Immigration: Jonathan Orders Moro to Refund N1,000 Fee to NIS Job Seekers

President Goodluck Jonathan has reportedly ordered embattled Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, to refund the N1,000 application fee collected from job seekers who were to write the ill fated Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) aptitude test that turned sour at the weekend.

Scores of youths lost their lives in a stampede in Abuja and several other cities, including pregnant women, when they presented themselves for the screening exercise organised by the NIS.

The President had on Monday summoned both the minister and Comptroller General of the NIS, David Paradang, apparently to explain their roles in the recruitment tragedy.

On its part, the House of Representatives ordered investigation into the death of about 20 applicants at some venues of the NIS recruitment exercise.

The House joint Committee on Interior, Labour and Productivity, Public Service Matters, and Justice was mandated to organise an investigative public hearing on the matter, and report back its findings within four weeks.

Senate similarly mandated its Committee on Interior to investigate the recruitment tragedy.

The resolution of the House was a fall-out of a motion at Tuesday plenary under Matters of Urgent Public Importance by a member, Karimi Sunday, who expressed concerns on the manner the exercise was conducted, leading to the death of innocent job seekers.

The House while condemning the tragedy, further called on the Federal Government to take steps towards identifying relatives of the deceased victims, and offer them automatic employments, since in members’ opinion, the victims died in active service to the nation.

The House also commiserated with the families of the deceased, as well as empathise with those who suffered injuries as a result of the exercise.

It resolved that henceforth, all mass recruitment exercises into Federal Government agencies must be done via the internet, and in more conducive environment than that of last Saturday.

The NIS had last September advertised vacancies for recruitment into various positions in its service.

Several thousands of job seekers responded, culminating in the weekend’s massive turn out for the aptitude test the NIS organised across Nigeria.

Official information available was that only 4,500 vacancies across board existed in the Immigration Service.

But Sunday, while leading debate on the motion, lamented that “in Lagos alone, about 70,000 youths showed up at the stadium for the test. In Ibadan, the Liberty Stadium played host to about 20,000 Nigerian youths.

“In Abuja, the 60,000 capacity National Stadium was overcrowded with 70,000 youths. In Ilorin, 25,000 candidates showed up like a sea of heads at the llorin Stadium.

“In Benin, at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, 26,000 Nigerian youths trooped in, all in a bid to write the aptitude test. The Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano played host to 15,800 youths.

“In Benue State 17,800 youths took part in the exercise and in Port Harcourt, about 23,000 candidates enrolled for the recruitment exercise,” the lawmaker added.

He argued further that “despite the crises and insecurity in the North East, Gombe and Borno states played host to about 5,000 applicants each, while in Sokoto State 10,000 applicants participated in the recruitment exercise.

“This was the same trend in other state capitals on the said date.”

He also said it was baffling that even when applicants were requested to come to the test centres in sport outfits, there was no record of physical test conducted, and that “only about 20 per cent of the candidates were able to participate in recruitment process as a result of its poor organisation”.

Sunday said the large turnout and poor organisation resulted in chaos and stampede in all the centres, recalling that “at least about 21 deaths were reported from the exercise”, including pregnant women.

He also raised questions that the high response to the advertisement and the fact that the Nigerian Immigration Service may have realised approximately N1 billion from the sale of recruitment forms.

“Why then could the Service not properly organise a recruitment test or programme? Why did the Service not conduct an internet based recruitment tests?

“Why could the aptitude test not have been conducted in conducive educational centres in batches all over the nation? Why was it so poorly co-ordinated that it resulted in the death of innocent and helpless Nigerians?”

The House unanimously adopted the suggestion by the lawmaker that the Federal Government work in conjunction with the state and local governments and public spirited individuals and organisations, including religious groups, to evolve a job creation scheme that will best address the unemployment situation in Nigeria.

Several members who spoke took turns to condemn the loss of lives, especially that the victims were Nigerians innocently seeking jobs.

According to Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, must take responsibility for the incidents, while steps are taken to ensure that the consultant who handled the exercise refunds all monies collected from applicants, and the families of victims duly compensated.

Also in his submissions, Bitrus Kaze expressed concerns that there were reports that members of the National Assembly were allocated slots in the ongoing recruitment process, a development he denied having knowledge of.

Peter Akpatason on the other hand described the incident as a fall-out of long existing systemic decay in Nigeria, and that it was an act of criminal negligence of duty which should be punished.

He also argued that the unusual turnout could be attributed to attempts at covering “up some certain things” which the investigation must seek to uncover.

However, a member of the House who was one time Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Emmanuel Go’ar, at a news conference in Jos accused those calling for the heads of the Interior Minister, Abba Moro, and Comptroller General of Immigration, David Paradang, over the recruitment tragedy of doing so to serve selfish purpose.

He said it is the responsibility of all to fight the unemployment monster that has brought the country to the current situation.

Go’ar called on the Federal Government to constitute a panel to unearth the causes of the tragedy.

Go’ar who is representing Pankshin, Kanke and Kanam Federal Constituency, said “what happened at the Nigeria Immigration Service aptitude test last Saturday is an eye opener”.

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also promised to investigate the circumstances that lead to the death of job seekers at the NIS screening centres.

The commission expressed concern over what it called “avoidable death of about 20 persons who participated in the exercise”.

The NHRC charged organisations in the country to ensure that the human rights of Nigerians were taken seriously in their work to avoid such incident in future.

Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Bem Angwe, spoke on this indication in Abuja when he received in audience members of Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights who came to lodge their complaint against the NIS with regard to the ill fated recruitment exercise.

At its own plenary, the Senate also asked the executive arm of government to work out a Marshall plan to tackle the intractable and increasing unemployment menace in the country.

Like the House, the Senate also condoled with the families of those who lost their lives in the stampede.

The Senate resolution followed a motion of Urgent Public Importance brought by Chairman of the Senate Committee on Interior, Atiku Bagudu, together with 10 other.

The motion was entitled, ‘Nigerian Immigration Service Nationwide Aptitude Test and Physical Examination of March 15, 2014’.

Bagudu who also led the debate on the motion, reminded the Senate of the recruitment exercise and noted that the Head of Service of the Federation had in 2011 granted approval for the recruitment of 4,556 personnel of various cadre for the Immigration Service.

The lawmaker said 700,772 reportedly applied for the NIS jobs, with about 70, 000 applicants registered at the Abuja test centre.

He said 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.

Bagudu, however, regretted that the exercise resulted in the loss of lives and several injuries.

In his one contribution, Ita Enang urged the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on employment.

He lamented that “in the last five to eight years, only the para-military organisations are offering employment, as the manufacturing industries offer little or no employment to Nigerians”.

Also, Ayogu Eze (Enugu-PDP) called for the cancellation of the controversial recruitment exercise, and punishment of those involved in its management.

Gbenga Obadara (Ogun-APC) described the NIS incident as a national tragedy.

He lamented that unemployment was killing Nigeria as a country.

Sani Gumba (Bauchi-PDP) blamed the Ministry of Interior and the NIS for the poor handling of the exercise, stating that they ought to have grouped the applicants in batches to avoid the stampede that occurred as a result of the congestion of the centres.

The Senate Caucus of the All Progressive Congress (APC) also urged President Goodluck Jonathan to sack Abba Moro as Minister of Interior.

In a statement,Senate APC Caucus spokesman, Babafemi Ojudu, also called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on employment in Nigeria.

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