A bill to criminalise secret recruitment into the federal civil service and agencies of government received wide support in the senate last week. According to report, the bill, sponsored by Senator Olujimi Abiodun (Ekiti South), has been referred to the Senate Committee on Establishment and Public Service for further legislative work. While we join the Senate to deprecate the unconscionable trend in the ministries, departments and agencies of government, which surreptitiously recruit the children of the high and mighty as well as those willing to pay bribes, we doubt if a criminal legislation is the answer.
Not long ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recruited children of the ruling elite, and despite cries against the illegality, nothing happened. While a directive from relevant quarters would have punished those who did the recruitment as well as those who benefited, nothing happened. Similarly, not long ago, the Department of State Services engaged in obnoxious recruitment. Again, despite the cries that the recruitment offended the constitution and other extant laws on federal character, nothing happened.
Significantly, similar illegal, lopsided and unlawful employment processes have been going on even before the advent of this administration, and while the actions are manifestly illegal, those who should sanction the culprits do nothing. Even without a law criminalising the obnoxious conducts, those who engage in secret and illegal recruitments offend extant laws, and break rules, as things stand. So, the challenge is lack of the will to bring those involved to account, not the absence of laws.
For instance, there in the civil service, there is the General Order. There is also the Financial Instruction, as well as the general civil service rules. When a secret recruitment is done, we believe that some provisions of the extant laws and regulations must have been broken. So, what stops the relevant supervisory agencies from punishing those responsible for breaking the laws? There would also have been forgeries by the culprits, laying false claim that due process had been followed.
Indeed, there is the Federal Civil Service Commission which should regulate the conduct of officials. There is also the Federal Executive Council which supervises the various ministries, departments and agencies. Are they all complicit or are they incapacitated by the absence of a law criminalising the illegalities? What about the Federal Character Commission, whose responsibility it is to ensure that the provisions of our constitution, with respect to the spread of federal appointments are observed? Is the commission also helpless?
If the will to punish is there, why have we not seen any of the illegal recruitments nullified? Does it require a law to set aside such recruitments which are manifestly unlawful? For instance, when the CBN scandal broke and the names of the children and relations of the high and mighty were mentioned, did the relevant officials not begin to obfuscate and hide behind a finger to explain away what clearly offended all sense of decency? Will the proposed law cure our predilection to be tribal, sectional and even greedy; when entrusted with the opportunity to recruit?
Will the law compel the relevant officials to wake up from their self-induced slumber, when the names of the privileged are mentioned? Will they for instance have the courage to arrest and prosecute the culprits when it is the president, governor, legislator or other high state official that sanctioned the illegal recruitment? Where they cannot do the simple act of sacking the unlawfully recruited and the recruiters, is it a criminal trial they will readily sanction? Moreover with our prisons already overpopulated, the promoters should also build new prisons for the potential offenders of the proposed law.