Senate To Probe NIS Recruitment Tragedy

Senators hinted yesterday that the level of unemployment in the country may trigger a revolution of unimaginable consequences, if the government does not urgently address the malaise.
This followed a motion on the death of 19 applicants during an aptitude test conducted by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) across the nation for job placements.
Over 70 applicants were said to have been injured.
The motion titled: “Nigerian Immigration Service nationwide aptitude test and physical examination of March 15th, 2014” was sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Interior, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi Centra) and Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and nine others.
The Senate resolved that its Committee on Interior should organize a public hearing to determine the actual cause of the deaths and report back in one week.
The Senate also resolved to observe a minute silence in honour of the dead, condole with the families of the dead and sympathise with those injured during the unfortunate incident.
It urged the Federal Government to come up with a marshal plan on employment.
However, the prayer that the Senate condemns the the poor handling of the test and logistic provisions at the test centres was defeated as most senators described it as “judgmental” – in view of the impending investigations.
Senator Babafemi Ojudu’s prayer that Interior Minister Abba Moro be suspended pending investigation was also rejected by the lawmakers.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu noted that the death of the 19 applicants and the fate of those who suffered varied degree of injuries in the course of seeking employment should be of concern to all Nigerians.
He said it was time for the government to increase job opportunities as well as provide social security cover for the unemployed.
Ekweremadu said: “These are people who are supposed to be our future leaders. Therefore, their deaths should be of concern to us.
“These people died because they believe in this country. They died because they wanted to work for our country. They would have taken the path of crime, but they wanted meaningful employment and in seeking meaningful employment they lost their lives.
“So, I will like to join you in sympathising with the families of those who died and I agree with you entirely that we must do all that needs be done to ensure that we increase the quantity of employment opportunities for our people.
“When the 1999 Constitution was drafted, those who did that were mindful of our responsibility to the ordinary people of Nigeria. Section 17 (3) states that ‘the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that (a) all citizens without discrimination for any group whatsoever have the opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihood as well as adequate opportunity to secure suitable employment.’
“This is the responsibility of the government and we must ensure that it happens.
“I believe a time has come while we are trying to provide employment for our people we must also address the welfare of everybody. In Europe, for instance, the average tax is about 40 per cent.
“I believe that even in this country, those who are working should be able to contribute to the welfare of those who are not working so that we will be able to redistribute our income.
“There is need for us provide social security network for those who are unemployed and for those who are out of employment so that we can all be our brothers’ keeper.”
Bagudu, in his lead debate, urged the Senate to note with grief the tragic nationwide recruitment exercise of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) during which 15 applicants died as a result of stampede that occurred at some of the test centres across the country.
He said the Head of Service of the Federation had in 2011 granted approval for the recruitment of 4,556 personnel of various cadre, for the Nigerian Immigration Service.
According to the lawmaker, the approval comprised 1,343 Assistant Superintendent 1 and 2 (Graduates), 1,680 Assistant Inspector 1 for National Certificate in Education (NCE) and Ordinary National Diploma, 1,531 Immigration Assistant 111 (SSCE).
He urged his colleagues to observe that following the Federal Government’s approval, an attempt was made to conduct the recruitment by the former Comptroller-General of NIS, Mrs Rosemary Uzoma, which was cancelled in 2013 because the conduct of the exercise became controversial.
He said: “The Senate had in January 2013 debated a motion on employment irregularities in agencies, including the Nigerian Immigration Service.”
He said the cancellation of the exercise in 2013, the Ministry of Interior engaged consultants (Drexel Technical Global) to provide an online platform for interested persons to apply while charging N1,000 per applicant.
Prior to this exercise, Bagudu said, employment into the Nigerian Immigration Service was done in two usual ways.
He said NIS had the responsibility for the employment of junior officers while the recruitment of senior officers was handled by the Custom Immigration and Prisons Board (CIPB).
“The introduction of consultants and charging of N1,000 is a new innovation,” he added.
Bagudu said pursuant to the engagement of the consultant by the by the NIS, 700,772 were said to have applied as against 528,000 the committee was previously told.
He added: “At least, about 70,000 applicants were registered for the Abuja test centre.”
He said that the exercise was held under the coordination of the Comptrollers of Immigration in the states and the FCT with one representative of the Board in each centre.
He regretted that the exercise resulted in the deaths and injuries.
“The Committee visited the National Hospital and confirmed seven dead and saw nine of the 11 wounded,” the senator said, adding:
“Other casualties recorded in Niger State – two dead; Rivers State – five dead; Edo State – one dead; in addition to several others injured in many locations.”
He regretted that that in spite of the accidents, the test and physical fitness exams were conducted, except for Lagos State where it was cancelled.
Bagudu denied that members of the National Assembly had been allocated most of the NIS job slots before the exercise.
He said efforts of the National Assembly to ensure a transparent recruitment led to the conduct of the aptitude tests nationwide.
Most of the senators lamented the deaths and described the unfortunate incident as a pointer that a revolution may be in the offing, if something is not done urgently to arrest the rising unemployment situation.
Senator Olusola Adeyeye (Osun Central) lamented that one of the two persons from his constituency who died during the exercise was the first person in his family to go to University.
He said he was saddened by the fact that the deaths could have been averted.
He said it was his fervent prayers that Nigerians would soon get a government that would address the unemployment imbroglio.
Senator Abdul Ningi (Bauchi Central) said it was high time Nigerians said enough is enough to unemployment.
He called for a special provision to be made in the national budget to tackle unemployment.
Senator Odion Ugbesia (Edo Central) noted that it was unfortunate that it took the NIS tragedy for the Senate to realize the enormity of the problems and implications of massive unemployment.
Senator Ita Enang (Akwa Ibom North East) said: “We have the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme; there are all sorts of names called YouWin. Where is the record of those who have been employed in these processes.
“The unemployment crisis we have in this country is worse than the insurgency we are having.
“What we are facing and what is standing against us now is worse than a revolution and I will use a word that there is capable of being a revolution because the army of people that we turn out yearly for the past 10 years from the universities we don’t plan for them.”
Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics, Financial Crimes and Anti-Corruption Chairman Senator Victor Lar said there was need to raise the manpower of the police from less than 400,000 to one million as a first step towards tackling unemployment.
Senator Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos East) called for a forensic audit of jobs the Minister of Finance claimed o have created in he last three years through the SURE-P and the YOUWIN programmes.
He said: “The Minister of Interior has failed. Whether he is going or not is a matter subject to debate. Last year, it was scam galore in Immigration Service. This year, it is death galore. What are we waiting for? I urge him to tender his resignation and go.”
Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi urged his colleagues to be mindful of the implications of the NIS incident.
He noted that it was the scarcity of bread and the extravagance lifestyle of Queen Anthoniettee that led to the French Revolution.
He said: “The tragedy of last Saturday is bringing together a coalition of the oppressed and what they need is the type of leadership that will galvanise them and thereafter we may witness cataclysm of very dangerous proportion.”
Senator Ahmed Lawan (Yobe North) said although nobody wants the Arab Spring in Nigeria, “but we can only prevent it if we provide jobs for our people”.
Other Senators who contributed to the debate include Smart Adeyemi, Adamu Gumba, Heinekien Lokpobri, Kabiru Gaya and Ayogu Eze.


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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