Transcript CNN International interview with Nigeria's President Obasanjo and USAfricaonline.com Publisher Chido Nwangwu on Democracy and Security Issues
Age and lying about one's age in the Nigerian workforce
Exclusive commentary for USAfrica The
Newspaper, Houston, CLASS
USAfricaonline.com and The Black Business Journal
By KC PRINCE ASAGWARA, Ph.D
I witnessed the ridiculousness of doctoring and lying about one's age to remain employed when I visited Nigeria in 2003. Someone that I knew as an adult when I was a boy in primary school came to me for assistance to migrate to Canada. I asked for his CV/resume. He recorded on his resume as being born in 1962. I thought it was a mistake and called his attention to it. To my horror, he told me that it was his "officially declared age." And that "it is the way it is done here in Nigeria, if you want to stay employed after 55 years of age." The man in question at the time was not less than 60 years old.
I made known to him my disappointment at his action but informed him that in Canada where he wanted to immigrate, age limit at the entry point in the workforce is not asked in application forms nor during job interviews. I told him that qualification, experience and skills gained to do the job are the qualifying criteria.
Evidently, the issues arising from members of the Nigerian workforce of lying about age(s) or presenting false declaration of their ages, especially, in employment related situations deserve further scrutiny. It has, since, become a sociological malady.
There was a time the Nigerian workforce, particularly, the civil service was among the best in terms of dedication and commitment to the delivery of public service among the Commonwealth countries. This was before the Mohammed/Obasanjo military regime that rule Nigeria from 1975 to 1979. For all his alleged greatness as a no-nonsense and decisive military Head of State, Murtala Mohammed began the process that compromised and destroyed integrity, dedication, commitment and probity in the Nigerian Civil Service. When the Mohammed/Obasanjo military regime came into office in 1975, most middle and senior levels civil servants were adjudged incorrectly, as incompetent, corrupt or out of touch with the times. That regime embarked on unplanned and indiscriminate retirement exercise that created till today, a disorganized and nervous civil service whereby anyone in a position to steal and loot, lie and cheat just does that, due to the uncertainty in staying employed till the next day.
The military regime of retired Gen. Ibrahim Babangida compounded the situation by introducing retirement at age 55 or after 25 years of service. The sad effect is that those that are due for retirement continuously, doctor or present false age declarations to remain employed. The policy of retirement at age 55 was one of the IMF/World Bank Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) economic prescriptions. The irony is that in the Western countries, no one is forced to retire at or after 55 years of age. Rather retirement at 55 years or shortly thereafter, is a rich financial package and benefits offered to encourage those who choose this option. Only a handful does so.
Most retire voluntarily at 65 years old or thereafter. For instance, in 1987, a female professor at the University of Manitoba was compulsorily retired after 65 years. She challenged her retirement in the court of law as an act of age discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. She won her right to stay employed and not be forced to retire because of age. The irony is that a year later, she retired. I guess she wanted to make a point.
A case similar to the above is currently being played out at the University of Winnipeg. Here a 75-year-old professor who was forcefully retired is challenging his retirement in the court, asserting his rights and freedom to stay employed as long as his health carries him and as guaranteed him in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Given the precedent set in the University of Manitoba case, he will likely win his case.
Under normal times, whether in Nigeria or Canada, no one wants to work till they are ready for the walking stick. The Nigerian employee hangs on to their jobs and lies about his/her age because of the dread of life after retirement. The reason is, if the employed is not paid regularly and sometimes owed months of salary arrears, imagine his/her lot on retirement. We are constantly reading and seeing the thousands of retired Nigerian workers who are entitled to pension benefits but have received nothing several years after retirement. Some have died trying to collect their pension benefits. Part of the destructive net effect of military rule in Nigeria was the bankrupting of the National Provident Fund (NPF) that used to handle pension/benefit payments to retirees in Nigeria.
In a country so much blessed by God with resources, any Nigerian of work age and eligible for the workforce ought to be gainfully employed. The older employees 55 or more do not have to be pushed out of jobs for the youths to be employed. If the nation's money stolen and stashed away in the foreign banks by the corrupt ministers and other functionaries of government over the years had been used to build industries and infrastructures, both young and old would be employed and no one would be forced to give way to the other in the Nigerian workforce.
