and membership of professional bodies approved by the National Council on Establishment (NCE) such as Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN), Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), in addition to the HND are eligible for conversion into officer cadre and advance beyond SGL 14,” he further said.
Mr Kazeem said the dichotomy is not in the cadre but in grade level, noting that university degree and HND holders enter on grade level 08 but belong to different cadres.
But the national president of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Usman Dutse, said the union is not comfortable with parity at the terminal level.
“It was resolved at the NCE meeting last year that both HND and Degree terminal level would be the same, so we don’t know where and how this things were manipulated to come in this direction, We believe there are some personal interest, there are some cabals or a group of individuals that feel this dichotomy should be sustained because of their personal Interest.
He asked the federal government to speak out especially as the dichotomy was a major factor causing low student applications to polytechnics.
“If they would refer back to the meeting of establishment that took place in June last year, that was not the resolution and even the head of service was not in support, so I don’t know why they would undermine government policy and decisions and give the type of interpretation that would favour them,” Mr Dutse said .
According to the president, there is a bill in the National Assembly supporting that the dichotomy should be abolished finally.
“Once it becomes a law, nobody can violate it and if anybody violates it, actions would be taken. There is need for government to conclude this policy and make sure that the polytechnic graduates are emancipated from this bondage created by some selfish individuals.
Mr Dutse said the civil service are the ones widening the gap between the polytechnic and university degrees.
“The problem is from the civil service, because you know they compete for directorship and polytechnic graduates are very productive. The civil service needs to look at the country and not personal interest, not removing the dichotomy is like oppressing and demoralising the holders,” he said.
“Although, our cry on the qualification was on the salary scale. As long as the salary is the same, the name of the rank in the paramilitary is not really a problem”, said the national president of the National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS), Mohammed Eneji.
Mr Eneji said the agitation for abolishing the dichotomy is ongoing.
“We believe that in time, we will get this disparity equated,” he said.
“NAPS was at the meeting of the council on establishment that took place in Owerri where it was resolved that every ministry, agencies and departments should begin the implementation process and we thought that by now, the disparity is yet to be breached,” he said.
He urged the head of service to treat the dichotomy issue as matter of urgency and redirect the ministries for action because justice delayed is justice denied.
PREMIUM TIMES tried to get updates from some other paramilitary agencies to confirm if all the officers with HND degrees have been upgraded to level 8.
Some of the state directors across the nation said the NCE resolution is still in progress as the circular is yet to be sent out for implementation.
Efforts to get reaction from the spokesperson of Immigration, Sunday James, was not successful as he did not respond to several text messages and calls put across to him.
But an official who requested not to be named as he is not authorised to speak with the media said though the dichotomy had been regularised in the Immigration service, the cadres too, remain different.
“The HND (holder) is on Inspectorate Cadre while the Degree holders are on the Superintendent Cadre but they collect the same salary,” the source said.
Federal Fire Service
For the Federal Fire Service, the Assistant Controller-General of the agency in the FCT, Julius Opetusin, said the question regarding the regularisation was not for his office.
“Please this question should be directed to the Comptroller-General, Federal Fire Service not me,” he said, referring to his boss who did not pick or return calls to his phone.
The police declined to clarify if the disparity has been resolved.
Jimoh Moshood, the police spokesperson, said the question should be directed to the Police Service Commission.
“PSC will know more if it has been regularised as they are in charge of recruitment,” he said.
But the commission kicked the ball back into the court of the police.
“They should have done that by now but the police will be in a better position to confirm what is happening with their men. We are not the one paying them salaries, we appoint, promote and discipline. I am not in a better position to confirm this,” Ikechukwu Ani, spokesperson of PSC said.
Mr Ani said the resolution of the NCE should be binding on the police and paramilitary agencies.