Nigerians Call For Sack Of Minister,Immigration Boss Over Applicants Death

But for the outsourcing of the recruitment exercise for the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) by the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, to a private company, Drexel Nigeria Limited, Saturday's stampede that led to the death of over 16 applicants could have been avoided, it was learnt. 

A top government official confided yesterday said that because the NIS was not directly involved in the exercise, it was difficult for it to liaise with relevant government agencies such as the police and the civil defence corps that would have helped in crowd control and provide medical services in the event of an emergency.
The official absolved the NIS of any culpability in the tragedy, saying the service had little role to play in the recruitment process, as the private company had collected money from the applicants.

However, Moro, who has come under heavy criticisms over the incident, with some eminent Nigerians and groups calling for his resignation and prosecution, has announced plans to set up a panel of inquiry to probe the stampede which besides causing the death of over 16 applicants, including four expectant mothers, left about 700 people injured.
His announcement of the constitution of the panel came in the wake of the call by the House of Representatives Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, for the federal government to probe the incident.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) also bickered over the incident as the two parties took different positions on the tragedy, with the opposition party calling on Moro to resign.

Announcing plans to raise the probe panel yesterday when he visited the injured victims at the National Hospital, Abuja, Moro said members would be drawn from all stakeholders.
“The committee would be set up to examine the necessary things to be done in this circumstances and it would consists of all stakeholders, including civil society, because what happened was a national tragedy and all Nigerians and Nigeria observers are interested in knowing what has happened,” he added.

He disclosed that preliminary information available to him showed that some people who did not apply for the NIS vacancies had tried to cash in on the openness of the exercise to gain entry into the stadium “because the idea was that people should show preferences for the centres they want to write the examination which we have displayed appropriately”.
Moro explained that his intention was not to put in place an arrangement that would lead to deaths but to conduct a transparent recruitment in order to provide a level playing field for all applicants.

He said: “It calls for some level of understanding amongst Nigerians and that our intention was to transparently conduct this exercise to ensure that we provide some level playing field for all Nigerians to get enlisted into the few slots that were available, in such a manner that if you don't have the so-called ‘godfather’ in Nigerian parlance, you can still be selected for this exercise.
“As a parent, I would not put in place an arrangement that will lead to the death of the people. At this moment that we are talking, we are trying to look into the situation as it were to find a possible way of redressing some of the incidents that had occurred.
“Like I said yesterday, this is not a moment to apportion blame, this is a moment of national tragedy.”

The minister said the focus on the condition of the people who are in the hospital should be paramount, adding that it was premature to talk about employment while some families were still mourning.
“Most of them are in a stable condition, 11 are on admission; by the last count, five females and two males died. I have promised that the ministry and NIS would ameliorate the consequences,” he said.
A member of one of the families who lost a relative in the stampede, Dr. Muhammed Akeem, told reporters in Abuja that they were shocked to discover that they had lost someone in the incident.

“Our sister, Farida Yusuf, was one of the victims of the stampede at the National Stadium, Abuja. Initially, we could not confirm the actual information at that time, as we were getting conflicting reports about whether she was dead or being resuscitated in the hospital.
“This, we don't actually know, but we later discovered that she was dead.
“As a Muslim she ought to have been buried yesterday (Saturday) and there should be no further delay because it is causing us more pain.
“She was defrauded last year for this same job and unfortunately she could not get it. Things have to change; we have to begin to get things right,” he said.

Also reacting to the tragedy, Tambuwal urged the federal government to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the incident and advised that a strategy should be mapped out to prevent future recurrence.
The speaker, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, said the death of the applicants was sorrowful and regrettable considering the fact that they were at the screening centres in search of jobs.

He urged governments at all levels to work closely with the organised private sector to tackle unemployment in the country.
The APC, in its reaction, demanded the resignation of Moro whom it said should accept responsibility for the avoidable deaths.
It described the tragedy as a direct consequence of 15 years of misrule by the PDP-led federal government.
In a statement in Lagos yesterday by its interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party called on President Goodluck Jonathan to fire the minister if he failed to resign.

It added that the overall responsibility was that of Jonathan’s, who seemed bent on leaving a dubious legacy of bad leadership that had led to a grim harvest of deaths from insecurity, widespread violence and now job stampede, among others.
APC commiserated with the families of the victims and wished those who were injured a speedy recovery.
“Despite huge yearly budgets rolled out since 1999, the PDP-led federal government has failed to create jobs for our teeming youths, and the number of those who are jobless has now reached such an alarming rate that a job emergency may have to be declared to avert an impending cataclysm.

“Today, sadly, the truth has been laid bare: 5,000 or so vacancies declared by NIS have attracted over six million applicants, from which over half a million were shortlisted, according to published reports, and the desperation of our youths to eke out a decent living has been exploited by a villainous government that forced each applicant to cough up N1,000, thus raking in N6 billion from jobless people,” the party said.

