Discontent: ‘Illegal’ Employment Rocks Akwa Ibom Civil Service

Akwa Ibom State Government
Akwa Ibom State Government

By Our reporter

Akwa Ibom State Civil Service is embroiled in discontent and furore as its integrity, sanctity and productivity come under public scrutiny over alleged secret but ‘illegal’ employment of persons to fill vacant positions in the system, Straightnews has learned.

Different sources in the service, the newspapers gathered, alleged that the government has ‘illegally’ employed more than 500 without following due process in the employment of permanent and personable workers.

According to a close source in the service, the state government is alleged to be ”secretly’’ employing persons into the civil service since 2016 without opening up such for contest by qualified candidates.

”The system usually characterised by administrative and professional classes is facing crisis of confidence and lethargy owing to circumvention of laid-down rules and regulations in the recruitment process,’’ the anonymous source said.

Recall that in 2019, the state Civil Service Commission advertised vacancies in the service and asked interested persons to apply through its website.

At the end of the exercise, more than 40,000 candidates of Akwa Ibom origin were said to have applied for various jobs, and since then they have not been invited for interviews.

Shortly, the Commission closed the website and made it inaccessible for outsiders till date.

Conditions for Employment Into Civil Service

Straightnews got a circular published by Federal Civil Service Commission as adopted by the Akwa Ibom Civil Service Commission which states ”To be eligible for permanent and personable appointment in to the junior cadre in the service, the applicant must be a Nigerian as defined by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

”He must possess a certificate signed by the Chairman or Secretary of his local government area indicating his state of origin and local government area; not less than 16 years and not more than 45 years of age.”

Others include ”…possess such minimum qualification as are specified in the approved scheme of service; be certified by a Government Medical Doctor as medically fit and possess a testimonial of good conduct from his last employer or if previously employed from the last school or institution attended,’’ a Circular letter of the Civil Service compiled by Barr. Udo U. Udofia, a retired Director of Administration, states.

Others are ”the applicant must state whether or not he has been convicted of a criminal offence; state all employment he was engaged in and if he had left any employment, why he did so or if he is still in any employment whether or not he is under any obligation to remain in it; state whether or not he is free from the financial embarrassment and possess the NYSC discharge or exemption certificate where applicable,’’ the circular added.

It says ”For senior cadre, appointment to posts graded grade levels 07-10 directly by the Civil Service Commission; Appointment to posts graded grade levels 12-16 directly by the Civil Service Commission after due advertisement as the need arises; and Appointment to posts graded grade levels 14-16 directly by Civil Service Commission.

”Applications for employment to these grades shall be in response to advertisement and shall be routed through the Head of Civil Service who may add his comments, if any, before forwarding them to the Civil Service Commission for consideration.’’

The circular is explicit in advertisement for offer of appointment of any person into any senior position, noting that all direct appointments, including transfer to posts graded grade level and above shall be by open advertisement.

According to it, ”such advertisements shall be made by the Commission but with inputs provided by the relevant Ministry/Extra-Ministerial office with regard to the relevant qualifications and experience required for the advertised post, vacancy position and nominal roll indicating the antecedents of serving officers in the post immediately below the advertised post.

”For interview, all eligible candidates for senior posts shall be interviewed by the Commission. Letters of appointment shall be signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Commission or any other Officer(s) designated by him. Such letters will derive their authority from the approved minutes of the Commission or as otherwise directed by the Commission.

”Where an applicant has accepted an offer of a position that is lower than that for which he initially applied, he shall not after assumption of duty petition for upgrading or review on account of comparison with his erstwhile or other colleagues.

Contradiction to the set rules

But a close source in the state Civil Service Commission, Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat, Uyo confided in Straightnews, saying ”The present recruitment into the service does not meet eye of the rules as stipulated by the service rules. This is contradictory and confusing. We are not sayin there should be no employment, but our argument is that such should be open to all to employ the best hands in the service.

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”Again, I am not aware that the government continued inviting the applicants for interview after the advertisement. It is true that the government advertised. But the story ended with the advertisement. Nothing was done after that.’’

A retired Permanent Secretary confided in Straightnews that ”There is ongoing employment of persons into the civil service. Move from one ministry to another, you will see new faces. Go to the Department of Establishment, you will see new files and postings of staffers to different ministries.’’

In the Department of Establishment, a senior civil servant confirmed to Straightnews  that ”New staffers are being employed in the service. Very soon, we will embark on training of recruits.’’

Secret Interviews, Employment For Known Persons

In an ideal situation, there ought to be interview conducted publicly by the commission for qualified candidates before the new persons are offered appointment letters.

But the senior staffer who was posted from the Commission to a board this year hinted that ”The commission did not conduct interview for employment of new people throughout the time I was there. I was there since 2016 and left this year. At my position, I am supposed to have known and attended the interview panel.’’

Another senior staff in one of the ministries in Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat, Uyo told the newspapers ”In my ministry, there are many recruits in the senior cadre.

”It appears a secret interview is secretly arranged for a few who to be employed not in the full glare of others looking for jobs.’’

”The illegal employment saga,” according to him, ”has led to scam, racketeering and frauds. Many unemployed had been defrauded to the tune of N200,000 to N300,000 even more. Some gullible and desperate ones paid money and the fraudsters ran away with their money in the name of offering them employment.’’

”For instance, my ministry set up Committee for Fraud on illegal employment. One of our officers was involved in the ‘bad deal.’ The defrauded petitioned to the Permanent Secretary and he set up the committee to look into the matter. The committee sat, invited the suspect for defence.

