Most civil servants are daring their supervisors. They are bent on augmenting their salaries with petty trading they do in their offices. “We know it is against civil service rule but we must feed,” a middle age woman who works at the Federal Secretariat said.
Among the products they sell are shoes, bags, clothes, detergents, perfumes, wristwatches, palm oil and garri.
Workers who are not in good terms with their bosses or whose superiors frown at the display of such items, hide the goods in the trunk of their vehicles, signalling their colleagues to meet them outside. Those who enjoy the support of their directors, or superiors boldly move from one office to another, flaunting their goods and wooing workers to patronise them.
At the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, one could mistake it for Ariaria Market, Aba, Abia State, as clothes, shoes, food items, fruits and even kilishi (dried suya), are sold everywhere. Like other markets, there is always deafening noise from every angle. The business is booming due to flexible payment plan. Those who can pay instantly do so while those who cannot write down their names and amount, with the promise of paying at month end.
For Mrs Charity (not real name), who is on level 12 in one of the ministries, said she ventured into it to augment her monthly salary, an excuse she linked to the high cost of foodstuff, house rents and children school fees: “My salary is not enough to meet the needs of my family and beneficiaries. Selling clothes and shoes is just to help me meet up with sustenance demands. Besides, you know that in our department, we do not have so much work to do. So instead of idling away, I decided to get busy.”
Asked if she is not scared of being queried or sacked if caught, she said: “Bros, this is civil service. It is not easy to sack somebody like that. Besides, those who are even supposed to sanction us are guilty of same crime. They are not saints. They also do the same in different ways. I know it is bad and which is against the civil service rules, but we need multiple streams of income to keep the family going.”
Another senior staff, who sells wrappers, but opted to be anonymous, noted that the change in government shore up the business. He is into buying wrappers from Kano, Katsina and selling them in the office: “This business fetches me more money than what I receive at the end of every month. Before, things were better, and boys were smiling because most ministries had money on their own; and spend it on contracts, staff training, sometimes we get our share. But with the introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA), everything has changed.
“And since the bird has decided to fly without perching, the hunter must tactically shoot without missing. I decided to be selling wrappers to workers. I am not afraid of any sanction because I come to work and carry out my duties.”
Iyabo Idowu lamented the high nepotistic tendency when it comes to shop allocation in available spaces in ministries and agencies. She noted that business is what keeps her going which made her requested a space in her ministry (name withheld) to sell snacks but the director in charge allocated it to his brother even after applying first:
“If you need a shop in the ministry, you apply for it. When I saw a space I applied but the man in charge gave it to another person, probably because the person is from his place or he paid higher. To avoid confronting him, I decided to sell in my office, which is not affecting sales. But I am very carefully.”
James Okon said he sees nothing offensive in what they do, claiming that it is away of meeting their targets: “You may see it as something illegal, but most of us like it. It saves us the stress of going to the market to buy things when we can effortlessly get them in our offices.
“Mind you, most of them have shops outside this place. What they do is to take some and sell in offices. It’s not like they never had something doing before joining the civil service. They do.”