Anyone who discriminates against a holder of Higher National Diploma risks a fine of one million naira or up to two years in jail, according to the bill passed on Tuesday by the House of Representatives.
Other possible punishments are two years imprisonment or a fine of one million and two years imprisonment.
The bill seeks to end the dichotomy between university degrees and the Higher National Diplomas awarded by polytechnics.
The bill proposes to make it a crime for any person or organisation, both in the public and private sectors, to discriminate against HND certificate holders.
It passed the third reading at the plenary on Tuesday.
Recall 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, as a Committee of the Whole.
The legislation is 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.’
According to the provision on equity of First Degree and HND in Nigeria, the bill says, “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.”
On prohibition of discrimination between a degree and HND, the bill proposes that “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.”
On offences, the bill prescribes that any person who induces or encourages any other person for the violation of any of the provisions of this bill shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of N500,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both.
On the enforcement of the proposed law, the bill prescribes that where an officer of any entity in the public or private sector fails to comply with the provisions, the person shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to an imprisonment term of six months or a fine of N500,000 or both.
“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 read.