The party caucus in the Senate also described as sad and unacceptable the deaths of the applicants.
According to the caucus, the mammoth army of unemployed youths which trooped out to write the test and the resultant deaths have more than enough shown that the nation is sitting on dynamite that may explode if urgent steps are not taken to restructure the government.

In a statement signed by the spokesperson of the caucus, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, the APC caucus said it was not only worried, but shocked at the seeming nonchalant disposition of many a Nigerian leader to what is clearly a ticking time-bomb.
In a quick riposte to the opposition party's criticism of the incident, PDP said the APC should be ashamed of itself for seeking to play politics with the applicants’ deaths.

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, in a statement  yesterday said the APC had again shown that it lacked respect for human life, adding that its statement lacked class  and politicising the   incident was a clear manifestation of its Janjaweed ideology.
The ruling party called on all the relevant agencies to immediately conduct detailed investigations into the remote and immediate causes of the stampede.

The Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), nonetheless, blamed the federal government’s inability to curb corruption and generate employment as the reason for the death of the applicants.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu, in a statement yesterday, said: “It is our candid view that the tragedy of unemployment is the outcome of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s nebulous and inchoate economic policy; which regrettably posits that government has no business in business and the monumental corruption, which governs the reproachable economic policy.

“Otherwise, if the Peoples Democratic Party-led federal government had in the past 15 years invested our unprecedented oil and gas revenue in critical infrastructure like refineries, modern railways, power supply; there is no way over 400,000 youths will pay N1,000 to chase less than 3,000 jobs in a single department of the state across the country.”
On its part, the Edo State Government described the death of the 16 applicants as sad, unfortunate and an embarrassment to the world.

Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, speaking with reporters in Benin City yesterday, said: “The truth of the matter is that those pictures that you see at the Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment test across the country demonstrate the problem of Nigeria.
“They show failure at all levels particularly at the federal level, to stimulate growth and development that will create investments and jobs, so that people will not be dying when they are trying to write exams."

For the organised labour, nothing short of the immediate prosecution of NIS’ management would be acceptable to it.
Vice-President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Issa Aremu, while reacting to the tragedy, said Moro must get to the bottom of the recent deaths, failing which “he must resign from administering a ministry increasingly notorious for employment scandals and employment tragedies.”
He said it was wrong for the minister to blame the incident on the applicants, stressing that the NIS should be prosecuted for failing to put appropriate mechanism in place for the recruitment tests.

He recalled that a similar exercise by the NIS ended in the unacceptable deaths of scores of applicants in 2008 and called for direct government action to demonstrate that no life of an applicant would be further wasted at any recruitment centre.
The campaign to get the minister punished for the incident   took an organised dimension yesterday as some eminent Nigerians, including Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa, Dr. Ayesha Imam, Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, Dr. Ishiyaku Mohammed and Dr. Chidi Anselm Odinkalu signed a petition calling for the sack of Moro and the Comptroller-General of NIS, David Parradang.

The eminent citizens, in the petition, said the tragedy was needless, foreseeable and avoidable.
Other signatories to the petition included Mr. Femi Edun, Dr. Abubakar Siddique Mohammed, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, Mallam Abba Kyari, Dr. Kole Shettima, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, Prof. Ebere Onwudiwe, Mallam Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, Hon. Yusuf Tuggar, Mr. Yemi Candide-Johnson (SAN), Alhaji Tajudeen Fola Adeola, Mrs. Ayo Obe and Mr. Waziri Adio.
According to them, the failure of the ministry and NIS to adequately manage the process and safeguard the safety and security of the job seekers was inexcusable.

They said: “The deaths that resulted from this failure, therefore, were unlawful. If the lives of Nigerians mean anything, the leadership and management teams in the Ministry of the Interior and the NIS must be held to account for these deaths.
“The effort by the minister responsible for citizenship in Nigeria to blame the victims, rather than take responsibility shows a callous disregard for the lives of Nigerians incompatible with his high ministerial brief. It brings public service into disrepute.”
They also called on the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Inspector-General of Police, along with the Director-General of State Security Service (SSS) to launch a joint criminal investigation into the deaths of the job seekers.


Chris Kehinde Nwandu is the Editor In Chief of CKNNEWS || He is a Law graduate and an Alumnus of Lagos State University, Lead City University Ibadan and Nigerian Institute Of Journalism || With over 2 decades practice in Journalism, PR and Advertising, he is a member of several Professional bodies within and outside Nigeria || Member: Institute Of Chartered Arbitrators ( UK ) || Member : Institute of Chartered Mediators And Conciliation || Member : Nigerian Institute Of Public Relations || Member : Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria || Fellow : Institute of Personality Development And Customer Relationship Management || Member and Chairman Board Of Trustees: Guild Of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria

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