By Funmi Komolafe
This report is the culmination of weeks of investigation into the scam that is disguised as tests for unsuspecting job seekers in the banking sub-sector of the Nigerian economy. The findings are shocking as much as they are bound to affect your sensibilities of decency and morality. Because of the sensitive nature of this matter, more so the broad scope of our on-going investigations, particularly the need not to jeopardize this work, we have deliberately decided not to reveal the identities of the job-seekers and the bank in question – mind you, some other banks are involved in this scam. However, as we gather more facts and by the time the investigation runs its full course, we may then be able to disclose the identities of all the parties concerned.
Sometime in 1986, the then minister for labour and productivity, then Rear Admiral Patrick Sebo Koshoni, during his ministerial press briefing announced that about one million Nigerians were unemployed.
Even at that time, the figure he gave was regarded as an under estimation of the problem of unemployment which became visible in many Nigerian homes about three years earlier.
Indeed, during the last days of the civilian presidency of President Aliyu Usman Shehu Shagari the problem grew fangs, but it was the government of military president Ibrahim Babagida that officially took steps to address the issue of unemployment especially among the youths. The Babagida administration through his ministers of labour sought and got the assistance of the International Labour Organisation to create jobs in the informal sector. The consequence of which was the setting up of the National Directorate of Employment to create jobs in the informal sector.
Apart from this, another minister of labour in the Babagida administration, then Brigadier-General Ike Nwachukwu, during a ministerial briefing called on banks to use part of the huge profits to engage a number of young graduates. All of these efforts didn’t do much to tackle the unemployment problem as it got compounded with the high number of graduates turned out by the universities.
The influx of foreign investors into Nigeria did not stem the tide of unemployment either. Rather, it was the era in which Nigerians were subjected to the worst working conditions in the name of attracting foreign investors. Many of these so-called investors have subjected Nigerians to dehumanizing working conditions. The Ikorodu factory fire of 2002 in which workers were roasted comes to mind. That wasn’t an isolated case. A particular company owned by the Chinese located in Ogba Lagos, had its machine chop off hands and fingers of employees and the organization has not been sanctioned in any form.
It was also an era in which the so-called “ New Generation Banks” came into business. Banks pretending to be doing business in a manner unknown to the older banks. These ‘ new generation banks’ barred their employees from trade union activities. They also do not belong to the Nigeria Bankers Employers Group or even the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association ( NECA).
It was and still is a culture of impunity.
Even with the pretensions to new ways of banking, they are not known to have created jobs that have been of any significant impact on the economy.
However, a current development in a bank prompted an investigation which culminated in this report.
Ms. Josephine ( actual name withheld) a graduate of the University of Lagos some two years ago, while desperately searching for a job, she got on line to a company “ U Connect” . The company on its web site listed its services as “ Recruitment, Outsourcing, Placement, Training , Quality and Management”.
This graduate was then invited along with others to come and write tests for a job.
“We were not told what type of job it is” she said. “After we had about three tests, some of us were shortlisted and then invited for another round of tests when the recruiting officer told us we were being engaged on behalf of a bank”.
After the first round of tests, Josephine and others were told that U Connect has concluded its own side of the recruitment and that the Bank (name withheld) though quite accessible would take over. The bank did.
After another round of tests, the applicants were congratulated for scaling through. If they thought their problems of joblessness were over, and a new life was ahead, they were dead wrong.
The applicants, young graduates (men and women), were told to go and find for the bank 10 customers who must open new accounts with the bank and deposit at least N100,000 ( One hundred thousand Naira). In other words, they were to source for the bank One Million Naira. Simple, No money, no job.
Ngozi, (real name withheld) was able to find new customers who deposited about N850,000 . With that, she thought she would be commended. Rather, she was booted out. She was disqualified from the training programme, the next phase of her tests because she failed to find customers who could deposit One million Naira.
Another applicant who was able to raise a million Naira from four depositors was knocked off the next state. Why?
She was told that she had not met the requirement of securing for the bank 10 depositors.
Another applicant, Akintoye (real identity protected) was able to source for 10 Customers who met the deposit target of One million but his aches had just started. The young graduate, was told that to be allowed to participate in the training programme to be conducted somewhere in Ikeja, he must source for the bank, a Guarantor who must deposit with the bank N2,000,000 (Two million Naira).
”We were told that the training programme is quite expensive and that it would be conducted by Havard Business School. We were also told that we would have to sign a bond that we would not quit the services of the bank for any reason within two years. If we do, then the Guarantor forfeits his deposit”.
Sunday Vanguard obtained a copy of the letter issued to the would be employees.
It states “ Thank you for honoring our interview invitation; please be informed that you are required to do the following:
”Option 1: Open 10 accounts with a total cumulative balance of N1million (Minimum of N100,000 in each of the accounts) OR ”Option 2. : Open a fixed deposit of N5million for 180 days.
For whichever option you choose, please go to any Bank branch closest to you to obtain account opening forms for this exercise.
A minimum of 10 account opening forms for Option 1
a minimum of 1 account opening form for Option 2
”All accounts must be tagged for reference and easy tracking.
Also, find below the format for which the details of the account opening exercise should be sent to the underlisted email addresses…………..
(A list of the bank’s staff email addresses are provided for the applicants but because of the scope of this investigation we are not at this moment going to reveal some details about the bank as this may jeopardize on-going investigations into this scam).Deadline for the exercise is : 18th October 2013 by 12 noon
The format to send the details of account shows: S/N, Name, Account Number and Amount ( N).
However, the letter was not signed. All efforts to speak with Corporate Affairs Manager of the bank were unsuccessful as the line was not available.
Having gone through Nigeria’s labour laws, one cannot find a single sentence that supports these conditions given to applicants by the bank.
