By Funmi Komolafe, Ben Agande, Emma Ovuakporie & Ikechukwu Nnochir
ABUJA—President Jonathan, yesterday, directed that three job slots each be reserved for families of those who lost their lives during the Nigeria Immigration recruitment exercise.
This is even as the Board of the Immigration Service, National Security and Civil Defence, Prisons and Fire Service Board, yesterday, indicted the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, over the incident, saying the Board was sidelined.
Also, the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, disclosed yesterday that it had commenced investigation into the tragedy even as the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, joined others in calling for the sack of the minister and the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mr David Parradang.
Jonathan compensates victims
President Jonathan has directed the immediate cancellation of the recruitment exercise. Instead, a special committee headed by the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, Mrs Joan Ayo, will conduct the employment test to fill existing vacancies in the Nigeria Immigration Service.
The presidential directive was given at yesterday’s Federal Executive Council meeting where the President further directed that those who lost their loved ones would have automatic slots for three applicants, one of whom must be a woman.
He also warned that henceforth, ministers and heads of government agencies where any death is recorded in the course of recruitment exercise would be tried for culpable homicide.
Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, who addressed State House correspondents after yesterday’s FEC meeting said the President further directed that only the armed forces and the police are allowed mass recruitment exercises.
According to Maku, President Jonathan promised to personally pay condolence visits to the families of those who lost their loved ones while those who sustained injuries during the botched exercise were also to be given automatic employment.
Maku stated: “The President also took certain measures which he announced to Federal Executive Council. The first is that the Immigration recruitment exercise has been completely cancelled and he has directed that a new exercise will be conducted by a special committee under the chairmanship of the Chairman, Civil Service Commission to conduct the recruitment exercise to fill the vacancies of the Nigerian Immigration Service.
“Other members of the committee as announced by the President are the Comptroller-General of Nigerian Immigrations Service, representatives of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Commandant-General of Nigeria Security & Civil Defence Corps, Comptroller-General of Prisons Service, Director General, Directorate of State Service (DSS) and the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).
“This committee will proceed to conduct the exercise to fill the vacancies in the Nigerian Immigration Service.
“The President also directed that for the families of those who lost their dear ones, three spaces be provided for three young people one of which must be a woman in the new recruitment exercise.
“Also, all those who were injured during the exercise across the country will be given automatic recruitment into the service.
“He instructed all MDAs never to embark on exercises of this nature in recruiting people into the public service because what happened could have been avoided.
“So, Mr. President directed that outside the armed forces and the police, who usually recruit people through this exercise, no other MDA is allowed to embark on this kind of exercise that we witnessed on Saturday.”
The minister said members of the Federal Executive Council “noted with grief and deep regrets, the tragic loss of young Nigerians who died in different centres across the country in the ill-fated Nigerian Immigration Recruitment Exercise.
“The FEC in sending condolences to the families of the deceased and also in sending special wishes to those who are injured and still undergoing treatment in hospitals in parts of the country, expressed total regrets that this tragedy took place at all.
“Council noted that it is regrettable that this took place at a time that every effort was being made by government to increase spaces available for employment. For example last year, we were able to get 1.6 million employed in the various sectors of the economy and the public service. However, this incident that took place is so painful and we will not want to see in this country young job seekers losing their lives in the process of seeking for job after school training.
“We assure the nation today that every step will be taken to look into the various lapses in recruitment exercises into the public service to ensure that all those who are qualified get access to employment without going through this kind of experience” he said. .
We were sidelined —Immigration Board
A member of the Immigration Board, Mr S. D. Tapgun, who led the Board members and Heads of other agencies under the Board to appear before the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives said there was no Board approval for the failed exercise.
According to him,”only the Interior Minister and the consultant he engaged for the exercise can tell Nigerians exactly what happened.
“Even the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service was not involved, he was not part of the recruitment at all, there was no Board resolution to recruit anybody.
“When we, the members of the Board, learnt about the recruitment,we wrote the minister that we are not in support of engaging the services of a third party to conduct recruitment for the Immigration Service but he ignored our letter and went ahead to engage the consultant named Rexel Technical Global Nigeria Limited.
“The consultant fixed everything including N1,000 fee which they claimed was administrative charge. Members of the board are ready to confront the minister any day, any time to prove to the entire nation that the Board was never part of the botched exercise.”
He said by the records at the disposal of the Board,693,000 applicants registered for the recruitment exercise and paid N1,000 each to designated banks by the consultant.
Rep. Solomon Adeola Olamilekan, head of PAC, however, summoned the Interior Minister and the consultant to appear before it and explain to the whole nation where they derived their powers to conduct illegal recruitment exercise without passing through the Board, how much was collected from the applicants and where the money was being kept.
Olamilekan said that they had summoned the Board before the unfortunate incident occurred when it was brought to its notice that applicants were being charged N1,000 each by the Nigeria Immigration Service for recruitment so that the board would account for the money so far collected.
Olamilekan said: “This is fraud, our children have been defrauded to the tune of a billion naira. The minister and the consultant must tell us the whole truth.“
NASU asks President to sack minister, Immigration boss
Meanwhile, the Non- Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions ( NASU) has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to sack the interior minister, Abba Moro and the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), over the incident.
NASU expressed concern that the death toll might increase in the days ahead, “ in view of the high number of those who are said to have sustained various degrees of injuries”.
It noted, “The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, rather than taking responsibility for the lack of foresight and maladministration and resign his appointment, blamed the job-seekers for being responsible for their deaths and the injuries they sustained because of impatience”.
The union in a statement signed by its general secretary, Comrade Peters Adeyemi noted that “the criminal free use of tear gas against these young unemployed graduates as if they were common criminals at some of the centres contributed to some of the stampedes that led to the deaths.
“It is scandalous for these young Nigerians to have purchased their deaths with one thousand naira each.
“It was clear to any discerning mind that the whole exercise was going to be a fiasco that will end up in a tragedy. The Ministry and the NIS were aware of the high incidence of unemployment in the country, which is put at 38 per cent and even higher, if the World Bank figures are to be relied on”.
Not only that, the union stated that both the minister and the immigration department “ were aware of failures of previous mass recruitment exercises”.. Therefore, the union noted, that they should have learnt from previous mistakes and “ taken adequate measures to ensure theirs will be hitch free. It has turned out not to be the case”.
The union condemned the use of stadia as examination centres and emphasized that “ the so called aptitude test or examination was only a scam, aimed at fulfilling all righteousness and a cover up because the vacancies had already been filled by applicants who have very influential connections at the Presidency, National Assembly, the Judiciary; among Ministers, other top government functionaries and captains of industries”.