2006 CALENDAR, FRIDAY May 5, AND SATURDAY MAY 6, 2006: CLASS magazine, USAfrica and USAfricaonline.com (characterized by The New York Times as the largest and most influential African-owned, U.S-based multimedia networks), will hold the USAfrica 14th internationally-acclaimed 2006 BEST OF AFRICA awards dinner in honor of African professionals and our annual Mothers' Day Honors on FRIDAY MAY 5 and on SATURDAY MAY 6, 2006. Nominate some African professionals and community builders. E-mail: Class@Classmagazine.tv. It will be an invitation-only event. The open annual international townhall meeting, USAfrica Forum, will hold on Friday May 5, 2006. USAfrica was founded in May 1992, in Houston, Texas by television broadcaster and multimedia media executive Chido Nwangwu. Contact USAfrica/CLASS event manager Alverna Johnson and Chuck Obazei at 713-270-5500. or 832-45-CHIDO (24436) - E-mail: Class@Classmagazine.tv
The Shehu Shagari civilian government that succeeded the Obasanjo regime in 1979 wallowed in corruption for four years without building any industry before it was booted out in 1983 by Buhari/Idiagbon military regime. Two years later (1985), another group of coupists led by Ibrahim Babangida kicked out the Buhari/Idiagbon regime. The Babangida regime ruled Nigeria for solid 8 years. His only lasting legacy and to his eternal shame is that he elevated corruption to national pass time. Babangida and his regime of treasury looters did not build a single industry before being forced out of office in 1993.
Abacha's regime that followed that of Babangida was equally enmeshed in corruption and a complete waste in terms of economic development. Nigeria returned to democratic system of government in 1999, and Obasanjo was elected the first civilian President after sixteen years of military rule. He has ended his 6th year in office without building a single industry. His remaining two years would likely end the same way. Had the recently uncovered $500 billion stolen in the past four decades by Nigeria's corrupt rulers been used to build a few industries capable of absorbing Nigerians willing to work and capable of productive services, the incidents of doctoring and lying about one's age to remain employed would be uncommon.
The fault really, is not in the Nigeria worker who may doctor and lie about his/her age to remain employed but rather with a country incapable of producing leaders that see governance as a privilege to serve the public. And believe in the use of government's power to make life better for the people. For a country as rich as Nigeria, it is to her eternal shame that those who served their country for years and retired live out the remaining years of their lives in penury and want. And those who reach retirement age continue to doctor and falsify their ages for fear of retiring and facing the adversarial economic hardship confronting their retired colleagues.
For the number of years that I have worked in Canada, were I to retire now, I will live a happy, relatively young pensioner. I believe that the retired Nigerian could live in similar situation, if Nigeria were not cursed with military rulers and political leaders from hell.
Dr. Asagwara is Canada-based contributing editor of USAfricaonline.com and CLASS magazine and global e-list IgboEvents. He wrote this essay exclusively for the USAfrica multimedia networks
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Obasanjo: Let me say this to you, when you put the question
of 10,000 -- 10,000 people dying in Nigeria, of course, for
a population of over 120 million people...."
But USAfricaonline.com Founder and
recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997),
Nwangwu, who appeared on the same program as as a CNN
International analyst (Africa) pointed out that "when
(President Obasanjo) answered that in a country of 100
million that 10,000 people are said to have died, as if that
was a small number, that in itself reflects a disconnect
with the concerns of Nigerians. The second one is that when
the risk is civil disagreement, the police are required to
intervene in the country. And the deployment of the armed
forces of Nigeria requires at least some consultation,
however modest, with the parliament." Nwangwu,
former member of the editorial board of Nigeria's Daily
Times continued that "the third
factor that is equally important to underscore is that the
armed forces of Nigeria moved in for a punitive action
rather than just containing a civil
disagreement." He noted in USAfricaonline.com
backgrounder "it was revealing and interesting interesting
discussing Nigeria's issues with its leader - under the
current circumstances of an increasingly out-of-schedule
elections and the gathering storm of an impeachment process
by a majority of the members of the National Assembly,
predominantly by Obasanjo's party members." See
transcript of the CNN
International news program.
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