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We Have Set Templates To Use Domestic Service Industry To Add Value To Economy- MD/CEO OTIZ KEEPERS


Mrs Ngozichukwu Etuk is the managing director/CEO of OTIZ
KEEPERS, An entrepreneur, educationist, former vice principal and
great supporter of the less privileged persons. She speaks on her company’s plan to rebrand the domestic service industry in the country with a view to not only create decent employment for our teeming unemployed Youths but to also add value to the economic growth of the country.

Let us meet you madam
I am Mrs Ngozichukwu Etuk, an indigene of Imo State but married to an Akwa Ibom man, I am the managing director and CEO of OT1Z keepers. We started in 2012, precisely February. By next year February, we will be 8 years. My company basically does recruitments but we have a unique product which is domestic staffing. We saw a big vacuum and serious need in that area and as a company decided to package the sector. We also have had challenges in that area especially from clients who are used to paying peanuts to domestic servants and services.
But we are saying that for you to get a domestic staff from us, the least you will pay is the minimum wage which appears awkward to most people.
It appears strange to them mostly because they are used to paying peanuts or don’t even pay at all for these services. On the part of the workers too, there is the task of getting them emotionally and psychologically prepared to work with, live and serve people they don’t know before. And with the stories of people maltreating other people’s children, trafficking them as well as other known vices. You hardly see people who would wish to indulge in the job except those whose relatives recommended for such jobs. So a situation where total strangers would ask you to trust them and work with them is not easy. But these things are already working in other countries. In those countries many people use the domestic service to earn decent lively- hood. But here, we keep talking about unemployment when people here in our society are doing nothing. A lot of time when we tour rural areas, you see a lot of youths idling away. Most of them have no hope of going into higher institution, either because they cannot afford it or because they are yet to get the basic qualifications to enter the higher institutions. And what you see next is the young girls become victims of teenage pregnancy while the unlucky ones would contract HIV and other venereal diseases. On the other hand, the boys will go into crime and turn around to harm the same society they belong. So, we are out to partner the federal government to see how they can strengthen the sector to become more viable. When we talk of unemployment, our minds go to graduates of higher institutions, and also considering the plight of those who could not make it beyond secondary school level, and even those who benefited from the free and compulsory education and could not immediately transit to the tertiary institution. Most of them are there in our rural areas. We are not asking them to come and work as domestic servants but we are referring to those that the circumstances of life have not been too pleasant with them. They can come and use our platform as a stepping stone. Besides, there are homes one goes into and his entire perspective to life changes for good. Some would go into some families and discovered not only their desires but equally achieved their live long goals. There are peoples’ home you would work and in the process, the zeal to become a professional like your boss arises. So, we are encouraging those idle minds to embrace the opportunities provided by our platform to get themselves busy and be gainfully employed as domestic staff. Under us, their rights and privileges will be adequately protected. The past experience of maltreatment by the employers is a thing of the past because our platform would not post a domestic staff to any home without proper documentation, which will cover their overall welfare. Their safety and well being remain priority. Our first duty is to inspect the homes we intend to send our prospective domestic staff to, ensure that they have a conducive accommodation to operate from. Another important aspect that we give close attention is the issue of feeding. Our duty is to ensure that our domestic staff eats well and on time daily, in addition to prompt payment of their monthly salaries. In the same vein, we also ensure that our client’s rights and privileges are protected. Our organization has been in this activities for years and it is rather unfortunate to note that many Nigerians are yet to realize that every last week of September is set aside as International Nanny Recognition Week, to celebrate domestic servants worldwide. Last year, we celebrated the week with massive awareness through the instrumentality of the mass media. This year, we have decided to hold a conference in their honor. The celebration continues because it has become a yearly event. This year’s theme is, “Harnessing the potentials of domestic services industry for economic advancement in Nigeria”. We did it so that government would see the untapped potentials in the sector that has long been neglected, yearning for attention. Our research so far, revealed that there is no structure around domestic service in Nigeria. The last conference had in attendance the officials of NAPTIP, Ministry of Labour and Employment, representative of Commissioner of police, as well as human Rights Commission. We also had a panel of discussants that deliberated on the modalities to build structures for the domestic staff industry in Nigeria. We had paper presentations such as “Embracing dignity in the domestic service industry,’ the Nanny and the professional woman, the Nigerian perspective and The domestic service industry, the untapped industry in Nigeria”.
The well attended conference with many prominent Nigerians in attendance in a nutshell agreed that domestic servants are inevitable in our homes even though there are no laws or strict rules governing that industry yet in Nigeria. We are calling on federal government to get involved now in order to properly regulate the industry even though we are handy with the template. Many developed countries have grown their GDPs through domestic service industry. Today, many people can earn a decent living by working in the domestic industries.

