Despite recent moves by some ministries, departments and agencies to make Bachelor degree and Higher National Diploma, HND, holders be at par in the civil service as directed by the federal government, many are yet to do so, checks by PREMIUM TIMES show.
There has been a protracted disparity between holders of the two academic qualifications in the civil service over the years. At entry and terminal points, degree holders are usually a notch higher on the grade level than their diploma-holding counterparts. This has not gone down well with a vast majority of HND holders and many Nigerians.
The removal of this dichotomy, among other perceived institutionalised discriminatory policies, had been at the top of a list of demands by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, the umbrella body for polytechnic lecturers and had been the motivation for several industrial crises in the sector.
At the 39th meeting of the National Council on Establishment, NCE, which lasted for five days in Minna, the Niger State capital in July last year, it was resolved, among other things, that the entry point for HND holders into the civil service would henceforth be Grade Level 08, like that of their bachelor degree holder counterparts. The council is the highest decision body in the civil service on such matters, but has no powers of enforcement.
A communique of the meeting obtained by PREMIUM TIMES disclosed that one of the resolutions was an "entry point salary GL.08 for all candidates possessing Higher National Diploma, HND from institutions accredited by the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE."
The resolution only addressed entry point disparity between HND and Bachelor degree holders without making any reference to the terminal point where there is also a gap between the two qualifications. However, many hoped it would effectively resolve some discrimination and career limitation that graduates of polytechnic institutions had for years been subjected to in the workplace, especially the states and federal civil service.
Prior to this, a polytechnic graduate with HND could not be employed in the civil service on Grade Level 8 and could not rise beyond Level 15 without additional qualifications (including a master's degree), while his/her counterpart with a bachelor's degree enters on Grade Level 08 and can rise to the peak at Grade Level 17 (equivalent of the Permanent Secretary cadre).
An HND holder who aspired to that level will have to not only obtain a post graduate degree, PGD, in relevant disciplines, but is also required to obtain a master's degree before he can hope to attain the level his bachelors' degree holder counterpart could attain, even without a second degree.
CUSTOMS TAKE THE LEAD
The Nigeria Customs Service was among the first to break the jinx almost a year after the Minna resolution.
Nigeria Custom Service (NCS) Comptroller-General, Hameed Ali
HND holders on salary Grade Level GL 07 in the service were automatically moved to GL 08 while a supplementary budget was to be made for their salary arrears.
This was a huge score for HND holders as the national president of the ASUP, Usman Dutse, expressed appreciation over the move by the customs service.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Dutse said among other things, the removal of the dichotomy would help change the negative mindset created in the minds of Nigerians, whereby "they don't attach much importance or interest to technical or vocational education."
"Actually, it is a welcomed development, it's something we have been agitating for. We commend the CGC (Mr. Ali) for taking that step because Nigerians have come to realise that productivity is not just about where you come from but what you contribute.
"We really appreciate that and we are fully in support of him. We hope that other Nigerians will emulate from him. Already the Kano State government has already adopted the NCE resolution in Minna.
"The Head of Service and the NCE are the ones that have the mandate to remove the dichotomy. NCE comprises the head of services of the federation and of all the 36 states in the country so they are the ones that will approve so that every sector can now implement what is being agreed upon."
Mr. Dutse noted that the disparity is affecting the rate of enrollment in polytechnics.
"About 1.5 million students are applying for universities while less than 2000 apply for polytechnics. Then, if you look at it, the morale of HND holders is down; they are demotivated because their efforts are not appreciated and it is killing their spirit. The value of their input is not appreciated because what is considered is the certificate and where you come from.
"Imagine a situation where somebody will come and learn from you and before you know it, he/she becomes your boss because he has BSC and you have HND. This is why there is a lower rate of enrollment in polytechnics," Mr. Dutse added.
After the Customs action, the paramilitary services also made BSc/HND holders be on equal pay at the starting level.
However, investigation still shows there is slow response and implementation by many government agencies both in the federal and state levels of the civil service.
Edet Ufott, the spokesperson of Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences, ICPC, told PREMIUM TIMES that the agency is yet to implement the resolution "but the process is ongoing."
"This is an administrative process and they are still working on it," Mr. Ufott said.
Jimoh Moshood, the Nigeria Police spokesperson, did not give specific reasons on why the dichotomy has not being bridged in the police force.
Jimoh Moshood, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO)
He said the force only recruits constables while the Police Service Commission recruits officers and inspectors adding that he would get back on "their resolution." He never did.
The Nigerian Immigration Service did not also respond officially, but sources in the Service said that they will start implementing the removal of the dichotomy during the recruitment stage like customs did.
He said recruitment exercise is going on and probably, the dichotomy will be abolished.
Officials at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, declined comments but directed the reporter to the Head of Service.
However, a top official of the drug regulatory agency said the "issue on ground is at the terminal level of employment in which the Minna circular did not address.
"HND holders will always stop at the chief level while Bsc holders can get to directorate level," the source said.
Several ministries visited by PREMIUM TIMES to see compliance with the directive redirected the reporters to the Federal Civil Service Commission.
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Finance, Salisu Dambata, declined comments since according to him, "it is only the Federal Civil Service Commission that recruits (for ministries)."
The Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-ita told our correspondent that the Minna circular should be implemented.
"The policy is in practice," she said.
Also, on the modality for the enforcement and implementation of the policy, Haruna Rasheed, the spokesperson to the Head of Service of the Federation, said all MDAs at the state and federal level are expected to begin implementation of the NCE resolution.
He, however, added that what the Head of Service cannot determine is the period of implementation.
"The NCE is the highest establishment council in the country and any decision taking by the council is not only binding at the federal level but also at the state level. This is a decision that has been taking by that council so every establishment organ in any MDA whether state or federal will now hinge their decision on that and begin implementation at their own discretion," he said.
The spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Chinyere Uhuoma, also told PREMIUM TIMES that the "ministry is not against the removal of the dichotomy but certain issues need to be addressed."
"This fresh concerns for the removal of the dichotomy was actually driven by UNESCO, so it is a global concern and we have to be part of the process.
"The ministry is addressing it domestically through the office of the Head of Service, the NCE and the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, which has the mandate to determine salaries of occupational groups in Nigeria. They are the ones who are statutorily responsible for certain things.
"As far as we know, HND graduates who read practical courses like Engineering, start at grade level 8 but when they read management courses like Political science, they start from grade 7. The harmonisation is a process. Government is consistent. The statutory position must be adhered to. The whole aim is to remove the dichotomy," Mrs Uhuoma said.