By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
The harsh economic climate and rising unemployment in the country have continued to fuel recruitment scams, as fake recruitment firms and agents rip-off desperate job seekers, Business Hallmark findings have revealed.
Many Nigerian job seekers have lost huge sums of money running into billions of naira. Those that lost money to these con men are considered lucky or fortunate, as the less fortunate ones, checks revealed, have lost their lives, and their organs harvested in the hands of the supposedly job agents.
It would be recalled that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) had in March 2021, put Nigeria’s unemployment rate at 33.3 percent as at Q4 2020, using the old methodology, which classified anyone of working age without job, or worked below 20 hours in a week as unemployed.
In its latest report released on Thursday, August 31st, 2023, however, the NBS put unemployment rate at 4.1 percent in Q1 2023, using the revised methodology.
Under the new NBS methodology, a person, who worked for only two an hour in a day is considered to be employed. This means that many Nigerians, who were previously classified as jobless are now considered as employed.
However, economic experts have queried the new report, maintaining that it was an underestimation of the true level of unemployment in the country.
According to an economist, Dr. Femi Bodunde, while the NBS report may be statistically correct, it is far from the reality on ground.
“The NBS is just playing with figures. And based on those figures, you can’t fault it. But to an average student of economics, a rise in unemployment simply means the number of people searching for jobs has increased, brought about by the loss of jobs by those previously working, or more people like fresh graduates joining the labour force.
“So, in reality, unemployment should be defined as a situation, where those that are working are underemployed and earn inadequate wages to take care of their basic needs, as well as those that are not working at all in a given window”, Bodunde argued.
Several other economic experts, who spoke to our correspondent on the matter all agreed that the current economic situation in the country had contributed to the collapse of many companies, which in turn pushed many workers into the labour market.
As a result, fraudulent employment firms and agents have capitalised on this to defraud many desperate job seekers searching for the much needed job to sustain body and soul.
One of the tactics used by fake job agents to defraud Nigerians is to advertise non-existing jobs, either online, in newspapers, or on flyers pasted in public places.
The unfortunate job seekers, who applied for the supposedly ‘vacant’ positions are then made to go through recruitment processes, which include writing examination and oral interview, but not before paying bogus fees.
One of the victims of job scammers, Opeyemi Seriki (not real names), while sharing his experience with BH, said he was overjoyed after receiving a message on his phone to come for an interview at the Yaba, Lagos office of Esther Breakthrough Nigeria Limited.
“On Friday, August 25, I got a text message inviting me to a job interview the next Monday, August 28 at Esther Breakthrough Nigeria Limited, situated at 82 Clegg Street, Yaba, Lagos, just before the Ojuelegba Bridge.
“I was so elated because that’s the first interview I will get after three months of intensive job searching.
“However, another problem surfaced – I didn’t have the transport fare that will take me to the venue. So, in church on Sunday, I asked for help from a member, who gave me N5,000.
“The next day, I turned up at the interview venue as instructed but was taken aback with what I met on ground.
“Instead of the posh office environment I was expecting, I only saw two shop-like apartments filled with wooden benches and tables under the 3-storey building I was directed to.
“I was contemplating whether to beat a retreat, when a man and a female accomplice accosted me, asking whether I’d come for the interview, which I answered, yes.
“I was told to make a payment of N1,500 for a job application form, which I promptly paid. I was then directed to a bench, where I will take my test.
“At the end of the test, we (job seekers) were told to go home and that the lucky ones should expect calls from them.
“I had barely reached Maryland, when I got a congratulatory message that I have been offered a job.
“However, I was asked to bring along the sum of N10,000 when coming for my (employment) letter. When I asked them the reason for that money, the person on the phone said it was their commission as the recruitment agent.
“I was so happy and reached out to friends and relatives, who helped raised the money. I got there the next day and got my letter”, said Opeyemi.
However, the dream of the newly ’employed’ Opeyemi was shattered, when he arrived at the office of his new employer at Olowu Street in Lagos.
“When I got to the address, I met a new office under renovation. After about four minutes, a gentleman appeared and demanded what I wanted. I quickly gave him my letter of employment.
