Chukwudi Madu: The Thriving Business Of Unemployment In Nigeria

Chukwudi Madu: The Thriving Business Of Unemployment In Nigeria

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A photo taken at one of the immigration recruitment exercises

We are all aware of the tragic circus that our immigration sprung on the nation in the name of recruitment recently.

I wonder why they didn’t take a cue from the Navy, whose recruitment exercise I participated in some years ago. The hiccup the Navy’s exercise had was that most of us were mistakenly sent to places we didn’t fill in the form for the exercise; like, I filled in Lagos as my preferred centre but my name was published under Jos, so I had to go to Jos.

However, thanks to the Navy’s blunder, I got to visit what I felt was the most beautiful city in Nigeria – I weep every day I hear of crisis in Jos because after the awesome one week romance I had with the place, committing any crime there seems to me like raping a virgin. But there is a scary memory of Jos I have, though – when I found out I had been erroneously sent to Jos, my cousin connected me to an air force colleague, Bala, so that he could accommodate me for the one week duration of the exercise. As I left the following morning my cousin said to me, “Bala loves potato.” I wondered why she was telling me that, whether she expected me to buy potato on the way as gift for Bala. Hours later I forgot everything and focused on the upcoming recruitment exercise.

The night I arrived Bala’s place, his wife served me fried potato and eggs. The following morning I had potato porridge and tea, when I returned in the evening I had boiled potato and stew. After three days of eating potato, served in ways I never imagined it could be prepared, an eerie version of my cousin’s remark started haunting me (in ghostly Nollywood voice), “Bala loves potato.” On the third evening, instead of going straight back to Bala’s place, I boarded a cab to a market there, located one Igbo woman’s eating joint and had some awfully prepared bitter leaf soup, but after my ‘potato purgatory’ any soup was heavenly! God bless Bala and his wife, though, real nice people.

Enough of the digression, back to the Nigerian unemployment/employment industry. In the private sector as well, we have a whole bunch scammers in the guise of recruitment agencies that rip-off job seekers in every conceivable way. There are folks who buy tiny spaces in newspapers and cast their baits. However the organizations that take the cake, the ones that inspired this short piece are the recruitment agencies that truly have some form of credibility, with CEOs that are actually suave and seemingly prosperous, but still use jobs to rip folks off.

I had an arrangement with one such agency some years back and at a point all of us who were working under their arrangement got wind that the deductions for our pensions and taxes were allegedly being diverted to the agencies coffers. When we spoke up, we were all threatened with a revocation of our contracts at the firm where they had us working.

In another instance, a lady spoke about how she found out after a little while that the N80,000 her handling agency was remitting to her monthly was only half of the N160,000 that the oil and gas firm they fixed her in was paying her, that’s on top of whatever agreed monies the oil and gas folks were paying the agency with regards to her and some others like her. Now, I get it that these agencies have to make money, but taking a chunky half of someone’s sweat?!

Also, why can’t the agency come out and clearly state they would be taking a pound of flesh; I assure you most desperate job seekers would still accept their conditions but at least their take would then be a little more dignifying that way. The straw that broke the camel’s back in the woman’s case was the agency’s mutilation of the lady’s leave allowance when she was to proceed on maternity leave. The lady said she had gone in to bid her white boss good  bye on the day she was meant to stop work and that in the course of their talk she joked that she wouldn’t have minded a little more than the approved amount for her leave allowance and she mentioned the amount. Her boss kept a poker face but later terminated the contract with the agency and started the process of making the lady a full staff.

When she eventually resumed she found out the official amount her employers provided as her leave allowance and how the employment agency gave her a far cry from the original amount, her boss couldn’t fathom how the agency could shortchange a pregnant woman so callously. We all scream about government officials and their antics, but seriously, these employment agencies employ so many methods in fleecing the people they give jobs that our government officials could learn a thing or two.

The agencies definitely deserve to get paid for using their resources to get people jobs but practically bleeding the employees dry is downright inhuman and the fact that most of the money is withheld in hiding raises questions about the fundamental ethics of these organizations. Another thing that baffles me is why most of the organizations that employ the people these agencies bring turn a blind eye on the exploitation of their workers by the job agencies; apparently it doesn’t occur to the employers that the frustration of the exploited staff could be transferred to their work and thus ultimately cause them harm while the job agencies sit pretty and get fat off both employer and employee.

Chukwudi Madu is a Contributing Editor at The Trent; a writer focused on creative writing, copywriting and technical writing. He is a proud alumnus of the prestigious Government College Umuahia (following in the steps of great Umuahians like Chinua Achebe, Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, Elechi Amadi, I. N. C. Aniebo, Ken Saro-Wiwa and Christopher Okigbo) and an alumnus of the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He tweets @maduchuddi. His Facebook page is HERE. You can buy his books HERE.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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