Should Nigerian Public Employees (Government Workers) also accept TIPS?

Whether you are cashing a cheque over the counter, going through immigration at the airports, making a complaint to a police officer, renewing your driver’s license, receiving a title from a royal father, ordering a drink in a bar, obtaining your transcripts from your college, arranging for a funeral with a clergy or even being rushed into the emergency room in Nigeria, be prepared to TIP.

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Technically, tip means “a sum of money given to someone as a reward for their services”.  It is not to be confused with wage or salary, which is a sum of money due to someone for their services.  Generally, tip is often optional and the amount determined by the tipper. However, in some countries such as the US, some States by law require customers  to tip certain workers even up to 20% of the cost of the services they received. I am not sure whether the tipped can call the police should the customer fail to do so, but I know that the tipped can deduct it from customer’s money card if customer happens to pay with one.

Tip, however, is not for anyone rendering any type of service to anyone. In most countries, only private sector employees such as bartenders, restaurant waiters and waitresses, hotel maids, taxi drivers, those that help move our luggages around at the airports, parking lot vigilantes, janitors and cleaners, amongst others can  be tipped.  A common reason while these class of workers are allowed to receive tips is because they are often paid very low wages, often far below minimum wage. For instance, in the US, Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, but for tipped employees, it is $2.15. It  is expected that tips will make up the difference.

However, in some of these countries, it is a serious offense that can lead to dismissal for any public employee (government worker) such as a police officer or public school teacher to accept a tip. Most employers in the private sector have also prohibited their employees from accepting tips. The prime justification for allowing a bartender to accept tip and denying a public school teacher that privilege is that of fairness because the teacher’s service is already adequately paid for with our tax money.

Besides the fairness reason, tipping public employees in particular may also lead to unintended consequences detrimental to the rest of us. Think of a situation where Mr. Jojo has become a ‘darling’ of the police officers in his city for his generous tips to them even when they are off-duty. Suddenly, one of those officers he has been tipping gets a call to arrest him for an offense. As one of the police officers that have received generous tips from Mr. Jojo, how would you respond to this call?

Think of another situation where Mrs. Dodo has become a ‘darling’ of the passport and security officers at the airport for her generous tips to them on her frequent business trips. One day, Mrs. Dodo decides to bring in a banned good. As one of the security agents that have received generous tips from Mrs. Dodo, what would you do if you happen to be the one to discover that your generous tipper is bringing in a banned good? Or, as a public university professor that has often received generous tips from the parents of one of your students, what will you do should you realize that this student has failed your class?

Needless to say that one needs to be a saint to discharge his or her duties honorably in these situations. However, the failure to discharge these duties honorably often come with severe consequences for the rest of us, directly or indirectly. Imagine you are a relative to Mr. Jojo’s victim, would you not be offended by the police officers’ inability to bring him to justice? Or, if you are one of the students of the tipped professor, would you not feel bad that the professor has to pass this other lazy student because of tips. What if this lazy student is a medical student? How can the rest of us be sure that we would not be the next guinea pigs in his operating room?

To serve others at any level is a serious business, but  especially to serve in the public sector, because public servants often deal with the things that matter most to us, some of which we cannot get elsewhere except from them. For example, if the bartender at Ibari Ogwa refuses to serve me a drink because I did not tip him, I can switch over to Ishageri. If a teller at UBA refuses to accept my cash because I did not tip her, I can switch over to Diamond Bank. However, if the police refuses my call to arrest Mr. Jojo because I did not give him a tip, who else do I call? If the passport officer refuses to accept my passport at the airport because I did not give her a tip, who else do I go to?

Take it or leave, this is what is going on in the Nigerian public sector even as I write this essay. It is not that our drivers’ licenses have not been processed, not that our birth certificates are not ready, not that our complaints to the police officers are not legitimate as they often tell us. They are waiting for our TIPS. Should we TIP them, anyway?

 


 

Chioma called again! You remember her? The woman her boss was pressing. I thought she was going to talk about this affair.  No. This time it was about her sick mother. “Could you please pray for her, she is in a hospital at Owerri”, she said. I know her mother, a 65 year old “rural woman”.  I called this woman. “Mama, what’s the matter?” “The Doctor has not told me anything”, she answered. “What medication has he given you?” “He did not tell me, he just said that I will be fine.” I have heard this several times, especially from poorer and less educated Nigerians.