In Nigeria, we have had cases of domestic servants robbing and in some cases killing their masters. What could be done to forestall this?
Yes. We have heard of such unfortunate incidence in Nigeria and that is the more reason we came up with this noble idea and product. We are urging people to stop picking just anybody they see to their homes as domestic servants even though we know that their services are highly sorted because of the ever busy schedules of most parents. The era when people sought and get house helps in villages are over with more parents ensuring that their kids get basic education. The only safe and credible means remain passing through credible organization like ours.

How do you ascertain the character and integrity of the people you employ and send to people’s home as domestic staff?
For everybody willing to work with us, we conduct comprehensive due diligence. Our data captures all we need to know about him and his background before sending him/her through security and medical checks too. With our security checks, people with questionable antecedents stay away while the report from parents on their kids been infected by domestic staff prompted our insistence on comprehensive medical checkup for our staff before being posted to any home. Again every of our staff has guarantors in addition to a relation who must accent to the job he has accepted to do. The idea of a family member is to give the family a sense of belonging not because the staff are not old enough to take care of themselves. Of course we don’t employ anybody below 18 years of age so that the issue of child labour does not arise. We also take time out to check on families where we have our staff and will not hesitate to change anyone found wanting at no costs to the client. We chose to be proactive because issues that snowballed into serious crisis starts in bits. We also have 24hours on-call services to handle issues concerning our services to our clients. Our company has been running in the last eight years and I must also inform you that a lot of people have failed to pass our stringent hurdle to be employed as a staff. One unique thing about our services is that our clients are exposed to our array of staffs and he/she is at liberty to interview any of them and make their choice. But whoever is chosen must be well treated by the client in all ramifications.

What category of staff do you supply to your clients?
From our records, we have drivers, nannies, gardeners, gatemen, housemaids name it, any job that is done at home. Majority of our clients prefer girls and ladies and we go a bit further to ensure we gave them people within the age bracket they desired. We have both young boys and girls in our employ and since the inception of the company, over 800 staff have been posted to various clients’ residence. We have staff who have remained with us since we started and those who work for few years saved up money and delve into other sectors. Our activities cut across the shores of Akwa Ibom State, we post staff to clients leaving outside the state. In the same vein, we have people from other states applying to work in our firm and whenever such arises, we still employ our due diligence team to ensure proper screening before offering them employment. One thing is certain in our firm, we gave our staff comprehensive training before sending them out to work in clients’ home. We discovered that not everybody will do white collar job. People will do other jobs and still find satisfaction in them. Recently one of our staff gave testimony on how she successfully built a house, open pure water factory and hair dressing saloon with funds she made from domestic services to the amazement of all. The young lady who is yet to clock 30years is now a nanny who accompanies pregnant mothers abroad for delivery. Again we have another young lady who was a nanny and under few years saved some funds to enroll into the university of uyo. She is a third year music student today courtesy of the platform we gave her. One thing we do when we employ our staff is to guide them to realize their dreams while giving their best to our clients.

For an industry, people believe in free services or paying peanuts to domestic staff, how do you conceive and stand with the idea of having at least the minimum wage for your staff.

