Nigerian Immigration Services ill-Fated Recruitment Exercise: My Story
By Leonard Nzenwa
Since last Saturday when 15 unemployed youths died while undergoing the Nigerian Immigration Services, NIS, administered Aptitude Test in different stadia across the country, I have had sleepless nights reflecting on why the tragedy was not averted before it occurred. It came to me as huge shock that Ministry of Interior and other bodies saddled with the responsibility of organizing the recruitment exercise did not live up to expectation, even when they had all the time in the world to do so, and even when deeply concerned Nigerians like me made strenuous effort to help seek out ways to prevent the black Saturday tragedy.
Joint Admission and Matriculation Board Examination, JAMB, had organized test with millions of Nigerian Youths over the years without any crisis, so why a test which only 522,650 enrolled for?
Already, unconfirmed reports put wounded and hospitalized at 200, including pregnant women. This is sad, indeed.
That the Abuja stadium, an edifice that sits not more than 60,000 people took well over 80,000 youths with only one entrance opened for applicants go through lives much to be said about the character of NIS and its team. Seven youths were reported to have died in Abuja, Five in Port Harcourt, two in Minna and one in Benin. Other stadia in Owerri, Kebbi, Lagos, Enugu, etc. witnessed stampede of epic proportion that claimed several lives even as gunshots were reportedly released by security agents to disperse job seekers in most of these venues
I will not railroad myself into interrogation nor conduce into rationalization on why we have so much unemployed youths in the country, a nagging and wicked problem that have drained heads of silver ware academics and policy makers, rather I upheave the ethical and moral extensors of Abba Moro, Minister of Interior, David Panadang, NIS, Comptroller and others, whose job it was to ensure that the exercise was successful with more Nigerian Youths obtaining more jobs.
Available vacant positions to be filled were put at 4,556 with each applicant paying N1000 registration fees by Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS. The NIS, through a suspect Consulting Firm sold 522,650 applications forms. So, effectively, the NIS went on a commercial form selling spree to 522,650 applicants and had test for same number of candidates. Five hundred and twenty-two million, Six hundred and Fifty thousand Naira (N522, 650,000) may have been realized from this computation.
Why would Nigerian Youths pay N1000 for registration, processing fees or whatever levies to secure employment in a Federal Government owned Para-Military body?
Why should Abba Moro, Nigerian Interior Minister, David Panadang, Comptroller, Nigerian Immigration Services, NIS, an undisclosed Recruitment Consulting Firm, an ICT firm, Drexel, which created the online registration platform, United Bank for Africa, UBA, Fidelity Bank Plc., Zenith Bank Plc., Diamond Bank Plc., Ecobank Transnational Plc., partner in an unholy accord to reap Nigerians off ? Some sources have put the figure at over two billion naira (N2b).
These were some of the questions that agitated my mind, and motivated me to take up the gauntlet to raise alarm over the way and manner the recruitment process was being handled. So, at the behest of persistent reservations over the collection of the N1000, which many suspecting Nigerians labeled as 'a scam, between June and July, last year, I raised alarm and sought to see Abba Moro, the then Comptroller of NIS, both of whom I was unable to meet. My purpose of seeking to meet with them were twofold: to prevail on them to stop the collection of N1000 from the overburdened and hapless unemployed youths since I considered it morally reprehensible, and to come up with a more 'human' way of conducting the recruitment exercise.
I was not deterred with my inability to meet with them; however, between September and November, last year, I got in touch with the Senior Special Adviser to The President on Job Creation, Josephine Washima, and raised similar concern and fear. The SSA thanked me profusely for raising those concerns and promised that she was going to get the Presidents' ear on the matter, promising further that she will ensure that the monies collected would be returned to the applicants. She reverted back to me later to inform me that the President had set up an ad-hoc inter agency committee to look into complains of recruitment scams and lopsidedness in recruitment into federal government agencies as well as propose a recruitment strategy to be adopted by the federal government (including conducting job analyses, planning personnel needs, conducting interviews, recruiting the right people, orientating and training them, etc. I presumed – emphases here mine). In same communication, she told me that collection of money had been put on hold and that she was going to serve as the Secretary to that Committee, which reports would be turned in two weeks.
I continued the pressure. May be as a result of determined pressure from me, and perhaps to her effort as well, it was announced in the media that the N1000 processing fees had been stopped. But sadly, few days later, I observed to my chagrin, that the monies were still being collected and none were being returned to the applicants as she had promised.
All other efforts made to reach her to enquire about what was happening with the monies proved unsuccessful. Not even a visit to her office yielded any fruitful result… And that was to be the last I heard from her on this matter.
It is important to restate that NIS had gone ahead with collection of N1000 registration fees from prospective applicants in defiance of several directives from Nigeria's House of Representatives that government agencies refrain from charging or collecting monies from job applicants. The lawmakers, repeatedly, had issued resolutions to that effect, but have been disregarded by the agencies, and other government establishments, including the military and Para-military.
With hindsight now, I can say that the Presidential Adviser was strategically positioned to play the decisive role of helping to avert the Black Saturday Tragedy if she had taken the concerns and fear raised by me more seriously and acted on it, but rather for some inexplicable reasons that I am yet to decipher, she opted to swim with the tide.
My question is what happened with the report of the ad-hoc inter agency committee that looked into complains of recruitment scams and lopsidedness in recruitment into federal government agencies which the President instituted at the time these concerns were raised, and which Josephine Washima , Senior Special Adviser to The President on Job Creation served as its Secretary.
Indeed, for disobeying the House of Representatives, which repeatedly had passed resolutions that government agencies should refrain from charging or collecting monies from job applicants, for organizing the worst recruitment exercise in the history of employee-employer engagement enrollment exercise, not only in Nigeria but globally, for subjecting hapless unemployed youths to horrifying torture, for sending 15 of these youths to early grave – a clear case of manslaughter, for causing economic shutdown resulting in several man hours lost on account of traffic and vehicular gridlock and the associated financial loss across the country, for inflicting bodily injuries on many youths who travelled out of their locations to different exam centers and had accidents, for planning to re-conduct the exercise at extra-cost thereby draining government already depleted financial resources, Abba Moro, Nigerian Interior Minister, David Panadang, Nigerian Immigration Services, NIS, Comptroller and others involved in the death of these unemployed Nigerian Youths during the March 15, 2014 ill-fated NIS Recruitment Exercise across the Country should immediately be sacked, arrested and prosecuted.