By Victoria Ojeme, Jimitota Onoyume, Wole Mosadomi, Dayo Johnson, Simon Ebegbulem, Henry Umoru
Over 125,000 applicants in Abuja and Lagos alone chasing 4,500 jobs! 16 feared dead in the scramble. Thousands fainted from stampede and exhaustion.
Many more applicants thronged the remaining 35 states of the federation.
These casualty figures from the recruitment test centres of the National Immigration Service (NIS), held across the country, yesterday, told the story of Nigeria’s frightening unemployment situation.
In Lagos and Abuja alone, 56,000 and 69,000 applicants respectively sat for the job test.
Thousands of others took the exercise in other state capitals.
NIS allegedly raked N6billion from the applicants as processing fee.
Each applicant paid N1,000.
At the National Stadium, Abuja, which was the centre for the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, eight applicants were reported dead.
Four others were feared dead at the Port Harcourt, Rivers State centre, three in Minna, Niger State and one in Benin-City, Edo State.
Unconfirmed reports claimed the Benin-City victim was a pregnant applicant.
Stampede was reported in Akure where 12,000 were invited for the test.
Thousands of certificates were allegedly lost at the Ondo State centre.
At the Abuja centre, the thousands of applicants were overwhelmed with emotions as eight of their colleagues were allegedly taken to the mortuary.
About 50 were said to have fainted and several others injured.
The tragedy, it was learnt, happened in the morning when the crowd of applicants was trying to gain entry into the test venue.
The test eventually started around 3.30p.m.
One of the applicants at the centre, Abubakar Isah Wada, told Sunday Vanguard, yesterday.
“Government is not treating unemployed youths well. Due to this disorganised nature of our country and lack of discipline, some persons died this morning and several fainted,” Wada said.
“Government needs to recognise the plight of unemployed graduates and not waste time and money on issues that are not important to the development of this country”.
Another applicant said: “Immigration (NIS) should have divided the applicants and run this test on different days rather than bringing all of us here like this to pass through this suffering. If President Jonathan really wants to come back in 2015, this is his ticket”.
At the National Hospital, Abuja, the Director of Management Information, Mr Tayo Haastrup, confirmed the death of seven persons and 40 sustaining various degrees of injuries in the stampede at the recruitment venue.
Poor crowd control
At the Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt venue where four applicants reportedly died, no fewer than 23, 000 sat for the test.
Some of the applicants blamed the incident on poor crowd control. According to them, the 16,000 capacity stadium was relatively small to accommodate the 23,000 that turned up for the exercise.
They said security men had a hectic time controlling the crowd of applicants. “Some applicants who were finding it difficult to get into the stadium suddenly started pushing their way through. Some persons reportedly stepped on those who fell on the ground,” an eye witness said.
According to him security men had to fire shots into the air to stop those still outside from pushing to get inside the stadium. ” More persons would have died if the security men had not shot into the air. The shot stopped those who were outside from pushing in “, he stated.
Some of the applicants said they lost the originals of their certificate during the commotion.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that a pregnant woman was among those who died from exhaustion.
But the spokesman for the NIS in Rivers State, Mr Bisong Abang, denied deaths during the stampede. He however said those who sustained injuries were treated by medics on ground, adding that those who turned up for the screening exercise far exceeded the number of applicants.
Some critical cases were rushed in an army ambulance vehicle with registration number NA 307 EOI to hospital for medical attention.
Applicants were still being attended to by NIS officials at the time our correspondent left the stadium.
At the Minna centre, four of the 11,000 applicants were said to have died while scrambling to gain access into the examination hall.The candidates had reportedly been subjected to standing on the queue for several hours while the chief examiner was calling the applicants into the hall. It was learnt that the candidates, having waited for hours and becoming restless, started shunting which led to a stampede leaving the examiners confused.
In an effort to bring orderliness, officers of the NIS stationed at the Women’s Day Secondary School, venue of the test, fired cannisters of teargas into the crowd. This led to several of the applicants falling down and trampled upon.Three of them were reportedly confirmed dead. The remains of the applicants, it was learnt, were deposited at the Minna General Hospital. Contacted,Controller of Immigration in Minna, Ezekiel Kaura, confirmed that five people were rushed to hospital after the stampede but could not confirm how many people died. He also said 11,000 applicants were expected to sit for the test.
Many of the 12,000 applicants, who sat for the examination at the CAC Grammar School, Akure, lost their certificates in the stampede that attended the exercise.
The NIS recruitment exercise in Benin-City turned tragic when a pregnant woman died at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium Benin-city venue after collapsing. About 20 others were said to have been injured.
She reportedly died in a stampede. The 20,000 applicants who came from different states of the South- south thronged the stadium at about 5am but it was learnt that screening could not start till about 2:30pm.
Many of the applicants complained bitterly that the exercise was poorly conducted and wondered why people could be subjected to such inhuman treatment.
PDP shocked by deaths
In the meantime, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, challenged government agencies, as well as elected and appointed officials at all levels to redouble their efforts to curb unemployment in the country, just as it described the death of the NIS applicants as shocking and unfortunate.
In a statement by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the party, while calling for investigation into the remote and immediate cause, said it was extremely grieved by the death of the young Nigerians.