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Investigation: Inside the thriving business of job scam in Nigeria (photos, video)

Aderonke Bello - NAJI.com - 17-01-27
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It was a great wedding ceremony for Ademola Dare and his bride Lolade in the city of Ibadan, Oyo state. She moved into his room and parlour bedroom in the Mpape area of Abuja soon after. However, in less than six weeks, she became pregnant, and in need of medical attention. This was when it dawned on Ademola that he needs to get a better paid job.

"After our wedding, my wife got pregnant. We had to visit the hospital daily because of some medical issues that needed attention at the early stage of her pregnancy and needed more money to feed the two of us and pay for medical bills, so I started searching for a new job.

"I fell prey to people who capitalized on my predicament by demanding for money from me to obtain form in return for a job."

Victims of fake job alert in Lagos

When Ademola moved to seek a new job to help his young family, he was oblivious to job scams, parting with some of his savings - he paid over N20,000 to different job agents without any success. He was later forced to move down to Lagos to seek greener pastures where his woes were compounded.

The undercover investigation by Aderonke Bello spread over months has revealed that scammers are cashing in millions of naira monthly from unsuspecting job seekers in Nigeria. Some of whom posed as HR experts asking desperate victims to pay money to enable them secure a job or a long-term career.

Unemployment in Nigeria

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the rate of employment in Nigeria skyrocketed in the year 2016, leaving qualified persons hopeless, demoralized and desperate.

The bureau declares that 1.5 million Nigerians were unemployed in the first quarter of 2016. The unemployment rate has grown from 10.5% in the last quarter of 2016 to 12.1%.

A breakdown of unemployment by NAIJ.com revealed that unemployment has hit an all-time high in the past 10 years in 2016.

"The rising rate of job scams in Nigeria is greatly due to the high level of unemployment in the country. This can also be attributed to the high level of competition for available jobs, and desperation of getting well-paying jobs outside of the due process of applying for a job and securing an interview. These create an avenue for opportunists to take advantage of unsuspecting jobseekers with the aim of generating revenue," Olalekan Olude, the co-founder of HR Company Jobberman.com told NAIJ.com.

A former Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, David Parradang, in 2015 urged job seekers to disregard money-for-job offers by individuals, saying they are scams. Many desperate youths had fallen prey before this statement was released.

Recently, thousands of unemployed and desperate graduates fall victim to fake job alerts circulated on whatsapp without investigating the source, hoping to secure call center operator jobs with a bank in Lagos and other major cities. Some people travelled from other states of the federation to discover the advertised job is a prank.

When the Buhari-led government was coming on board, amongst their numerous election promises was the provision of three million jobs for unemployed youths. Reverse was the case regrettably as the rate of unemployment went up.

However, the head of information at the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Mr Edmund Onwuliri, tells NAIJ.com that it is an unfortunate situation for recruitments to take place in obscure places across the federation.

"I see the posters too, workers needed, you don't know where they are and you call and they start directing you. Ideally someone who want to recruit should be able to find a public domain to place information with verifiable locations. Why recruit in obscure places ? It is unfortunate. Over time, people think the NDE fix people in existing vacancies, we create self employment through skills training."

Jobseekers desperation

In order to make ends meet, unemployed Nigerians resort to different kinds of means to get paid jobs not minding the job hazards or modules.

"'I know of a law graduate who is earning N15,000,' was a phrase I overheard someone mutter sometime ago in Abuja.

"I am married with three kids, lost my job and since that time, I have been unable to get something for myself. I have walked, made calls, withdraw my children from private to public schools," Adeagbo Segun laments.

Many qualified graduates are transporters, while some assist in restaurants to fight poverty and put food on the table. However, menial jobs that are not meant for tertiary institutions graduates are tussled with illiterates.

"I just want a job, any paying job, I am tired of sitting at home everyday. The aunty I am living with in this town is pushing me out, where do I go now? Anything that I get even if they are going to pay me N10,000 I will take it," Chinyere tells NAIJ.com.

How Scammers operate

Investigations revealed some so-called recruiters parade themselves with juicy offers and promise to help people to work in Canada as explained by Ejike Simon who nearly fell victim when he was asked to raise N800,000 for a visa so that he can secure a job in Winnipeg.

Fake job sites - some will send messages to inform of a job with a link attached which by all account, eventually lead somewhere else for traffic growth or account hack.

Many times, unsuspecting victims were given fake government HR agencies to get advertised jobs, parting ways with huge amounts of money in form of savings and borrowed funds.

Madam Ramatu Ali said: "I gave them money to get my daughter a job with immigration but, they came back again to collect more money, up till now, my daughter is still searching."

The trending job scam in Nigeria is 'posted vacancies' across the nation and when you get to the venue, you would be asked to bring money and obtain a form to join neo-life international where uncertified medications and food supplements are sold. If you cannot afford to pay the required N12,000, you will be forced to drop N500 for commitment.

Some job agencies not only collect money for forms, but also two passport photographs and other request forms for guarantors. Certificates are not required, it could be a domestic help or a cleaning job - the length of waiting time is unlimited.

However, a syndicate in Lagos is notorious for asking jobseekers to submit a cheque of at least N500,000.

