BY johnbosco agbakwuru
ABUJA—MINISTER of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro yesterday claimed responsibility of the tragic deaths of about 16 applicants, including four pregnant women, who died in the recent recruitment exercise by the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS.
The Minister said he was still pained and saddened by the circumstances surrounding the loss of lives in the recruitment exercise during the public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Interior.
But the Comptroller General of Immigration, CGI, David Paradang said that the service which by law was supposed to handle recruitment exercise was completely ignored.
A member of the Board of Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prison Services, Mustapha Zakariya alleged that the signature in the agreement where the Interior Ministry and the Board agreed to engage the services of the Consultant, Drezel Technology Nigeria Ltd was forged.
Paradang told the committee that the service that ordinarily conducts the recruitment exercise was sidelined and that when the decision was taken to conduct the exercise, he was not carried along.
He said, “On the 9th of September, 2013, the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prison Services Board placed advertisements in some national dailies for appointments into the Superintendent, Inspectorate and Immigration Assistant cadre signed by the then Board Secretary, Dr. Attahiru.
“I immediately placed a call to the Secretary that I am not aware that the Board met on this issue. I immediately placed a call to the Permanent Secretary too whether there was any decision of the Board to place an advert in the paper.
“I also placed a call to the two Commissioners that are seated before you here whether they were aware that the Board met and agreed for a publication to be made to recruit in the Service, but they all answered in the negative.
“I immediately wrote a letter to the then Secretary in which I expressed my dismay that as a stakeholder, as the head of a Service that is supposed to recruit, I was not aware of this exercise. He pleaded with me that I should understand with him that he was under immense pressure to put that advert up.
“He said I should not write the letter but I said no, this is an official matter it is not an issue to do with Mr. David Parradang but with the Nigerian Immigration Service. So I wrote him a letter that I was not given any benefit of a reply till way back in October 2013 when he had been removed from the Ministry.
“Along the line we were asked to look for funding and I had to look for funding for this exercise from the office of the Director General of Budget. I wrote him a letter that we have waiver from the Federal Civil Service Commission to recruit 4,556 operatives of the Nigerian Immigration Service.
“He told me categorically that Government was very conscious of overheads and there would be no money made available for it. I thought he was just being reluctant. So I kept pressurising him every day for the whole of that week and subsequent weeks.
“The last concession I got from him is that I should wait that maybe it would be captured in the 2014 budget. So along the line, the Committee of the Board met, we discussed this issue of Drexel being the service provider and I said look, I am not in support of anybody collecting money for recruitment.
“I remember very clearly during that meeting where the CGs and the two Commissioners were in attendance, I told them that I read in the papers two days ago that in Niger State there was a recruitment like that and people were meant to pay and there was a lot of outcry in that state and the Governor had to step in and cancelled it.
“I told him that it is advisable for us to stagger the exercise and to go by states of origin. But when we appeared before this Committee of the Senate in one of the committee rooms here, we were all seated here and we got to know that we will be conducting recruitment exams on the 15th of March, 2013.
“That was the first day I heard that. I did not hear from any board; there was no board meeting to that effect. As a uniform organisation, you follow the last order. Initially when people asked me when is Immigration recruitment, I used to tell them that I don’t know but subsequently anybody that asked me I will reply that the Minister has declared categorically that we will recruit on the 15th of March and that is what we are going to stick to.
”Then I sent the DCG Human Resources to attend all subsequent meetings and when it came to the issue of funding he told me that they have made a budget of N212m to be used for that exercise. I asked him where the money was going to come from, you know that Immigration does not have such money.
“He said it is expected that the company should pay for it. I said okay, go and take representatives of the Service Provider to the Minister of Interior maybe he would have funding for the exercise. He told me there was none till about on 13th of March when N45million was made available for him to carry out that exercise.
“We were left with the option of having to mobilise all our officers in the State Commands to attend to the recruitment exercise. We sent bulk SMS to all of them saying look gentlemen this is the day we have to work with.
“All of them kept calling me to ask how they were going to get money to do this exercise? I told them if any money is given to me, I will make it available to you. No money was made available to the Nigerian Immigration Service and the exercise was supposed to be conducted.
“If you notice too there was no advertisement giving clear guidelines on how to go about it until the 14th of March that people were asked to go the various centres for the tests.”
Number of casualties
Giving the number of death that was recorded during the exercise, Parradang said, “I will like to state that on a state by state basis, the Nigeria Immigration Service is deeply pained of the events that led to loss of lives of 16 people.
“I want the figures to be corrected. We had seven people that died in the Federal Capital Territory. We had five that died in Rivers State. We had two that died in Niger State. We had one in Bauchi. We had one in Edo. Those are the exact figures.”
Why NIS did not stop the exercise
Parradang further explained that though the NIS was not carried along in the planning of the recruitment exercise, there was no way it would have stopped it because the service was not the driver of the recruitment.