Outraged by weekend’s tragedy which claimed at least 16 job applicants, including four pregnant women who turned up for the aptitude test for employment into the Nigeria Immigration Service at various centres across the federation, National Human Rights Commission Chairman and 54 other eminent Nigerians as well as labour unions, yesterday, called for the resignation of the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro and Comptroller General of Immigration, Mr David Parradang.
Former Presidential candidate in 1993 general elections, Alhaji Bashir Tofa, Malam Nasir el‑Rufai, former FTC Minister; Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman, Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission; Ayo Obe, former President, Civil Liberties Organisation and 53 others, said in a joint statement in Abuja, “On March 15, thousands of job‑seekers attended job‑seeking examinations organised by the NIS, in different centres in Nigeria to fill 4,556 vacancies.
TRAGEDY: Interior Minister, Abba Moro, with one of the victims of Nigeria Immigration Service aptitude test tragedy, at the National Hospital, Abuja, yesterday.
“The ministry and the NIS had compelled each job-seeker, as an eligibility condition for participating in this hire process, to pay N1,000. There is no evidence that these sums were remitted to the Federation Account as required by law. In most places, these job‑seeking examinations took place in stadia, suggesting that the organisers anticipated large turn outs. Inexplicably, they failed to make adequate or any arrangements for crowd management and control.
“At different centres around the country, including Abuja, Benin, Kano, Minna, and Port‑Harcourt, many job‑seekers, including pregnant mothers, were killed and lots more were injured in stampedes caused by grossly negligent and uncaring ground arrangements.
This tragedy was needless, foreseeable, and avoidable. The failures of the Ministry of the Interior and NIS to adequately manage the process and safeguard the safety and security of the jobseekers is inexcusable. The deaths that resulted from these failures, 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.
“In his reaction to the deaths, Moro accused the victims of ‘impatience,’ claiming that the deaths resulted because ‘they did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise.’ 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.
“In the circumstances, we the undersigned, as citizens of Nigeria, respectfully demand that Moro; and the Controller ‑General of Immigration, Mr. Parradang, be immediately relieved of their positions.
The Attorney‑General of the Federation and the Inspector‑General of Police together with the Director‑General of State Security, should launch a joint criminal investigation into the deaths of these jobseekers. An independent audit should immediately be instituted into the monies made by the Ministry and the NIS from the job seekers and criminal investigations should be commenced as appropriate.
Problem of youth unemployment
“Government should demonstrate a readiness to address the problem of youth unemployment as a national security priority through a partnership involving the agricultural sector, public sector, private sector, voluntary sector, and multi‑laterals.
To the families across the country bereaved as a result of these and other on going challenges in our country, we take this opportunity to transmit heartfelt condolences and pray for the peaceful repose of the souls of our deceased brothers and sisters.”
The multitudes of applicants who came for the test were said to have overwhelmed both the co-ordinators and the security personnel a situation that degenerated into stampede. In Abuja, eight persons were reported dead while in Niger State, three persons died. In Rivers State four persons were said to have died even as one person died in Benin. Many others were also injured and were rushed to hospitals just as original certificates of many of the applicants were lost during the stampede.
Amidst condemnations of the incident from the labour, the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the All Progressives Congress, APC, some families of those who died during the exercise besieged the National Hospital yesterday demanding the immediate release of corpses of their relative for burial according to religious rites.
NIGERIA, Abuja : Job-seekers applying for work at the Nigerian immigration department scramble as their exam papers fly in the air, on the pitch of Abuja National Stadium, on March 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO
Among the dead was one Miss Oyiza Yusuf, a mother of one. According to Oyiza’s brother, Engr. Mohammed Hakeem, “I was informed of my sister’s death and I came to verify. I regretted that my sister who was defrauded last year of N150,000 for the same job had to finally pay with her life. A situation where people were made to suffer and die for jobs that probably have been allocated to the children of highly placed individuals, is lamentable, the government should be sensitive to the plight of ordinary Nigerians.”.
Vanguard investigations at the National Hospital, yesterday, revealed that of the 40 injured brought in for treatment only 11 are still on admission. The hospital’s Head of Information, Mr Taiwo Haastrup said “out of the forty persons that were brought in with different injuries, many have been discharged and only eleven persons are still on admission, and are doing very well.”