It was wrong in the first place for those who indulge in that. It is a known fact that in government, beneficiaries of minimum wage are primary school leavers but most domestic servants are secondary school leavers with certificates. For us the domestic servants are like other jobs, the difference is that while other people work in offices, their own office is the home where they are working from. If you look at it critically, domestic servants work more harder and spend longer time at their jobs. They work even during weekends and when clients come and we tell them their prospective salaries, they will quickly remind you that they will be feeding the staff but forgetting that in addition to the job they are doing for them, they sacrifice their freedom, comfort and personal preferences to please their masters. In developed countries, domestic servants are well paid and well out of the reach of many people. In Nigeria, they deserve better pay, respect and dignity.
This is why we are lending our voice today to see that this people have a fair share in the society.

Have you had cases of client reporting your staff or the staff reporting the client to your office for one problem or the other?
Yes. We have had that in every relationship, there is bound to be misunderstanding and we know this too well. The complaints can come from either of the parties. There are complaints that come from the staff that we sometimes considered very trivial such as the ones they will say that their boss shouts too much or that the wife complains too much. These are trivial issues and when we discovered that the staff is not happy, we put him/her through that training that teaches one how to handle such trivial matters and such outbursts. But when we have complaints that bothers on their welfare such as being starved till late without breakfast or people sleeping on bare floor, we don’t take it lightly. More so we don’t take instances where the client physically manhandles any of our staff and once we receive such complaints, we move in and take appropriate actions which may include the withdrawal of the staff and reposting to another client. We have had instances of clients who couldn’t control their tempers and hit their domestic staff and they are always the first to call to tender apologies knowing fully well that we have zero tolerance for such actions. And if there is repeat of such actions on the side of the client, we get such person blacklisted. We are here to serve and give our clients the best services and in return expect them to follow the laid down rules to the letter.

Talking of partnership, in what areas do you want government to partner your firm?
We have already seen ourselves as partnering the government in creating employment. We have created a platform that has empowered a lot of people. You can see people coming in here for an opportunity to change their lives. A lot of them come after they have tried many things without success. Some come at a point they are almost frustrated looking unkempt and few months after taking them in, they will be completely transformed. So that is one of the things that gives me joy seeing people becoming useful to themselves their family and the society and more so contributing to the growth of the economy. Recently a staff of ours came for an errand for his boss in the office and when I saw the phone she was clutching I was surprised because we also taught them to be modest. But a careful check revealed that she acquired it out of passion to learn using the internet. A further check revealed that she still saved over N250, 000 from her 15 months’ salary with us. This is a young girl who wanted to study nursing but has no sponsor and decided to join our company to work, save and plan her future. When I see the zeal and determination in such young people, I feel encouraged that we are on the right track to help people rise to greatness in our own little way. We are partnering government, having created a good platform for people to get a job and earn decent living. Now we want government to partner us in the areas of building solid structures and comprehensive advocacy. We want government to create enabling laws to ensure working hours, benefits , pensions etc for domestic servants. Telling a domestic servant that they will pay taxes sounds awkward and telling our clients to pay VAT also sounds awkward but with government intervention, domestic servants may also be pensioners. What it means is that while working they pay contributory pension with their client and upon retirement fall back on the accumulated resources. The backing of government in this regard will also reinforce and stabilize the issue of paying at least the minimum wage to every domestic servant in the country. Again, government can ensure through their partnership that the sector is organized and well-structured in ensuring that only qualified domestic staffs are sent to people’s home and to ensure the safety of those requiring the services of the workers. For us we already have the template to ensure that anybody we are sending out as domestic worker is well screened for the role. With government intervention, there could be biometrics and database in which by mere click of a button, anybody working as domestic servant can be known with his entire profile on display. It will equally put a stop to the activities of those who collect money from people looking for domestic servants and never remitt it to the beneficiaries.

Are you now canvassing for the legislation on the domestic servant bill?Mrs Ngozichukwu Etuk

During our last conference, the panel of discussants deliberated elaborately on our activities and encouraged us to seek a legal backing through adequate legislation. We were advised to put up a bill, which will help create stronger structures in which the dreams of the domestic servants will be fully realized in terms of welfare and adequate recognition.

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