"I met a man and he asked me and others to bring guarantors with N500,000 signed cheque to his office at 34, pen cinema, Agege, Lagos, the company is called Rondatoks services limited, I did not go back there, I do not know if others go back," Ademola Dare alleged.

Some of these syndicates also give fake employment letters in their office for money. A victim explained how he was given a letter from a consultant to the Nigerian police, not until he got to their office in Yola to resume that he realized it was a fake employment offer, he was beaten and detained while the syndicate fled before they could be caught. Another means is bulk sms sent to mobile phones to people about job openings and interviews.

Undercover investigation

Investigation carried out in Asaba, Delta state, FCT Abuja, Ilorin, Kwara state, and Lagos state, busted syndicates called networkers working for a company called Neo-life International who deceptively paste vacancies in towns to deceive job seekers.

An undercover reporter was asked to come for a job interview, when he got there, he was asked to pay money to obtain form that will allow him market medications for a Neo-Life company - once he became a member, he can also paste fake job vacancies to lure other people in.

In the city of Abuja, a said job firm was visited in Garki Area 1, where the reporter was asked to pay N5,000 to obtain a form that can be filled with her details including the serial number of a valid ID card. Attached are two extra forms to be filled by the guarantors who are expected to add a mandatory photocopy of the International passport's data page. Qualification does not matter with job promises within the shortest possible time. The investigative reporter met a girl who lobbied around the place to seek out other victims who were rushing in and out, some going about to make photocopies of documents.

After exchanging pleasantries with some of them, a girl who called herself Jessica from Akwa Ibom state said, as a 'gist':

"I have been coming here regularly, it is the same thing, they keep asking us to come back. When you come here, usually you will not meet their Oga, the girl at the reception will shout at you as if you are an animal and they said our money cannot be refunded."

In Ilorin, a male voice whose number was pasted on one of the walls, tells the reporter that disguised as a job seeker to meet him at a bar to discuss, but when coming he should come with N2,500 registration fee.

Expert views

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has a convention that requires every unemployed person not to part with any money in the process of getting a job; Nigeria is a signatory to the convention.

"ILO set standards and expect recruiters to abide by the standard and apply it which enforcement could be done in Nigeria also by the Federal Ministry of Labour and employment, Nigeria being a vast company exposes citizens to scammers, it is a difficult situation," ILO's Pius Udo tells NAIJ.com.

Mr Onwudiliri said: "What will probably solve this problem is when there is legislation on ground, empowering government agencies to regulate the operations and activities of recruiters."

Mr Olalekan Olude said that if security agencies and financial institutions work together, they can track the operations of the scammers:

"With job scammers becoming increasingly intelligent and adapting by the day, it is with the collaborative efforts of jobseekers and scam victims that these scammers can be truly stopped.

"Another way in which these fraudulent individuals can be stopped is through collaboration with banks and security agencies. If banks can provide KYC records of scammers through judicial processes for security and law enforcement agents to investigate and apprehend, this will go a long way in putting a stop to job scams, Jobberman has a zero tolerance for job scammers and there are measures we have in place to tackle such."

Chairman of Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN), the umbrella organization of registered/licensed recruiters in Nigeria, Neye Enemigin, tells NAIJ.com that all efforts to get the government to support are in vain.

"It is not easy to work with the government because they don't have the needed logistics to go after the bad guys, we are still doing our best and hope proper regulations can be out forward to regulate recruitment in the nation."

A job advertisement as seen in Ilorin, Kwara state

Lack of regulation

To legally qualify to recruit in Nigeria, what is required is a license known as the 'recruiter's license' issued by the federal ministry of labour and employment. A vast majority of recruiting agents do not possess the license and some are not aware it exists.

"I was working for a company known as promasidor and one morning I got a call from the reception that there was somebody who wanted to resume in our office and the person came with an employment letter. He presented a fake recruitment letter that he has been recruited and I handed the person to the police but nothing came out." Mr Neye, the chairman of HUCAPAN, narrated.

Some of the job seekers who were compelled to pay N12,000 to obtain forms. Photo courtesy: Aderonke Bello/NAIJ.com

The ministry of labour and productivity do not have a personnel to monitor the scam, in the course of this investigation, it was discovered that, the ministry do not have a dedicated personnel to monitor the activities carried out by scammers.

The ministry also, lack the appropriate funds, no vehicles for patrol or survey as the rate of job scam rise by the day.

"The minister wishes to inform the general public to disregard this falsehood peddled by imposters, inviting unsuspecting members of the public to pay money into a specified account," a statement made available to NAIJ.com indicates.

The ministry declined comment concerning procedures, regulations and for recruiters license and monitoring in Nigeria. All effort to get the Nigerian police force reaction to this report proved abortive.

"I finally got an administrative job at a school in Ife where I currently reside, my wife is still in Lagos and I hope to bring her and my daughter here as soon as I rent a suitable place," Ademola Dare shared his success.

Watch an undercover video from one of the recruitment 'exercises' below:

Tags: Ibadan,job agents,Unemployment,job scams,Nigeria,money-for-job offers,National Directorate of Employment,NDE,Jobseekers,Scammers

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