The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on April 17, 2019 opened its portal for the recruitment of 3,200 officers and men of the Service. Nearly five months down the line, the exercise has not been concluded. As at the time the portal was closed in May 524,315 applicants had successfully completed their application process. Yet no meaningful action had been taken to conclude the recruitment exercise and offer jobs to the nation’s teeming jobless youths who responded to the invitation for applications with alacrity.
Since the exercise began, all one has been hearing and seeing are statements from the Customs headquarters either refuting allegations of corruption involving the officers in the recruitment process or alarm over fake recruitment by fraudsters. In the latest alarm, the Service warned members of the public of a notice on social media calling for recruitment and interview for shortlisted candidates into the Service, and asking them to beware as the message did not emanate from the Customs Service.
The statement said the fraudsters were asking supposedly successful applicants to come to Customs Abuja headquarters to pick up their invitation letters or pay the sum of N5,000 to the officer in charge of approving the letters to have them mailed to them for printing out. The fraudster added that the applicants will not pay anything if they are coming to Abuja to pick the letter, warning them not to call before coming.
The fraudsters so couched the language, and baited the hook in such a way that it can catch an unwary applicant. But the Customs in its Facebook page warned prospective job seekers to be wary of such misleading announcements on social media, saying that “shortlisted candidates for examination/interview will be notified via email/SMS at the appropriate time and the NCS will not request for any payment throughout the exercise.”
We roundly condemn the long delay and the inability of Customs to conclude the recruitment of personnel it started five months ago. The delay has not only caused considerable trauma to the applicants who have been anxious to know their fate in the exercise but has also exposed them to fraudsters who feast on their hopelessness and desperation.
We equally find the remark by the Customs that shortlisted candidates for the examination/interview will be contacted at the appropriate time most distasteful. It gives the impression that the process still needs more time to be concluded. When is the “appropriate time”? One may ask.
One can recall that when Customs Spokesman, Joseph Attah, spoke about the delay in July, he gave the assurance that the list of shortlisted candidates would soon be released. While the candidates were still waiting with bathed breath, he is now talking of the appropriate time.
It must be observed that the way and manner the Nigeria Customs Service, and indeed, other para-military agencies, have been conducting recruitment exercises in recent years leaves much to be desired. Every recruitment exercise is often riddled with allegations of corruption and extortion of the applicants. If the allegation that went round earlier in July that some Customs officials were collecting N300,000 from the candidates to offer them employment is false as claimed by the Customs PRO, prolonging the recruitment gives room for such allegations to thrive.
With the way and manner the Customs has so far conducted this exercise, it is difficult for anyone to believe what the Customs PRO said that the recruitment exercise had been open and transparent since it started and will remain so till the completion.
No matter how one looks at it, the delay in the recruitment exercise can hardly be justified. This is more so, when the exercise is being conducted electronically. We recall that in May, the Customs said the process of screening the applicants had started. The PRO had said: “Now that the system has been shut down, what is going on presently is screening, which is being done electronically because we have parameters that have already been keyed into the system.”
He added that “the system will weed out all these parameters that have been filled in and then bring out those whose documentation are directly relevant to the position advertised. When that is done, that would be the shortlist.” It is sad that this particular aspect of the recruitment exercise was executed in May and up to now they are still talking about shortlisting the candidates.
Since the entire exercise is being conducted electronically, and knowing the speed with which computers and software process information, it is safe to conclude that whatever is delaying the conclusion of the exercise is man-made, especially as the agency has not declared any breakdown or malfunction of the system.
And talking about transparency and openness in the system, Nigerians are still waiting to see the end of the whole exercise to know whether it is actually transparent or not. In recent years, it has become very difficult for the son or daughter of a ‘nobody’ to be recruited into the Service. It has been alleged that a prospective applicant cannot be employed by the Service unless he or she is related to the top officers, past and present, politicians, people in government, top military personnel and the likes. In other words, only candidates with the proverbial ‘godfather’ stand the chance of being recruited.
When ICT has done its work in less than two weeks and there are delays of several months before an exercise of this kind can be concluded, it gives the impression that a lot is going on behind the scene. It tends to confirm the allegations above, especially the one that says that Customs recruitment exercises these days are often concluded before they start –that the invitation for applications and the recruitment exercise are a mere façade as the candidates already know themselves.
We hereby call on the Customs management to conclude this recruitment process without further delay. Doing this will save the candidates further anxiety, and stop fraudsters from feasting on their desperation and hopelessness. It will also help the Service to redeem whatever remains of the credibility of the process.