”We discovered that the man and his syndicate had defrauded them to the tune of more than N4 million. We forced him to cough up, but he could not. We wrote for his dismissal from the service and the Commission obliged. At last, he was dismissed,’’ the senior civil servant told Straightnews.

It’s Not Replacement But Employment

Vanguard newspapers had published a story January this year that the state government had toward the end of last year secretly employed about 200 personnel into strategic positions in the service.

In reaction, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong, who dispelled the insinuations, said the state government has never failed to publicize its employment slots to enable the generality of job seekers to avail themselves of such opportunity.

“There is no secret recruitment of workers in the state. And there are different levels of recruitments.  There are talks about strategic replacement, for example.

“Last year, doctors were recruited and it was published. When you talk about recruitment, there are strategic areas that the government recruited and those that have been made public.

“Like we are recruiting teachers now, it’s public. The Civil Service Commission can call for a strategic replacement like what happened in the doctors’ recruitment. If you recall, teachers were recruited after the issue of the 5,000. That’s the recruitment we know about,” Ememobong stated.

However, a retired Permanent Secretary who spoke on condition of anonymity with Straightnews repudiated the Commissioner’s claims.

”What the state government is doing is employment not replacement. If the commission or board had conducted an interview for a candidate, then a letter of appointment is issued to the person for that position at the end of the day. If after six months or so the person dies or declines the appointment, then the Permanent Secretary of the Commission has right to write to the Governor to replace the person.

”Once approval is given, the Commission has to issue a fresh letter of appointment to the second best  who was successful during the interview not another person. That is replacement in the civil service.’’

Why Sunny Akpadiaha resigned

Another source told Straightnews that Elder Sunny Akpadiaha, the immediate past Chairman of the state Civil Service Commission, resigned because of what he saw as an ‘anomaly’ in recruitment of persons into the service.

”He was given names of persons to employ on Grade Level 14, and was also directed to give  letters of appointment on acting capacity to others on GL 14 to be later confirmed on Grade Level 16. The man, a seasoned administrator, objected the idea. In frustration in what he saw as an ‘assault’ on his sensibilities and a slight to his personality resigned and left the office.’’

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Straightnews gathered that soon after his resignation, Mrs Ekerebong Akpan who had retired as Head of Civil Service was appointed to replace him as Chairman of the Civil Service Commission.

Mrs Akpan who hails from Atiamkpat in Onna Local Government Area had been married out.

”It was alleged that when Mrs Ekerebong Akpan was Head of Civil Service, she proposed acting appointments to some and left other civil servants. The affected protested that it was lopsided since it tilted to Onna. She dropped the idea.

”But when she became the Chairman of Civil Service Commission, she implemented it to the detriment of many in the service,’’ another source told the online newspapers.

State Character Not followed

Another Permanent Secretary was very furious over what he saw as ‘’A good number of civil servants are being employed on a daily basis. Most if not all of the employed, had done biometric, collected monthly salaries without letters first of appointment. The integrity and sanctity of the civil service has been mortgaged by business people. The rules and regulations of the service are not adhered to in the employment of new people.

”I attended a Pentecostal Church (name withheld) along Oron Road in Uyo in March this year for child dedication. During testimony time, a young lady told the congregation how God gave her a job in the state civil service. She announced that she has collected her first salary without getting her first letter of employment.

”This is how bad it has gone. Majority of the employed in the service now are those who worked in the private sector and in corporate bodies in Lagos.’’

”Unfortunately, the state Character is infringed upon in that many are recruited from a particular local government area to the detriment of others. Most of those employed are from Onna.

”This has made some unemployed to forge letters of Origin declaring that they are from Onna just to get jobs. The civil service makes provision for state character as applicable at the Federal level. This is injustice and inequity in a small state like Akwa Ibom.’’

”During Godswill Akpabio administration, people were recruited into the service. But then, it followed the state character in that at least each local government area got 25 per cent. Both in teaching and civil service appointments, each local government area in the state got what could be termed ‘a fair share, in the employment slots,” another hinted the newspapers.

Biometric Capturing

Straightnews visited ICT Resource Centre under State Accountant-General Office. At the centre, there were many employed together with some pensioners doing biometric. Further investigation based on the questions directed at the people showed the newly employed. Without capturing, the new civil servants cannot be payrolled by the consultants for payment of their monthly salaries.

A senior staffer told the newspapers that ”the centre has captured more than 400 newly employed persons into the civil service and forwarded same to the consultants in the Office of the state Accountant-General.’’

Recruitment Beam

Straightnews stumbled on ”Recruitment Beam” on the internet opened with csc.akwaibomstate.gov.ng. The recruitment is said to have opened on October 10, 2020. It is not stated whether it is closed or not, as the beam is still on the internet.

It concluded that ”Akwa Ibom Civil Service Commission shortlist will be published shortly.”

Head of Civil Service, NLC Chairperson Speak  

When Straightnews sent a text message to the Head of Civil Service, Elder Effiong Essien to confirm the allegation of ‘illegal’ employment, he responded thus ”Employment in the Civil Service is always only done with the approval of HE, by the Civil Service Commission. This is the only way to fill vacant positions in the service.’’

The Chairperson of Nigeria Labour Congress, Akwa Ibom Council, Comrade Sunny James in an interviews with Straightnews responded thus, ”I heard of the employment. I am aware of it. It is proper. When you don’t open up the space for others to participate, it is not proper. Opening will allow for merit otherwise the less privileged will not have a chance of entering the service.’’

In addition, the NLC boss noted ”Am aware of some doctors, nurses and other health workers when I came in 2019 and recently secondary/primary schools that is ongoing right now.’’