Employed by Ortom, Sacked by Alia — The Tales of Benue Teaching Job Seekers

When the Benue State Government announced earlier this year it would recruit more teachers into the Teaching Service Board (TSB) through the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), residents, especially prospective applicants, smiled at the news with hope to be enlisted into the system. But that marks the beginning of their predicaments.

Toward the end of former governor Samuel Ortom’s administration, some applicants were shortlisted for recruitment and were later issued letters of appointment. Yet, they were never inducted despite paying for it.

29-year-old Agida, a 2015 graduate from the College of Education, Oju, Benue State, was issued an employment letter but had to pay an induction fee to the detriment of her children’s school fees. She narrated how her desperation to get a job with the government made her pay N12,000 into the government account.

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“When I heard that we were to pay an induction fee, the news was shocking to me, though I have been unemployed for many years since I left school, so I never asked questions about the legality of paying such a fee,” Agida told WikkiTimes. 

She explained that the money was part of her savings from her clothes-selling business, which has always helped in paying her children’s school fees.

For 32-year-old John, it was a sober moment. He has been unemployed for some years after completing his first degree in Biological Sciences at Benue State University in 2016.

“It has been a time of struggle and pain. The most difficult thing a graduate can pass through is having to stay unemployed for years and seeing some people that you are better off getting employed,” he said.

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John explained that he never thought of anything apart from submitting everything the officials asked them to. John has always struggled to feed his three children from his N10,000 private school teaching job.

Hannah, 35, said her experience with seeking government jobs has not been funny. 

“After we got the employment letters, the excitement was huge. I never thought the end story would be me passing through deceit from the government officials, who would have been the custodians of the law and caring for citizens like me,” she grumbled.

Hannah told WikkiTimes she struggled to pay the induction fee from her subsistence farming business.

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“Even when I paid the said induction fee from my small farming business, today the employment has been terminated,” she wailed.

Hannah obtained a National Certificate in Education (NCE) from the College of Education, Oju in 2014.

Backdated and Temporary Appointment Letters

Temporary appointment letters, signed by former Executive Secretary of Benue State Teaching Service Board, Dr Frank Kyungun, and issued [to the shortlisted applicants] by the state government were backdated to 2022 with no convincing explanation.

A copy of an apointment letter issued to one of the applicants
A copy of an appointment letter issued to one of the applicants

After receiving their [temporary] employment letters, the applicants said they were asked to pay N12,000 into an account named ‘Staff Development Centre’ domiciled with the United Bank for Africa (UBA).

WikkiTimes could not ascertain the actual number of applicants who were offered employment, but we spoke to nine of them and only three granted us interviews. However, they pleaded for anonymity for fear of being witchhunted.

A collage of payment evidence from the nine applicants we spoke to
A collage of payment evidence from the nine applicants we spoke to

But the government that succeeded the administration of Ortom later disengaged the workers in June, estimating their numbers to be over 5,000.

“The State Universal Basic Education employed 3,028 against the approved number of 2,500 only while replacements made were over 5,000,” Reverend Father Hyacinth Alia, Benue State governor had said on June 12 during the commemoration of Democracy Day.

“Teaching Service Board employed 2,500, that is, for Grant-in-Aid Schools, four in number, 120 teachers, replacements were 2,484. In the entire exercise, due process was not adopted,” he added.

The government justified its decision, saying the past administration did not only ignore due process but issued the “lopsided” employment “in favour of a few local government areas and did not take the principle of state character into consideration.”

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It argued that there was no “budgetary provision was made to cater for the recruitments, just as there was no advertisement in any media as required by the provisions of the rules guiding the service on the matter; and no interviews were conducted to determine suitability or otherwise of candidates.”

Labour Union Reacts

The Benue State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Terungwa Igbe told WikkiTimes he was aware of the employment and the termination, but not the induction fee paid into the designated account.

When asked to comment about the matter, the chairman said government officials would have better answers on anything relating to finances. 

Barrister Igbo Joseph, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, explained that the Constitution of Nigeria does not point out anywhere that prospective employers should pay any amount to be inducted whether in the private or public sector. 

He explained that Section 21 of the Labour Act in Nigeria forbids offering finances to be offered employment. According to him, such greasing of palm interprets as “bribery.”

Barrister Joseph also cited Section 11 of the Labour Act and argued that for an employer to be relieved of his appointment, there should be a prior notice of a week by the organisation, which the Benue State government failed to do.

Government Declined to Comment 

Against the whole uncertainty and confusion surrounding the employment and subsequent disengagement, this reporter sought clarification from the state government, but all efforts were futile. 

He visited the office of the head of service in Makurdi earlier in October to seek clarification on why the state government has decided to collect an induction fee from the candidates, but the information officer at the office of the head of service declined comments and asked the reporter to write a letter.

On October 20, an FOI request was sent to the office of the head of service in Makurdi but was not responded to despite a series of reminders.

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When he visited the office for a follow-up on December 4, the information officer told him a response to the FOI had been dispatched through DHL to WikkiTimes office in Bauchi State. Two weeks later, the dispatch had not been delivered.

BSTSB Reacts

The Executive Secretary of the Benue State Teachers Service Board, Ahule Tsea told our reporter that he was not in office during the recruitment exercise and no file was handed over to him regarding the employment.

According to him, the former Director of Administration and Finance, Paul Adzambe was in charge of the process.

The current Director of Administration and Finance, Motu Comfort Msughshima gave the statistics of those issued with employment letters as 2,487.

She explained that all the applicants who were issued employment letters paid for induction. Msughshima acknowledged that paying such fees had been a practice in the state, but not immediately. 

Asked how the induction fees were spent, Msughshima said no record in that regard could be found in her office. 

This WikkiTimes publication is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the collaborative Media Engagement for Development, Inclusion, and Accountability Project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.


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