“The moment I saw his reaction, I knew something was amiss. The man, who claimed to be the manager, said I was the 14th person to show up at the place in the last 24 hours.
“He told me that his office was not responsible for the letter, but a fraudulent job syndicate that prey on job seekers.
“I was so deflated that I broke down in tears. The manager later excused himself and went inside to supervise his work men.
“I am still in the labour market looking for job, but I pray God will punish those behind this nasty experience”, he said.
BH investigation revealed that job scammers, like job seekers, also look out for newspapers (both hard copies and online), where job postings are advertised.
After copying out the details, they then do their own publication and conduct recruitment exercise for applicants without the approval of the firms needing hands.
As expected, the swindled applicants are rejected, when they present themselves at their supposed new work place.
Opeyemi is, however, lucky to escape with just his life, as others, especially ladies, have not been so fortunate.
Some female applicants, while narrating their experiences in the hands of job scammers, thanked God to be alive to narrate their experiences.
According to one of the victims, Faith Emiezor, she visited a firm at Okokomaiko after applying for a vacant office assistant position.
However, she was held hostage for over three weeks and turned to a sex object before she was rescued by security operatives.
“Sometime in June, I attended a job interview at a dry cleaning firm in Okokomaiko. However, I lost consciousness less than ten minutes after getting to the place.
“I woke up several hours later with a man on top of me. For the next 20 days, I was raped daily by several men, who demanded a huge sum of money before I can be released.
“At the last count, I counted around 15 young female applicants in chains. Thankfully, one of the girls, I learnt, had mentioned her interview appointment and the venue to a family member, who raised an alarm after she failed to turn up after several days.
“Two of the victims later turned up pregnant. They were even lucky to escape largely unscathed as we were informed by policemen that secured our release that organs of men in the illegal camp with erotic values were harvested”, Emiezor stated.
Apart from Esther Breakthrough Nigeria Limited, other dubious agencies and their addresses fingered by victims include: HYINSCO Office, No. 4, 2nd Floor, upward Sanitas outlet, Alara Street, off Commercial Avenue, Onike, Sabo Yaba, Lagos; Elite Training, with offices at Clemline House, Obasa Close, off Oba Akran Road, Ikeja and 150B Oba Oguniyi Road (beside Pythagoras College) and Schleez Nigeria Limited, first floor, left-wing, No 49, Olowu Street, Ikeja, Lagos.
Others are SOAR GROUP, Suite 2, Ikosi Road, Oluyole Bus Stop, Oregun Ikeja, Lagos; WEST CORP SERVICES LTD., 6, Deji Oyenuga Street, opposite Kehinde Odusote Estate, Anthony Bus Stop, Lagos and Plot 5, Voda Paint Plc, University Press House, Fumec Bus Stop, Off Adeniyi Jones, Ogba, Lagos, among many others.
Other dubious agencies with less sophistication scattered across Lagos are also in the business of scamming desperate job seekers.
Their mode of operation include advertising non existing vacancies with jumbo pays online and through posters and handbills displayed at strategic places like bus-stops, markets, as well as fences of public and private buildings.
Apart from the phone numbers of the recruiters boldly written on the adverts or posters, there are normally no traceable operational address or the name of the companies, where such vacancies exists.
A human resource expert, who spoke to our correspondent on the ongoing exploitation, Teju Ajibode, blamed the victims for allowing themselves to be scammed.
According to Ajibode, there are enough red flags to tip off an observant person to run for his dear life.
“For instance, one of the red flags is the jumbo pay the fake job recruiters offer. Most often than not, the salary of non educated candidates is actually what graduates earn in some well established industries.
“In their salary scale, a casual worker that works only 22 days (Monday to Friday) in a month, earns between N50,000 to N80,000.
“The job scammers usually claim to be recruiting for beverages companies, factories, schools, airport, oil and gas industries and, in some cases, they promise both accommodation and free feeding.
“However, beverage companies, oil and gas companies and others mentioned in the adverts are awash with cash and will rather place adverts worth over half a million naira per page in national newspapers, or employ the services of recruitment firms like Arthur Anderson and KPMG to get their needed hands”, Ajibode explained