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Immigration Tragedy: Minister Abba Moro will remain

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By Tonnie Iredia

An interesting fall-out of the death of some Nigerians last week while in search of employment at the nation’s Immigration Service was a statement credited to ‘Comrade’ Abba Moro the Interior Minister in charge of the sector. According to media reports, the Minister was convinced that the tragedy was caused by the refusal of the applicants to adhere to the rules of engagement designed for the recruitment exercise.

It was as if the Minister was sure that the only logical consequence of the applicants’ conduct was death. In other words, there were 3 options available to the applicants that fateful day – one was to expect to be recruited; another was the possibility of being rejected and third, was to expect to die. A review of these options clearly suggests that the Minister’s statement was not well thought out. Perhaps several individuals and groups must have been incensed by the reckless statement, hence the numerous calls for the removal of the Minister.

But then there are many reasons why Abba Moro would remain in office. The first is that it is not part of the Nigerian culture for a Minister to quit his office. No one has ever done so on the basis of what is known as the principle of Ministerial Responsibility – a trend in other countries in which Ministers quit because of a problem in the sector they are in charge of.

It is probably apt to repeat what this column canvassed some 2 years back. At that time we did say that the culture of accepting responsibility is firmly rooted in civilized societies where leaders bear vicarious liability for whatever transpires within their functional jurisdiction even where they are not personally at fault. We drew attention to the historic 1954 case in the United Kingdom of Sir Thomas Dugdale who saw it as his duty to resign as minister for agriculture after an inquiry criticised civil servants in his ministry over a compulsory purchase of some farmland. Meanwhile, though there was no evidence of his personal involvement.

He only bowed out in honour

Many countries follow the same principle. In Romania, the minister of interior, Vasile Blaga, resigned a week after 5,000 police officers went on a one-day strike in protest over a 25% pay cut. Although Blaga described the strike as illegal, he never-the-less resigned as a gesture of honour.  In India, two political leaders, including the Infrastructure Minister resigned after nearly two weeks of strike action by coal miners and health workers.

In Ghana, Dr. George Yankey, the minister of health and Amadu Siedu, minister of state at the presidency resigned following bribery allegations against them. Ghana’s President did not only accept the resignations, he mandated the country’s anti-corruption agency to investigate the matter. In Nigeria on the other hand, Ministers become more important when issues under their purview fail.

For instance, our Education Ministers over the years often looked more robust whenever ASUU was on strike. They neither quit nor are sacked. People who leave the office of Minister in our clime do so only when they are set to contest for another position. So, there is nothing to suggest that our current Interior Minister is about to do the unusual.

The second reason why Minister Abba Moro is likely to remain in office is because the present administration is never too quick at sacking its members. Ministers that leave office in Nigeria are usually said to have been released to concentrate on political campaigns in furtherance of their electoral interests.  Even Minister Stella Oduah and Chief of Staff Mike Ogiadomhe who left recently allegedly did so on that account. Indeed were it not that an American University offered Dr. Ali Pate the post of Professor he would have remained in office as Minister of State (Health) even if he had to physically iron out issues on a daily basis with his estranged Minister of Health

Third, Minister Abba Moro is too well connected to be sacked. Interestingly, some members of the Senate who are fully aware of this naively joined the public to call for the removal of the Minister.  Did they mean it? Have the Senators forgotten so soon that they gave Mr Moro a blank cheque to operate as Minister? Otherwise, during his screening in the Senate, what value did he tell them he would add to government before they cleared him? In fact, did they bother to ask him any question whatsoever? They did not. They only asked him to take a bow and leave. If so, on what grounds are they assessing him now? What target did the Senate set for him that he has not met?

The man simply bowed and left as directed and went to his Ministry to organize his own understanding of the best way to supervise a government parastatal. He decided to do what some other Ministers do by subjecting the Chief Executives of his Parastatals who are supposed to be in charge of the day to day running of their organizations to routine supervision.

It would appear that this was what Rose Uzoma who was Comptroller General of Immigration didn’t quite fall for that she was sacked 3 months to the end of her tenure in January 2013. As Sambo Gwandu a retired Assistant Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, testified during the week, Minister Abba Moro hijacked the recruitment process from the board charged with the responsibility of recruiting personnel into the Nigeria immigration Service and other agencies under the watch of the Ministry. The assignment was then handed over to a Consultant.

Those who have issues with how the consultant was selected need not worry because events have overtaken all of that. The Federal Government has itself taken over the function now confirming that our Immigration Service can no longer conduct a routine recruitment exercise which they had always done well in the past until the era of ‘bow and go’ Minister. As we hear, Government has thoroughly warned the Minister but he remains in office. Of course, no need for probes that may unravel too many other issues

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