ARE you saying you started secondary school at the age of five? Please take your papers and leave." The human resources director stared at the interviewee in disbelief. The setting was the Human Resources Department of a manufacturing company. The young man being addressed tried to explain to the interviewer, but could not offer any plausible reason. He was one of several applicants short-listed for interview after a written test.
Many employers probably believe that the rules for finding and keeping top performers have changed. Corporate organisations prefer a certain age bracket for jobs hitherto reserved for more mature men and women. This explains the age specification that comes with most vacancy advertisement.The trend has led to falsification of age, as desperate job seekers doctor their dates of birth in order to meet firms’ employment requirement.
Alhaja Bola Akingbade, an Assistant Director of Public Relations, Office of the Surveyor-General, Lagos State, said the practice has been reduced to the barest minimum because every data in the civil service is now computerised.
Alhaja Akingbade recalled that in those days, workers in the public service falsified information about their age to elongate their length of service.
She said: "Now, every information about a civil servant is in the computer. Even if you want to lie about your age, the computer will reveal the real age, and a year before you are due for retiremennt, a letter will be written to you, reminding you of your impending exit from service. If anybody tries to play smart and reduce his or her age, the already saved data, when called on the computer will give him or her away."
About prospective employees who falsify their age, she said it has also been taken care of in the civil service. In times past, one could present a sworn affidavit or age declaration at the point of entry into the civil service. But that is no longer acceptable. Even if you have lost your original birth certificate, you have to go back to the local council where the original was issued and get a certified true copy.
Dwelling on why applicants falsify their ages, she said it is mostly due to elongation of course duration brought about by school closure due to lecturers’ strike. She, therefore, appealed to the government to always satisfy lecturers and non-academic staff of tertiary institutions so that they will not be going on strike.
Akingbade also blamed students for unruly acts that sometimes lead to closure of schools.
"Some of these strikes are caused by the students. They should also help themselves. Some of them graduate at the age of 30, and when employers require graduates of not more than 27years for employment, they start doctoring their birth certificates."
The Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Peters Adeyemi who doubles as General Secretary, Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), blames the government for not honouring agreements signed with lecturers, which leads to their going on strike, thereby prolonging their course duration. He said if the government responds favourably to lecturers agitation, there would not be cause for strikes. He also noted that poor remuneration of teaching and non-teaching staff of tertiary institutions also contributes to workers disagreement with the government and the resultant delay in the education process.
On workers deliberate alteration of original dates of birth to add to their years of service, Adeyemi said: "Our people never learnt to prepare for retirement. They don’t have reserve. They are not saving towards retirement, hence their being wary of it.
He, therefore, urged the government to find means of improving on retirement age. He added that majority of retirees still have a lot to offer. The government should review the age of retirement to 65 years. This will put paid to age falsification while in service. He said as judges now retire at 70, other workers should be allowed to retire at 65. A human resources staff member of a beverages firm in Lagos said the long – term success of any organisation depends on its ability to recruit and retain the best workers, and enable its staff to develop and perform to their highest potential. That, according to him, accounts for why employers seek for young and intelligent people.
He said young people are more energetic and will stay longer on the job. The professional development training they undergo at the instance of their employers would not be put to good use if, at the entry point, someone is between 40 and 45. He or she would be productive for about 10 years, and probably become less productive when old age sets in.
It is worthy of note that many universities were closed for about six months last year, some of them are yet to open for studies.
A student leader, Mr Uthman Rufai, said in Ago-Iwoye that many students have been under depression and psychological distress after spending two years in one class as a result of the university’s unresolved crisis. He was reacting to the sudden loss of sanity by one of the female students of the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State.