Regardless of what their (the physicians) reasons are, it is no longer a matter of conjecture that it is in the best interest of the patient for the physician to ‘carry her along’ (as we say in Nigeria) in her own plan of care. There are several reasons for this, but let us consider a few. A good care plan begins with proper diagnosis, followed by treatment (if possible) and in some cases, some kind of check-up to ascertain extent of healing.

Ethically, and in some places legally too, a patient has a right to be properly informed of her diagnosis because it is the first reason why she is consulting a doctor, nowadays at a very high fee. In some cases the doctor can tell a patient her diagnosis right away or order for tests to confirm or rule out his suspicions. The patient’s right to know requires the physician to tell patient what he suspects, believes or has confirmed to be her diagnosis. Except if patient is unconscious and there is no family member, beginning treatment without first briefing patient or family member on diagnosis may be an abuse of human dignity and breach of contract. Even when the patient or family has not asked for it – often out of naivete – a physician should still properly disclose diagnosis to patient or authorized family member. It is her right!

Apart from the fact that patient has a right to be informed of her diagnosis because she deserves to know and has paid for it, a patient properly informed of her diagnosis which often includes possible causes, symptoms and effects of the illness, can bring useful information towards her treatment. For instance, I noticed that Chioma’s mother was coughing a lot. Cough can be caused by several things, but can also be a symptom of other illnesses. Assuming hers was caused by something that she ate, she could easily identify this and be treated apropos.

Furthermore, properly informing patient of her diagnosis can help her prevent such illness in the future. For instance, in the past, I used to occasionally salivate whenever I ate certain foods. Because this was not frequent, I could not say exactly what kind of food that caused it, so my doctor asked me to watch out for certain foods. One afternoon, I drank orange juice and the salivating started. Now I know that orange juice was the cause, but how would I have known had my doctor not properly informed me? Except if a doctor wants a patient to return to him over and over again for treatment, as a way of making money, I think that for preventive purposes, a patient  should have access to proper information regarding her diagnosis.

Beyond diagnosis is treatment (if necessary). It is a shame that so many Nigerians are given several doses of medications a day by physicians without even knowing at least the name of the medicines they are being given. Again, a patient has the right to know what is going into her body because it is her body. Ethically, the physician is bound not only to disclose to a patient the name of whatever medicine he is administering but also to properly inform patient on what it will do for her, the side effects and any other alternatives available to her. Here is one reason for this requirement:

On January 2, 2011, we rushed a woman to a nearby clinic in Ikeduru LGA of Imo State about 12 midnight. Our first shock was that the nurse would not dial the on-call physician’s number because the physician (who is also the sole owner of the clinic) had ordered her not to call his number in the middle of the night. The second shock – and one of the reasons for this article – was that the nurse would not let us know the kind of medications that she wanted to administer to the woman. I was so upset that I did not let her administer the medications unless she told us what she was about to administer. Then she told us that it was against their policy in the clinic to let patients and their families know what medications they  administer. Well, that policy did not work with us. After much pressures from me, she now showed us the medications: tetracycline and others. Fine, but guess what. This woman was very allergic to tetracycline and her children know this. Imagine what would have happened to her had we not insisted.

I am worried that Nigerian patients may actually be dying more out of this kind of  mistreatment, than from other causes. Unfortunately, many Nigerians are not even aware of this. Many blindly trust that every physician will always administer the right medication. We know this is not true, not just in Nigeria, but across the globe. Besides the fact that the patient knows best how a medication works for her and so needs to know what she is taking, it may also be important for her to have a second opinion to be sure she is taking the right medication, in the right dosage and at the right time for her illness, since physicians can also make mistakes. Nigerian physicians therefore must not wait for a patient to ask for this information, it should be a standard practice.

Mid last year, an optician visited one Catholic parish in Owerri. He examined people and gave out some eye drops to those he thought needed them. The news came to me. I asked for the name of the eye drop. Guess what: The optician removed the labels on the eye drops so there was no way anyone could know. I called the optician to find out why. He told me that they removed the labels so patients would not go to the pharmacy to refill the eye drop on their own. While it is possible for patients to do this given the dysfunctional nature of the Nigerian health system, this is a rash reason to deny patients the right to know the name of the eye drop. If these physicians are truly concerned about thisunprescribed refilling, they can work with the pharmacists and the health ministry to regulate it. I think there may be more to this policy than a genuine concern for the safety of patients.

