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Ohakim Can Keep His 10,000 New Jobs.

By: Uche Nworah ( uchenworah@yahoo.com)
 Published April 27th, 2010

The Tuesday edition of the Nigerian Guardian newspaper has become the paper of choice for the Nigerian youth in search of his or her first job post-NYSC, and also for the working professional looking for career change and new opportunities. The Guardian on Tuesday was also the reference paper for jobs during our days as fresh graduates in the 90s when we walked the streets of Lagos with file jackets containing our curriculum vitaes and photocopies of our credentials for easy reach should we stumble upon an opportunity. This was long before the advent of the email, iphone, BlackBerry and other communication technologies that now make it possible for applicants to send out their CVs to multiple organisations at the touch of the send button while on the go.

Nigerian advertisers with products and services targeting the youth market and working professionals, ranging from educational and training institutions, organisations with job openings etc have since keyed into the fact that any ad carried in the Tuesday Guardian guarantees maximum exposure. This is why on any given Tuesday; the pages of the Tuesday Guardian are filled with various types of advertisements promoting all sorts. One of such advertisements that caught my attention recently was the one published on page 38 in the April 27th 2010 edition. The ad, a reminder one, was sponsored by the Imo state government, through the newly created Imo state Job Centre with the trademark face of the governor, Ikedi Ohakim displayed at the bottom corner just like in the many billboards, buses, tricycles etc in Imo state which all combine to give the impression that the governor is on some kind of ego trip and popularity contest.

My initial joy on reading the screaming promise of 10,000 new public service jobs in Imo state was cut short seconds later when I read somewhere in the body of the ad that applicants needed to buy a scratch card of N2,000 from listed designated banks to complete the application process online at www.imo.ngrecruit.com.

There was also some information in the ad to the fact that renowned consulting firm, KPMG is somewhat associated with the project. Perhaps the state government hopes to pay KPMG’s consulting fees from part of the money that will be raised from the sales of the scratch cards. But I see this as self-inflicted agony. The state government does not need KPMG to manage its job recruitment process as it has enough personnel both in the governor’s office and in the many ministries in the state to manage such a process.
I have visited Owerri, the capital of Imo state several times in the last one year. Judging from the communications coming out of Imo state government house, especially on the New Face of Imo project, one will give it to the governor for the way his team has been communicating his many ambitious projects to Ndi Imo, and other Nigerians. But disappointingly, it appears that the governor’s achievements are only visible in the many billboards bearing his face scattered all over the state funded with tax payers’ money. There is hardly anything convincing on the ground to show that Imo state indeed is getting a new face, as one would argue after visiting places like Uyo in Akwa Ibom state, Enugu in Enugu state and Lagos; not the controversial multi-billion naira Nworie river project, the characteristic Owerri traffic gridlock, the laughable Kim-Kim transport mini-cars etc.

Perhaps the governor could have been forgiven if he had stopped at all these as one would have seen his many antics as political gimmickry. However, the state government’s recent attempt at obtaining money from the youths of Imo state by promising them ‘jobs for cash’ under the guise of ‘empowering youths and strengthening the public service’ should be condemned. The scheme should be shunned by the youths as the road can only lead to misery. There is no guarantee that after paying N2, 000, they can progress to the next stage of the interview. The capacity of Imo state to create and sustain 10,000 new jobs in this period of economic hardships when other states and private sector establishments are either placing embargo on employment, or are downsizing is also in doubt, considering that its internally generated revenue (IGR) status stills ranks amongst the lowest in Nigeria. This ‘jobs for cash’ scheme is unfair as better qualified candidates who do not have N2,000 to buy the scratch cards will be excluded from the recruitment process, thereby denying the state of their valuable skills and contribution to its socio-economic development.

It may well be that at the end of the day, the promised ‘exciting public sector career opportunities in Imo state’ may just be another political gimmick aimed at capturing the hearts and minds of parents and their children in Imo state preparatory to 2011 elections. If that is the case, then the strategy appears not to be working as it appears the youths are not rushing to the banks as expected and projected to deposit N2,000 as directed in the ad, hence the need for the state government to re-run the advertisements after the initial deadline had expired.

The growing unemployment in Nigeria has thus given rise to situations where unscrupulous elements in the society brazenly seek to exploit desperate young graduates under the pretext of securing jobs for them. It is also shameful that there is no government agency at the federal level (EFCC, ICPC etc) that has shown a willingness to deal with issues like this. One would have expected that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity under the new Minister, Chief Emeka Wogu would at least make a statement over the huge public outcry against Governor Ohakim’s planned fleecing of unemployed youths in Imo state.

One also expects that the Consumer Protection Council and other relevant NGOs and agencies will wade into this issue and prevent ignorant citizens from being exploited. Since Governor Ohakim likes talking about best practices, perhaps it is pertinent to remind him that there is nowhere in the world where Job Centres set up with tax payers’ money charge their clients (job seekers) registration fees. The known traditional role of government operated Job Centres are to train registered clients in CV writing, interview, IT, social and other skills. They broker work placement places for their clients and maintain a database of unemployed job seekers in the area and pay them job seekers allowance. They also serve as job exchange centres for employers and employees, helping job seekers by guiding and directing them to available job opportunities. Job Centres should aim to lighten, rather than increase the burden of job seekers as the Imo state Job Centre is doing at the moment.

It is not just enough that the state government has imported the name – Job Centre, the centre must also live up to its name which excludes charging N2,000 for youths to apply for government jobs. One commentator from Imo state on Facebook pointedly told the governor to keep his 10,000 jobs. Another has called on the youths of Imo state to rise up against this; I wouldn’t be surprised if they do that in 2011. This is also hoping that other state governments are not thinking of going down this route of charging the citizens for services that should normally be provided freely.
 



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