The NIS debacle: Harvesting the dead

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By Josef Omorotionmwan
TRAGICALLY, somebody must now die for other members of his family to be offered jobs. The policeman must be cut down by the assassin’s bullet for his children to get scholarship to go through their university education.

These are all efforts at harvesting the dead. And in most cases, these scholarships end up at the levels of vain promises. In this age, we wonder which scholarship anyone still requires to go through the basic primary and, to some extent, the secondary school education, when our children are being begged to go to school.

Even if you have a hundred scholarships lined up for you, if you cannot attain the cut-off points required for admission into a tertiary institution, you can only graduate into the mechanic workshop where no scholarship is required.

*Pix. 4: Applicvants who could not find seats await further insatructions as others take seats to write the Nigeria Immigration Service examinations at the 60,000 capacity National Stadium, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

 Applicvants who could not find seats await further insatructions as others take seats to write the Nigeria Immigration Service examinations at the 60,000 capacity National Stadium, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

The Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, fiasco of the penultimate week was a major catastrophic public relations outing for the current administration. It captures the inability of a government to cater for its citizens. It illustrates, in lucid terms, the people’s desperate economic plight, in ways that not even the greatest critics of the administration would have done.

That was the situation where 19 unsuspecting young job-seeking Nigerians, including a pregnant woman, were carelessly dispatched to their early graves. The tragedy was not new. An equally gory one occurred in July 2008 when a recruitment exercise by the same NIS produced a grim toll of 17 lives across the country. Expectedly, all those who presided over the earlier disaster got away with their crimes.

In other climes, by now, this administration and, of course, the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, would have been past descriptions – former government and former Minister, because the government would have struggled in vain to extricate itself from the disaster. But in Nigeria, so-called leaders are so contemptuous of the people because they know that we remain jolly good fellows under even the worst situation – suffering and smiling.

This tragedy captures the real essence of Nigeria and the people’s legendary docility. Where else would 520,000 applicants be chasing 4,556 jobs if not in Nigeria where the government is doing nothing to expand the economy?

Worse still, as soon as news of the foreign content of the job filtered out, the number of applicants exploded. Where else in this world are the youths so willing to check out of their country in search of the good life; if not Nigeria where nothing works and where life has become so harsh — sans light, sans water, sans jobs; and sans everything? Yet people want to stay glued to power at all cost and by all means.

Is it not the very height of criminality to ask people looking for jobs to pay for such jobs? Where else does a sitting government ask its citizens to come and pay even for non-existent jobs? Our government has virtually become a gaming machine, which no amount of money can ever satisfy.

A situation where government functionaries share the slots among themselves and release the empty chances for us to struggle and die about is unacceptable

Shamelessly, instead of accepting his fault and apologising to the people, Moro must pass the buck. For him, the police, the doctors, the teachers and, in fact, every other person, must be blamed for the ensuing stampede that resulted in the death of those young Nigerians, even where there are numerous claims that he sidelined every other stakeholder in the exercise.

In a kill-and-divide tradition, it is doubtful how many people at the corridors of power can look Moro in the face and ask him to resign when they all got their slots and sometimes, sold them! We hear that the going rate for a slot has now risen to a million Naira. They also know that Moro was just the arrow head to fulfill all righteousness by creating the impression that the recruitment exercise was for real. So the innocent youths died in the false hope that they were going for a transparent recruitment.

Corruption and the twin brother,
ineptitude, are infectious. There is an extent to which an inept leadership can push the punishment of an erring member without hurting itself. Jonathan must tread softly because if every erring Minister — and they are many — must be asked to quit, the point is soon reached when the administration must feel impelled to quit because the fate of the administration is inextricably tied to that of each member.

Once mistakes are made, you must be prepared to make supporting mistakes in order to sustain the tradition of mistakes. The President quickly moved into damage control mode by rolling out palliatives aimed at soothing the grief of the bereaved families. First, those who lost their loved ones are entitled to three automatic slots, one of whom must be a woman. This increases the headache because the number of applicants is automatically increased from 520,000 to 520,038, expressed mathematically as follows: (520,000 -19)+(19 x 3). Add to this, the new headache of gender balancing.

In any case, only the living can work. The NIS allocation is a poor exchange for human lives. Parallels will soon be drawn. For instance, what makes the victims of he NIS recruitment tragedy more deserving of compensation than the countless thousands of the brutality of the Boko Haram? What logic makes compensation right for one set of victims and wrong for another?

Second, families of wounded applicants are entitled to one slot each. In the coming weeks, we see people running around with bandaged hands and damaged heads as a mark of the injury sustained at the stadium.

We must add our voices to those who have commiserated with the bereaved families. For how long shall we continue to bemoan our fate each time there is a mishap? Let President Goodluck Jonathan look inwards. A situation where government functionaries share the slots among themselves and release the empty chances for us to struggle and die about is unacceptable. Most importantly, this cash for job mode of recruitment is the greatest strain on the administration. It must be eradicated!

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