 


Chioma has just discovered that her new employer (a pharmaceutical company licensed by NAFDAC to produce certain drugs in Nigeria) is producing fake drugs for sale in the Nigerian market. She is deeply troubled. On one hand she worries that the fake drugs may hurt unsuspecting Nigerians, if she does not speak out. On the other hand she is worried that she may loose her job, if she speaks out. So, she called again asking: “What should I do?”

“Whistleblowing”, as Professor Michelle Cotton of the University of Baltimore has described it, “is the action of bringing to public attention or to the attention of law enforcement an instance of company misbehavior, for the benefit of society.” Across the globe, responsible governments know that some business people, politicians and professionals can do anything for profit often at the detriment of the welfare of their compatriots.  To ensure that these monsters do not have their ways, these governments have put in place “Whistleblower” laws that encourage good citizens to expose these monsters. Here in the USA, we have laws such as the New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA” or the “Whistleblower Act”), the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), amongst others. “CEPA”, for instance, makes it difficult for an employer to fire an employee for refusing to cooperate with company misbehavior or for exposing this misbehavior.

I am not sure we have any “Whistleblower” laws in Nigeria. If there are, they probably have no teeth. As it is currently the case, many Nigerian business people, politicians and professionals are engaging in all sorts of profit motivated misbehaviors at the detriment of the welfare of the rest of us. Some good Nigerians, such as Chioma, are aware of this because they either do business with these people, work with them or work for them. Like Chioma, they worry that these monsters are shortchanging the welfare of their compatriots, but for fear of loosing their sources of livelihood, they just have to put down the whistle. I don’t blame them! Even in countries with strong rule of law, low unemployment, reasonable security of life and property, people are still not likely to blow the whistle to the detriment of their sources of livelihood. This appears to be the human thing to do.

However, a “Whistleblower” law that truly assures a citizen that her source of livelihood will not be jeopardized for blowing the whistle in the interest of her compatriots has been shown to be an effective motivating factor for a good citizen to blow this whistle.  It also serves as a strong caveat to these monsters that they can’t pursue personal profit to the detriment of their compatriots since any good citizen can freely expose them. If the Nigerian government truly intends to fight corruption – the major cause of poverty – in Nigeria, it must consider putting in place some “Whistleblower” laws that will be tough enough on offenders, but very generous to the “Whistleblower”.

Everyday, we hear of looting, bribery, forgery etc, in government by government officials to the detriment of the rest of us. These officials are not acting alone. Although many people around them are aware of their misbehaviors, these monsters will continue to misbehave because they know that those who know are better off not exposing them. Yes, some are cooperating because they will be “settled” but there may still be some who would rather speak out than be “settled”, especially if there is a legally enforceable guarantee that they will not be worse off for speaking out. A generous “Whistleblower” law that not only protects the job of the “Whistleblower” but also rewards her for her courage and patriotism will certainly motivate a good citizen to freely expose these corrupt government officials. Additionally, such a law must also carry harsh, uncompromising and unsympathetic punishment for offenders especially in the public sector.  Even in the private sector, such as the pharmaceutical company that Chioma works for, a tough “Whistleblower” law should not only restrain this pharmaceutical company from firing Chioma should she rightly decide to expose its misbehavior, but also should severely punish this company for such misbehavior.

 


 

Ugonma, 27, is a beautiful lady from a remote village in Abia State, but a regular at the evening spot at the Control Post in Owerri metropolis. She was not shy to open up on her trade, which for the larger population is an ignominious lifestyle. She accepts her guilt for doing the shoddy business but tries to justify herself from her own background. Ugonma says she cannot help doing what she does. She said she is the eldest in a family of seven. The daughter of a petty-trader seller mom and a bed-ridden dad, for unfortunate reasons, Ugonma become the breadwinner of the family. Having managed to graduate in Marketing at ABSU, she said she had to market the first “goods” she received from her creator, her beautiful body. She tells her life story thus:

“I came into town with pure intentions. While in school I managed to survive. No helper from whatever source. The men who tried to assist me always wanted sex with me before they could offer me anything. Initially it was difficult compromising my body. But when things became unbearable and I was on the brink of being frustrated out of school, I started discussing with my close friend, Njideka. She told me to use what I have to secure what I lacked. I started yielding to men’s demands and things really eased off. I did not only have what I needed for my school upkeeps but also had extra to spare for my poor family at home.”

