BY FUNMI KOMOLAFE, KINGSLEY OMONOBI, BEN AGANDE & WOLE MOSADOMI
Following the outrage that continued to trail the death of 15 job applicants including a pregnant women at the various centres across the country during the recruitment exercise by the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday issued a query to the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro to explain within 24 hours the poor handling of the exercise even as he rejected calls for him to resign over the incident saying “I will not resign”.
One of the survivors of the stampede at the Minna centre, has also recounted her experience just as the Nigerian Labour Congress staged a protest in Kaduna asking the government to probe the incident.
The Interior Minister, Abba Moro and the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service Davis Parradang were yesterday summoned to the presidential villa by President Goodluck Jonathan
The Interior minister who was dressed in white Caftan, appeared disturbed after emerging from the President’s office in company of the immigration boss. He had earlier met with the Chief of Staff to the President, Jones Arogbofa, where they spent over an hour before meeting the President.
When the trio emerged from the President’s office, Moro and Parradang refused to be interviewed by State House Correspondents.
Sources at the Villa said President Jonathan who was worried by the Saturday’s incidence had queried the interior minister to explain within 24 hours the poor handling of the exercise as witnessed across the country.
President Jonathan while inaugurating the National Conference which kicked off yesterday in Abuja lamented the death of young applicants and asked for one minutes of silence in honour of those who died.
President Jonathan said, “just as we were preparing for this confab, a tragic incident happened on Saturday; I don’t want to bore you with details, but we are investigating the incident. Let us observe a minute silence for them.”
I will not resign —Moro
Meanwhile, Comrade Abba Moro declared yesterday that he will not resign his appointment saying such a move will amount to running away from the problem.
He made the declaration just as he stated that the federal government would soon inaugurate a panel of eminent Nigerians and stakeholders, to probe the tragedy and come up with a template for future exercises, to ensure that the nation does not experience such deaths in future.
Comrade Moro confirmed that fifteen of the job seekers including six women, one of them pregnant died in the aftermath of the stampede that occurred at the various recruitment centers.
The minister, who was speaking during an interview in Abuja, disclosed that a total of 522, 650 applicants from across the nation were shortlisted for the 4, 556 to be recruited noting that seven persons comprising five females and two males died in Abuja, five persons died in Port Harcourt, a pregnant woman died in Benin while two persons died in Minna, Niger State.
Disclosing that all other recruitment exercises in other parts of the country have been put on hold, he said, “To be fair to the people who lost their lives and to ensure transparency in the remaining exercise, it has to be put on hold. That of Lagos State was postponed because the crowd were unruly adding that stadiums were selected for the exercise because of the physical fitness aspect of the interviews”.
He disclosed however that despite the unfortunate stampede and deaths, the exercise was concluded in the venues where the interviews for written and physical tests were carried out.
Asked to comment on why pregnant women were allowed to take part in the exercise, Moro said, “Pregnant women were not qualified for the exercise and no pregnant woman was shortlisted for interview. The truth is that many people who had no business being there including the pregnant women gate-crashed at the venues for reasons best known to them.
On why the exercise was not done in batches considering the huge number of applicants for the jobs, the minister said, “We wanted to ensure a level playing ground for everybody that was qualified. That was why everybody was asked to turn up. If it had been done in batches, the same Nigerians will make accusation of attempts to influence the outcome through favouritism among others.”
While praying for the repose of the souls of all those who lost their lives, Moro said, government will take care of the medical bills of those who sustained injuries adding that “we will take care of the burial of those that died. We will also put in place appropriate measures to assist the families mitigate the hardship and challenges these unfortunate deaths have brought on the families of those that lost their lives during the exercise” he said.
One of the survivors of the tragedy in Mina, Niger State, Miss Regina Akachi has also recounted her experience saying that she would have been dead by now but for the assistance given to her by one of the Immigration officers at the venue of the examination on Saturday.
Speaking exclusively to Vanguard, Regina said she was almost falling on the ground as a result of the stampede when the officer rushed at her and pulled her from the crowd to safety.
Meanwhile, the corpses deposited at the Mortuary in Mina General hospital are yet to be claimed while all the patients who were admitted at the hospital have also been discharged.
Commissioner of health, Dr. Ibrahim Sue who confirmed the development said that those brought to the hospital on Sunday have been discharged.
NLC urges FG to investigate death of unemployed youths
The Nigeria Labour Congress officially reacted the death of about 20 unemployed youths who died while scrabbling jobs in a recruitment exercise organized by the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS and called on the federal government to . “ authorize an investigation of the Nigerian Immigration Service, query the methods it adopted and interrogate the discretion it exercised in collecting money from hard pressed applicants.”.
Blaming the NIS for the death of the youths, NLC president, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar in a statement issued in Abuja said, “The explanation by the Minister of Interior, Abba Morro that 520,000 applicants were invited for screening for 4,556 spaces and that the applicants died in a stampede due to impatience and non-adherence to lay down orderly procedure, is rather weak and untenable”.
The Congress also yesterday in Kaduna staged a peaceful protest at the state command of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) over the incident.
The protesters led by the NLC Vice-President, Mr Isa Aremu, arrived the NIS state command early in the morning and blocked its entrance and prevented the staff from entering their offices.
The union members carried placards that contained various inscriptions and a letter of protest which they wanted to deliver to the state controller.
However, the officers on duty refused the workers access into the premises and explained that the controller was not on seat.
In his address, NLC Vice-President, Isa Aremu, demanded immediate compensation for the families of the 19 victims and appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to demonstrate that no life of an applicant will further be wasted at any recruitment centre.