By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA — Hundreds of “dispersed” recruits of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, yesterday, shut a section of the Ministry of Interior, Abuja, following the refusal of the ministry to allow them resume work after undergoing necessary training and issuing employment letters.
The protesters are among the 2,000 Nigerians recruited into the service last year by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, following the conduct of a new recruitment after the botched 2014 recruitment into the service.
The protesters, who arrived the ministry as early as 9am, demanded to see the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd).
A complement of security men, drawn from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, of the Nigeria Police Force as well as personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, were on ground to prevent any breach of the peace.
Although the minister was not in the office, Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Bassey Akpayung, had just entered his office before the protesters besieged the premises.
The protesters said despite embarking on a recent secret recruitment of hundreds of people, who are currently undergoing training at Immigration schools in Kano and Port Harcourt, the Federal Government did not care about their plight.
They also accused the Comptroller General of the service, Martin Kure Abeshi, of nepotism, alleging that his son was among those currently undergoing training in Kano, despite having not gone through any recruitment test.
The protesters had severally written the relevant committees of the National Assembly whose intervention unravelled the fact that their fate was in the hands of Gen. Dambazau.
They were trained for three months on all aspects of immigration, including weapon handling, and were issued appointment letters along with identification cards before they were deployed in the various state commands.
However, in a twist of fate, the NIS had in a letter dated August 20, 2015, and signed by a HY Malgwi, a Deputy Comptroller General, directed all its state comptrollers “to disperse forthwith all the candidates who were issued appointment letters, following the conclusion of the recent recruitment conducted by the Presidential Committee to Assist in Immigration Recruitment.”
The state comptrollers were ordered to ensure that the dispersal did not lead to a breach of the peace as they were to take all necessary measures to guard against that.
After a parley with security operatives, the protesters delegated one Solomon Ojigbe and two others to represent them in talks with the permanent secretary.
The protesters said they were recruited under presidential orders and wondered why they were suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, even though they had no political affiliation.
Speaking with journalists, spokesman of the group, Mr Ojigbe, said many of his colleagues had hitherto resigned from their various jobs to take up the Immigration vacancies, only to be left in the lurch.
He said: “Many of us here had to resign from the little jobs we were doing. After the botched recruitment in 2014, a presidential committee was set up to re-conduct the exercise and we went through a very rigorous and transparent process.
“We went through all the requisite trainings for the three months we were in camp and we were, thereafter, issued appointment letters and made to buy our service uniforms and other accoutrements.”
Special Assistant to the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Felix Okonkwo, who received the protesters, said the ministry would in a matter of weeks revisit the issue.
“This is the second group of protesters we have received here. The first were those who took part in the ill-fated exercise in 2014 and those ones have been taken care of,” he said. He assured that their protest letter would be delivered to the relevant authorities, while their case would be treated on its merit.