“I did not want it, but I thought all that would end after my graduation since I believed I would secure good job after my Youth Service. The first year after service ended; there was no job. The second year came and passed. The third year came and the whole experience was like spending hell here on earth. My dad’s situation was getting worse. My mom’s business was a mere formality. My siblings had almost dropped out of school and taken to menial jobs to make ends meet. Here I am, a graduate with nothing to show in form of alleviating the biting poverty in my family. Gradually, my mom started becoming aggressive towards me with all sorts of vituperative utterances against me. My poor dad would try to intervene but lacked the physical strength to do so. Among my siblings, I was almost a no do well. What remained from my mom was to start asking me for rent in the house as she would tell me that all my mates have married.”

“When the situation went beyond my elastic limit, I decided to pack my things and move to the city without knowing actually whom to confide in or where to go. Eventually I remembered my old friend Njideka whose contact I still had in my phone. When I put a call across, Njideka, luckily was at hand. She was patient to listen as I bored her with the story of my ordeals. She invited me over to her house and offered not only to provide me with accommodation but also to help me out of my present poverty stricken condition. She told me without mincing words that I was going to do an advanced course in prostitution. I tried to hesitate but she made it clear that my stay around her would expire if I couldn’t provide for myself and look for accommodation elsewhere after two weeks. Since I had no hope of securing job with my certificate soon, I had to succumb to the pressure of joining Njideka and her team to move out under the cover of darkness. Initially, it was an uphill task since I was shy and feared a lot of consequences, but after some time, I became convinced that it was one of those businesses that only involved give and take.”

“The irony is that I traveled back to the village after a few months with a lot of goodies for my family. My mom was so excited. She danced, sang and even invited some of our neighbours to share in her joy. She poured encomiums on me and said she regretted all her wicked actions towards me. What baffled me was that neither my mom nor my siblings cared to know the kind of business I do. All they were interested in was my taking care of the wretched situation in the family. Hence two things became clear to me: Either I continue with my business, take care of my family and be loved; or leave it, roll back into poverty and be rejected by my family. The latter for me would be unreasonable. So I have to be a prostitute to fight poverty in my family despite the regrets that I suffer in the privacy of my bedroom”.

Unfortunately, Ugonma represents many Nigerian young people who have become disillusioned by poverty today. Not that they are not ready to work but they have no work to do on graduation from schools. Statistics show that about four million Nigerian graduates are churned out every year for employment with nothing to show for it. Unemployment rate in Nigeria at the moment is 23.9% and said to grow by 11% annually. Ironically too, there doesn’t seem to be hope as the nation is daily being impoverished by insecurity and the Boko Haram menace in the north. A comparative analysis shows for instance that Nigeria currently spends 13.5% of her budgetary allocation on security whereas the health and education sectors receive 5.6% and 8.6% respectively. In Canada for example, security receives 6.3% of the budget while health and education receive 17.9% and 11.5% respectively. In the UK, whereas security receives same as in Canada, 6.3%, health and education receive 16.5% and 12.7% respectively. The implication is that job creation in Nigeria remains a mirage. The consequence is that poverty among the young cannot yet be eradicated.

Many young men and women roam the streets today with no jobs. While some in the villages take to self employed menial and degrading jobs, the very radical ones have taken to negative habits, joined cult groups all in the name of eradicating poverty in the wrong way. Ugonma says she is into prostitution for reasons of poverty and has no regrets about it. She has to feed herself and her family, she has to pay her house rent, electric bills, and take care of other needs. But she seems to think they are over now. The question is, should Ugonma even be this poor in a country flowing with oil?