Further investigations showed that U-Connect, the company where this started sent this SMS to the affected applicants “You are invited for an interview ( GRADUATE TRAINEE LEVEL 1) on Thursday 27/06/13 by 12 noon at U-Connnect, 5, Ogbunike str, behind Avalon House, off admiralty way, Lekki 1, Lagos. Come with photocopies of all credentials , CV and passport.
Sunday Vanguard called U-connect to ask if it is registered with the ministry of labour and productivity.
A female voice responsed, “ yes we are” but she seemed not sure and said, “I will connect you to the Human Resource Dept. I’m only a front desk officer”.
At the back ground, a male voice instructed her to tell the caller to “call back”. She got back on the phone and asked that we call back in 30 minutes.
The call was made to U-connect on October 10, 2013.
Since then, it had not been possible to reach the company on the phone again.
Because of the nature and sensitivity of this development, the outcome of further investigations suggested that U-CONNECT may not be a registered member of the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPan) which is affiliated to the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association.
HuCaPan has a Code of Coduct which was launched early this year by the permanent secretary, federal ministry of employment, labour and productivity, Dr. Clement Illoh.
Objectives of the Code of Conduct – “ This Code of Conduct sets out the principles that shall guide the Private Employment Industry. The standards in this Code of Conduct shall be observed by all those involved in Private Employment industry in Nigeria. This principle based approach is intended to maintain and enhance consistency, fairness, transparency, accountability and diversity in recruitment practices. This Code provides Private Employment Agencies with a clear and concise guide to the approach it must take to ensure a fair, open and transparent process that produces a quality outcome and commands public confidence. It is intended to contribute to the development of best practice in the field of recruitment and general human capital development.
”This Code of Conduct shall provide a framework based on the global best practice employment principles. It recognizes that Private Employment Agencies require flexibility to deal efficiently and effectively with the diverse range of services they provide. Accordingly, the Code shall enable Private Employment Agencies to adopt strategies and develop processes to implement the principles effectively. All agreements signed under this Code must also comply with relevant employment and equality legislation in Nigeria”.
Code of Conduct- Principle 3 Respect for Transparency of Terms of Engagement states “PEAs shall ensure that workers are given details of their working conditions, the nature of the work to be undertaken, rates to pay and pay arrangements and working hours. This principle obligates Private Employment Agencies to inform employees of the conditions applicable to the contract or employment relationship”.
Principle 4 Respect for free-of-charge provision of services to jobseekers “PEAs shall not charge directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, any fees or costs to prospective employees and workers, for the services directly related to temporary assignment or permanent placement”.
All that is required is registration with the federal ministry of labour and productivity.
Trade Unions kick, call for CBN sanction
The acting general secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Chris Uyot said, “ Labour is concerned but government should be interested too. This is a serious matter. The situation in the country should not be an excuse for multinationals and banks to exploit our youths. We’ll hold the Central Bank of Nigeria responsible.”
Comrade Uyot vowed that NLC will support whatever action the unions in the banking sector take.
He emphasized, “This act is a form of corruption. They are making prostitutes of youths. It is simply Corporate Prostitution. It is not enough for the government to claim to be tackling corruption without addressing issues like this. We condemn it in totality. The banks should not be allowed to turn Nigerians to slaves”.
The President of the Association of Banks, Insurance and Allied Institutions, Comrade Olusoji Salako also condemned the conditions given by this accessible bank in totality.
He told Sunday Vanguard, “We are against such things. It is alien to our sector. By the time you make money a condition for employment, why are we talking about money laundering. So, even armed robbers, and 419 people can make deposit with such a bank”.
Salako condemned in strong terms the conditions attached to the training of new employees.
“ Placing value on training is improper. The duty of the organization is to train people. We are against this. If it is true, it is uncalled for . It is against the standard in the industry. The Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN) should call the bank to order”.
So, why do these banks get away with non-compliance with labour laws, what can ministry of labour do?
Comrade Salako said, “the federal government should develop the political will to enforce our law”.
He said, unfortunately, those who run these businesses where unions are not allowed , where labour laws are violated with impunity make up the government’s National Economic Management Team.
“They are the big donors to the government’s party and programmes”.
He recalled that during the administration of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, representatives of labour were included in the Economic Management Team but the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan excluded labour’s representatives.
Contact with Government
Sunday Vanguard contacted the minister of labour and productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu via an sms and he replied that the ministry had noted it. It is expected that action would be taken.
NLC condemns employers’ tactics in banks . Rising from its national executive council meeting in Kaduna,
The Nigeria Labour Congress, in a communiqué signed by its President, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar and Ag. General secretary, Chris Uyot in its observation on casualisation condemned the cash for jobs policy in the banks.
It stated: NEC-In-Session observes that there is a resurgence of casualisation of workers in the public and private sectors across the country. This unholy practice induces slave labour, prostitution, psychological trauma and the violation of the rights of these workers and does not in any way stimulate productivity .
What employers of Labour are trying to do is take undue advantage of hapless applicants or workers. Exploiting the weak defences of this category of people is not only morally reprehensible but defies logic. Even if the private sector, out of corporate greed, indulges in this unwholesome practice what justification does government have in doing so?
Some banks have gone to the extent of compelling their employees to meet a target of 6million a month and securing of bonds that make a mockery of plantation slave labour. Congress does not see how this terrible practice stimulates productivity.
NEC resolves that the Nigeria Labour Congress shall henceforth lead its affiliate unions against any employer identified to be engaged in these unwholesome practices by employing all known trade union actions until such employer retraces its steps”.
For hundreds of thousands of youths hoping to make a career in banking, their dreams may never be realised.
It is clear now that possession of the requisite qualification isn’t enough, he or she has to be connected to those who are able to save millions of Naira otherwise, no job.
It’s simply an era of Cash for Jobs.