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Published On: Mon, Jul 7th, 2014

Immigration recruitment tragedy: 2 months after, Senate silent on probe report

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Immigration recruitment tragedyBy Ikechukwu Okaforadi & Umar Mohammed Puma

Two months after the Senate Committee on Interior submitted its report of the investigation  into the  tragedy in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise, the upper legislative chamber is silent on the findings of the inquest.

No fewer than 21 people were killed in a shabby recruitment exercise conducted for thousands of Nigerians bidding for scanty slots in the NIS on March 15 this year, with several other applicants sustaining various degrees of injury.

The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, had been widely accused of being responsible for the poor conduct of the nationwide aptitude test for the Immigration jobs, which resulted in stampedes in some of the centres, and subsequent death of some of the jobseekers.

Following huge public outcry over the tragedy, the Senate, on March 18, directed its Committee on Interior to conduct a public hearing to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the stampedes.

The committee was charged to report back to the chamber within two weeks, to enable it take appropriate action that would discourage such recklessness in future recruitment exercises.

However, almost two months after the committee led by Abubakar Bagudu, concluded investigations and submitted its report to the Senate, there is nothing to indicate that the report has either been listed in the chamber’s Order Paper for debate at the plenary.

When contacted on the matter yesterday, a member of the Senate committee that probed the tragedy, Abdulmumini Hassan said, the committee had submitted its report long ago, but said he did not know what was delaying consideration of the report in the Senate.

Rather, Hassan referred our correspondent to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, saying: “Do you know Ita Enang? Please call him; he is the chairman of rules and business”.

But when contacted by one of our reporters yesterday, Senator Enang said he will have to crosscheck his schedule today (Monday). “I can’t talk on it now. Call me tomorrow let me check my schedule, so that I can tell you what happened… please, please”, Enang said.

Also, when the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Publicity, Zakari Mohammed, was contacted for explanations on why the lower chamber has kept mum on the tragedy, he said they agreed to suspend action on the Immigration recruitment saga, since the Senate had already commenced probe into the incident.

Our reporters reliably learnt at the weekend that almost four months after President Goodluck Jonathan directed that three family members of each of the deceased applicants should be offered slots in a fresh

Immigration recruitment exercise, the committee empanelled by the president has yet to comply with the order.

There was also controversy over the payment of hospital bills of the victims, as the interior ministry was accused of failing to fulfill its promise to settle the bills.

It would be recall that during the Senate investigative hearing, the interior minister, Moro, owned up to the negligence in the NIS recruitment exercise.

Speaking before the Bagudu led Senate, Moro said: “With regards to the ill-fated day, I cannot abdicate responsibility; the buck in the entire exercise ends on my table”.

Moro, who admitted that there was no provision in both 2012 and 2013 budgets of the ministry for the recruitment, regretted that at the time the Civil Defence, Fire Service, Immigration and Prisons Board (CDFIPB) discovered that the consultant, Drexel Technology Nigeria Limited, opted out of funding the exercise, it was already too late to terminate the exercise.

He also disclosed that at the point where the decision to contract the job to Drexel from among the four bidders for the recruitment exercise was taken, the members of the board were carried along.

Speaking earlier, the Secretary of the CDFIPB, Sylvester Tapgun, had said that when the board discovered that the exercise was going to be difficult, it advised the minister to stagger the process, but Moro refused.

The Comptroller General of the NIS, David Parradang, had also contradicted the minister when he said he only saw the notice of the advertisement for the recruitment exercise in newspapers.

He said he was never consulted, nor any meeting of the board convened to take any decision about the recruitment.

“On this note, I placed a call to the former Secretary that I was not aware of any board meeting where the decision to conduct the exercise was taken, he pleaded with me that he was under pressure, that i

should take it, but I told him this is an official matter, and that I will write him. I wrote to him, but I did not get any response until he left the service”, Parradang said.

Parradang also said he protested the recruitment modalities by suggesting staggering of the exercise, the use of state of origin, and the N1000 collections from the applicants, but the minister did not listen to him.

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