Vincent Arisukwu

 


Good news! Chioma finally secured a job in a hospital at Enugu. You remember Chioma: The woman that refused to have sex with her various recruiters in exchange for a job (See Ethics Corner in April 21, 2013, edition of the Leader Newspapers or visit www.csaaeinc.org/blog/ for full story). As I argued in that article, the behavior of Chioma’s recruiters – known as quid pro quo – is a highly unethical behavior common in the Nigerian Job market. It is thus good news that her recruiter this time did not ask for sex in exchange for a job. However, just a few weeks into the new job, Chioma’s new boss – a physician – is already pressing for a romantic affair. Chioma is back to me with an even more complicated question: “This ‘doc’ is single and seems to really love me. Honestly, I seem to have chemistry for him also. What do I do?”

     I know that lately Chioma has been worrying a lot about marrying. She probably must be wondering whether this ‘doc’ is not an answer to her prayers. I believe there are several subordinates like Chioma in Nigeria. Certainly telling them to say no to bosses such as this ‘doc’ is preaching to the choir. “What if God put her there for him and vice versa?” as some of our pastors would want us to believe. However, whether it is between this ‘doc’ and Chioma, a CEO and his secretary, parish priest and his choir mistress, or even madam and her driver, romance between a boss and subordinate, especially those working in the same environment, is often perceived as highly unethical in the business world. There are several reasons for this, but let us consider a few:

     (1) It could be a form of sexual harassment, abuse or exploitation: Ethically and in some places, legally too, a boss would be considered to have more ‘romantic bargaining powers’ than a subordinate of romantic interest. Remember that he is the boss, often with powers to recommend or reprimand, promote or demote, assign or reassign and of course fire or hire. Ethically, because the subordinate cannot predict the many ways her ‘no’ may have an impact on her job; her ‘yes’ to the boss for romance is often not considered a free consent. Ethicists believe that it is more likely than not that the cloud of uncertainty over the subordinate as to the fate of her job may have impeded her power to make a free decision, even if the boss may not have in any way threatened her job.

     By this standard, whether the subordinate is ‘really’ interested in the boss as Chioma seems to be or that the subordinate lured the boss into the affair against his intention – as we often hear, the boss is always perceived under the law in many countries as the sexual oppressor. In countries where sexual exploitation is considered as an abuse of human dignity, this could be a matter of civil suit especially if the subordinate can prove that she suffered some harm in the relationship, even psychological harm.  In these countries, work place romance has become a ‘no-no’ for most bosses because a subordinate can happily consent to a boss’s romantic request, enjoy the relationship for years and turn around much later in life to sue the boss. Many bosses have been found guilty of sexual exploitation of their subordinates several years after they have parted ways. Some of these guilty bosses did not only have to pay huge compensations to these subordinates, but depending on the ethics policies of their professional bodies, have also lost their professional licenses. Nigerian professionals and labor unions have to find a way to regulate boss-subordinate workplace romance that has become nightmares for many of our career women – single and married.

     (2) It could lead to job neglect and inefficiency on the part of the boss: Except if such a boss is among the few who can engage in work place romance and still remain efficient, experiences have shown that it is more likely than not for a boss in a romantic relationship with an employee under him or her to neglect his or her job to the detriment of the business. Assuming the affair is between a physician and his office nurse, it is unlikely that they may not spend ‘business time’ talking of their personal affairs even when a patient is waiting. Also, it is unlikely that this physician can live up to his supervisory responsibilities towards this nurse because of their relationship he is likely to loose the moral nerve to do so. This is not only a disfavor to the nurse whom the physician should help grow in her career, but also a tacit empowerment of the nurse to behave as she wishes at work to the detriment of the business. If the other employees get to know of this affair, this physician may also loose his moral authority over them as this may come down to some of them as a scandal. This can also severely impair his supervisory role over these employees.

