For long, Nigerian polytechnic graduates with Higher National Diploma (HND) have faced discrimination in the labor market, as most employees have a preference for university graduates with Bachelors of Arts/Science, BA/BSc. The situation has kept many tertiary institution graduates, though qualified, out of work. Now Nigerian lawmakers have moved to end the dichotomy.
In an aim to permanently put an end to the discrimination, the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, passed a bill titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to Abolish and Prohibit Dichotomy and Discrimination between First Degree and Higher National Diploma in the Same Profession/Field for the Purpose of Employment; and for Related Matters.’
The bill proposes to criminalize any sort of discrimination by any person or organization, both in the public and private sectors, against HND certificate holders.
The bill passed third reading after the House had on Thursday, considered and adopted the report by the Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFund on the Prohibition of Discrimination between First Degrees and Higher National Diplomas Bill, 2021.
The details of the bill reads partly as follows:
“Notwithstanding any provision in any legislation, circular, regulation or policy guideline, First Degree and Higher National Diploma shall be deemed construed and treated as equivalent qualification for the purpose of employment and career progression at workplace in the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy.
“Any provision in laws, enactments, instruments, circulars, scheme of service, directives, or policies by whatever name called, which is inconsistent with the provisions of this bill, shall to the extent of the inconsistency be null and void, and of no effect.
“Holders of the First Degree and the Higher National Diploma (HND) shall be given equal treatment and opportunity in career placements, career progression, admission to further studies and privileges whatsoever in consideration of status as graduates of Nigeria tertiary institutions of higher learning.
“All forms of discriminations and or dichotomy between First Degree and Higher National Diplomas for the purpose of employment, transfer of service, conversion of cadre, career progression, promotion, and other related issues in the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy is hereby abolished.
“No person, authority, entity (body or corporate) in whatsoever name call shall discriminate and or undertake any action in any form whatsoever which is misconstrued as and or intended to give any preferential treatment in favour of and/or against holders of the First Degree or the Higher National Diploma.
“Any person or entity in the public or private sectors of the Nigerian economy who contravenes the provisions of this bill, commits an offence under this bill, and shall be liable upon conviction to a term of two years’ imprisonment or a fine of N1,000,000 or both.
“Any person or entity in the public or private sectors of the Nigerian economy who design, prescribe and or specify any guidelines, terms or conditions of employment, career progression, and or any other instrument by whatever name called in violation of the provisions of this bill shall be guilty of an offence under this bill and liable upon conviction to a term of 1-year imprisonment or a fine of N500,000 (five hundred thousand naira) or both.”
To ensure that the legislation is complied with, the bill prescribes punishment of a fine of N500,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both for any person who induces or encourages any other person for the violation of any of the provisions of the bill.
“Where in any proceedings against any person for an offence under this bill, it is established that any action constituting an offence under this bill has been committed by an officer, it shall be presumed that the action was done with the motive or intent of committing an offence under this bill as the case may be, until the contrary is proved,” the legislation partly reads.
While the legislation has brought relief to a large section of Nigerian graduates, the implementation beckons concern. Many believe that employers are still going to stick to their old ways. Only this time, they’d be careful about it.
The Senate would have to concur to the bill before it will be transmitted to the President for assent.