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Published On: Fri, Jul 18th, 2014

Immigration tragedy: Four months after, victims still kept in suspense

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Immigration recruitment tragedyAbout five months after federal government promised to offer three job slots to each family that lost a candidate during the immigration recruitment tragedy, which claimed the lives of twenty job seekers, less is being said or heard about the possible fulfillment of this promise. In this report, Tobias Lengnan Dapam and Ikechukwu Okaforadi, examine the issue.

The poor conduct of the recruitment by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and the Ministry of Interior resulted in stampede and subsequent casualties at the various screening centers, thus attracting both foreign and local condemnations.

Quickly moving to stave off the negative image this created for Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan summoned an emergency meeting of stakeholders with a view to addressing the poor conduct of recruitment exercises in the future.

The first step which President Jonathan took was to set up a Presidential committee to handle the recruitment, which was further expanded to accommodate more job seekers beyond the NIS original plans.

Those included in the committee were the Chairman of Federal Civil Service Commission, Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service, Representative of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Representative of the Commandant-General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

Others are Representative of the Comptroller of Prisons Service, Representative of the Corp Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Representative of the Director-General of Department of State Security (DSS) and Permanent Secretary of Special Duties, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF).

In addition, President Jonathan directed that automatic employment should be offered to three family members of each of the victims, in addition to automatic job slots to each of those that were receiving treatment in the hospitals.

Briefing journalists in the State House, the Minister for Information, Labaran Maku, said the directive was with immediate effect.

“President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that three employment slots be reserved for the families of those who died during the stampede that occurred during the recruitment exercise conducted by the Nigerian Immigration Service on Saturday nationwide.

“He said one of the three beneficiaries must be a lady. President Jonathan also directed that all those who sustained injuries and are currently hospitalized should be given automatic employment in the service.

“It was agreed at the Federal Executive Council meeting that the ill-fated exercise should be cancelled, the President had set up a special committee led by the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission to conduct a fresh exercise.

“The committee has the Comptroller-General of NIS as well as representatives of the Inspector-General of Police and the heads of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Prisons Service, State Security Service and the Federal Road Safety Commission as members”, Maku told State House correspondents.

Unfortunately, four months after the incident, nothing is being heard about the Presidential directive for immediate employment for the victims and the family members of the deceased.

This has created suspicion among Nigerians that the special committee might have taken the Nigerian way and forgotten the victims.

In addition to this silence by the Presidential Committee, the National Assembly has curiously refused to disclose the content of the probe report which the Committee on Interior embarked upon as was directed by the Senate President, David Mark.

Owing to this suspicious silence, observers are already worried that the tragedy might have been swept under the carpet like the various numerous ones in the past.

Peoples Daily had earlierreported that two months after the Senate Committee on Interior submitted its probe report on immigration tragedy; the upper legislative chamber is yet to debate or make any official pronouncement on the shabby conduct of the recruitment exercise.

Recall that 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 job, which resulted in stampede in some of the centres and subsequent death of about twenty two job seekers.

It was reported that due to refusal of the interior ministry to screen the applicants through their online applications, about one million Nigerian youths were scrabbling for only 4,500 jobs in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), hence the stampede.

The inquest of the Senate committee was majorly to identify the remote and immediate cause of the tragedy, to enable the parliament take decision that would prevent future occurrences. To this end, the committee was told to report back to the chamber within two week.

However, two months after the senate committee on Interior, led by Atiku Abubakar Bagudu, concluded investigations and submitted its report to the Senate before Easter break, there is nothing in that regards that has either been included in the Senate order paper or debated at the Senate plenary.

Unfortunately, when the chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Itah Enang, was contacted for clarifications, he said he would crosscheck his schedule and report back to our correspondent, which he never did.

“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.

Similarly, a member of the Senate committee that probed the tragedy, Abdulmumini Hassan, when contacted on the issue, said the committee had submitted its report long ago, even though he declined knowledge of what is delaying the consideration of the report in the Senate.

Abdulmumini rather referred our correspondent to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, saying “Do you know Itah Enang, please call him, he is the chairman of Rules and Business”.

Also, when the chairman of Senate committee on Information and Publicity, Enyinnaya Abaribe, was contacted for comments, he did not pick the dials put to his phone; even the text messages sent to his phone was not answered.

Meanwhile, information available to Peoples Daily indicates that four months after President Goodluck Jonathan directed that three family members of the deceased should be offered an immediate slot in the immigration recruitment; the Minister of Interior is yet to comply.

Speaking before the Atiku Abubakar Bagudu led Senate Committee on Interior, Moro stated, “With regards to the ill-fated day, I cannot abdicate responsibility, the bulk in the entire exercise ends on my table”.

Speaking further, he however said the tragedy was as a result of their efforts to ensure transparency, openness and excellence in the recruitment exercise of the agency, especially given the series of scandals which had previously tainted the process.

Moro, who admitted that there was no provision in both 2012 and 2013 budget 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 Drexel Technology Nigeria Limited from among the four tenders for the recruitment exercise was taken, the members of the board were all carried along.

Speaking earlier, the Secretary of the CDFIPB, Sylvester Tapgun, said when the board noticed that the exercise was going to be difficult, they advised the Minister to stagger the process, but he did not accept the suggestion.

He also said the board, after consultations on the expenditures involved, made a request of N201 million from the consultant to enable them conduct the screening successfully, but they refused, and only released N45 million after pressure was mounted on them.

Tapgun however said the money generated from the recruitment processing fee paid by the applicants was neither with the board nor with the ministry, but with the recruitment consultant.

He said usually, recruitment into the service for officers of level eight and above resides with the Board, while those below resides with the NIS, but that in the present case, the minister allowed the consultant to handle both senior and junior cadre.

At this point, Tapgun disclosed that the CDFIPB has no control over the portal and its management, saying they rely on the consultant to know the number of the applicant.

Meanwhile, the Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service, David Parradang, said he only saw the notice of the advert for the recruitment on the newspaper.

He said he was never consulted, nor attended 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.

Meanwhile, he had suggested that the chairman of the CDFIPB should come from outside the ministry, NIS and the board, adding that forms for the exercise should be picked from the local government areas of the applicants, state of origin, staggering of the exercise, among other recommendations.

 

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