     (3) It kills workforce morale and lowers input: Besides the fact that this kind of ‘topdown romance’ at work place can lead to inefficiency and job neglect by the ‘romantic boss’, it can also lower general employee workforce input and consequently business outcome. This is because, employees under same boss expect  to be treated alike, equally and fairly. A boss in a romantic relationship with any of the employees under him or her will likely favor that employee more than others. This evokes mixed feelings that can shortchange the morale of these employees because they will feel less favored and appreciated. Generally, this situation has been shown to lower employee input and consequently business outcome.  This is one of the reasons why some companies in Nigeria are not doing well and many have gone out of business


 

Chioma is a brilliant, creative and disciplined young graduate of biochemistry. It is now two years since she passed out from NYSC, yet she has not been employed. She has attended several interviews and has been told on three occasions that she was the most qualified for the position and was expected to start work soon. Then the phone calls came. Meet me at X, Y and Z hotel for your acceptance letter. At the various hotels, Chioma’s various prospective male recruiters asked for one thing, sex. Chioma refused all requests and walked away. Each time she hit the hotel room door, she always heard the same thing. If you leave this room, then forget about the job. So was it.  After the third incident which happened just a few weeks ago in Owerri, Chioma called me for counseling but also begged me to talk to one of the three recruiters she knows very well to be ‘a very good Catholic, a Knight.” I counseled Chioma and prayed for her but chose not to call the recruiter. Rather I decided to write this article.

Whether it is sex in exchange for a job, gifts in exchange for a promotion, or ‘ten, twenty…percent’ cash back in exchange for a contract, quid pro quo is common among Nigerian politicians, professionals and business men/women.  Although quid pro quo is considered unethical in the business world and may contravene some parts of the Nigerian National Ethics in Chapter II, section 23 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution, neither the Nigerian government, labor unions, business organizations nor professional bodies seem to worry about it. In most civilized and civilizing nations, quid pro quo belongs among the ‘zero tolerance’ unethical behaviors both in the private and public sectors. In the US, for instance, most employers in the private sector will fire Chioma’s recruiters right away. If they are professionals, such as medical doctors or teachers or priests, they may loose their professional licenses temporarily or permanently. If they are in the public sector, they may have to serve some jail terms in addition to loosing their jobs and licenses.  Why is quid pro quo not tolerated around the world and should not be tolerated in Nigeria? Several reasons come to mind, but let us consider a few.

(1) Quid pro quo is an act of injustice: Whether justice is giving each person her due or as fairness, quid pro quo falls short of it. If Chioma has emerged as the most qualified for the job, it would be unjust to demand an arm from her for the position, after all sex with recruiter was not part of the formal requirements for the position. Even if it was, such a requirement would be unconscionable and offensive to our common sense of justice and fairness in the job market.

(2) Quid pro quo discourages hardwork, excellence and merit at a very high social cost: Not everyone can be a biochemist. Only those who have excelled in their training as biochemists are usually given such jobs. That is why those wishing to pursue a career in biochemistry have to work hard while in training to excel. This is true of any career. Imagine how Chioma’s younger Sister, a hardworking 200 level petrochemical engineering student would feel on learning that even with a magna cum laude, the only way her sister could get a job would be to have sex with a recruiter. Of course she will be discouraged. In Nigeria where Chioma’s case is commonplace in high and low places, the immediate social consequence of quid pro quo is that younger people (who are mostly the potential job seekers) will find no value either in going to school  at all or working hard in school since the job market has no regard for excellence and merit.  Little wonder our country is now one of the worst countries to be born on the planet. Who wants to live in a country where he or she cannot walk his way to success by merit?

(3) Quid pro quo has an economic cost: The end of the usual competitive training towards any career is not only to weed out those who can’t do it, but also to prepare those who can to do a quality job. Surely, having denied Chioma (the best qualified) the job, it would have to go to someone else less qualified – perhaps someone more romantic! The immediate consequence of this is that the rest of us would have to live with a less qualified biochemist. In Nigeria where quid pro quo is almost cultural, it should not be a surprise why majority of the nation’s workforce whether in the offices or in the factories can hardly deliver high quality jobs. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why Nigeria has been listed as one of the worst places to do business in the world. Who wants to buy from a market filled with amateur work force delivering little or no quality outcomes?

(4) Finally, quid pro quo is an abuse of human dignity. Although employers, especially in the private sector, can hire and fire at will, they are often bound by some legally enforceable moral obligations not to abusively hire or fire. Demand for sex in exchange for a job is a shamefully exploitative way of hiring Chioma. So also are demands for gifts for promotions and cash backs for contracts. Such exploitations in no small way abuse the inherent dignity of every human person because perpetrators of these evils are simply using their victims to achieve their selfish ends. As Immanuel Kant has rightly argued, no person may be used as a means to an end because no other end is more valuable than the human person who is an end in itself.