The Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, has expressed grief at the loss of lives during the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise and accepted full responsibility for the outcome. Comrade Moro made the remarks as he appeared before the Atiku-Bagudu led Senate Committee probing the tragic incidents.
Close to 20 young Nigerians lost their lives on Saturday the 15th of March 2014 during a shoddy recruitment exercise into the Nigeria Immigration Service.
The Interior Minister said a consultant was hired to carry out the recruitment exercise which eventually turned pear shaped, because his Ministry was hell bent on avoiding the job racketeering accusations of past recruitment exercises conducted by the NIS. He expressed his condolences to the bereaved families in these words:
“Mr. Chairman and distinguished senators, we are deeply grieved and saddened by the way events turned out. We express our sincere regrets once again. However, permit me to state that our patriotic desire was the pursuit of a more honest, a more transparent, a more cost effective, a more efficient and equitable platform. We sincerely made appropriate and adequate preparations for a hitch -free exercise, but as most things in administrative and human conditions, the yield curve of expected outcome is mostly undefined”, Comrade Abba Moro said.
The Interior Minister however said the NIS board and the Ministry were not involved in the collection of the N1, 000 fee from the over five hundred thousand applicants who showed up at the different stadia across Nigeria and reiterated his well worn line that the tragedy could have been avoided if those who made the shortlist were the only ones who turned up at the various centers. But he did say the buck stopped at his desk.
“My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost their dear loved ones. I sincerely sympathize with those injured. I share in their grief. I share in their pains. May I, at this juncture, assure you, distinguished senators and Nigerians, of my respect for the sanctity of human life.
“The loss of these young Nigerians, who are needed as a critical human resource factor for nation building, is most regrettable. As the Minister of Interior, under whose purview this unfortunate exercise took place, I cannot abdicate my responsibility. The buck stops here”, Comrade Moro admitted.
The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mr. David Paraddang, also told the Senate Committee that he was not carried along before the exercise. Exonerating himself he said, “On the 9th of September, 2013, the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prison Services Board placed advertisements in some national dailies for appointments into the Superintendent, Inspectorate and Immigration Assistant cadre signed by the then Board Secretary, Dr. Attahiru.
“I immediately placed a call to the Secretary that I am not aware that the Board met on this issue. I immediately placed a call to the Permanent Secretary too whether there was any decision of the Board to place an advert in the paper.
“I also placed a call to the two Commissioners that are seated before you here whether they were aware that the Board met and agreed for a publication to be made to recruit into the Service, but they all answered in the negative.
“I immediately wrote a letter to the then Secretary in which I expressed my dismay that as a stakeholder, as the Head of a Service that is supposed to recruit, I was not aware of this exercise. He pleaded with me that I should understand with him that he was under immense pressure to put that advert up.
“He said I should not write the letter but I said no, this is an official matter it is not an issue to do with Mr. David Parradang but with the Nigerian Immigration Service. So I wrote him a letter that I was not given any benefit of a reply….”
The Immigration Boss said he had suggested a staggering of the exercise and had objected the use of a consultancy firm (Drexel) in carrying out the exercise, but those suggestions fell on deaf ears.
“Along the line, the Committee of the Board met, we discussed this issue of Drexel being the service provider. I said look, I am not in support of anybody collecting money for recruitment…
“I remember suggesting that it is advisable for us to stagger the exercise and to go by states of origin. But when we appeared before this Committee of the Senate in one of the committee rooms here, we were all seated here and we got to know that we will be conducting recruitment exams on the 15th of March, 2014.
“That was the first day I heard that. I did not hear from any board; there was no board meeting to that effect. As a uniform organization, you follow the last order. Initially when people asked me when is Immigration recruitment, I used to tell them that I don’t know but subsequently anybody that asked me I will reply that the Minister has declared categorically that we will recruit on the 15th of March and that is what we are going to stick to”, Paraddang said, putting the blame on the Interior Minister.
The Comptroller General of Immigration reiterated that contrary to widespread reports, the death toll on the day stood at 16 and not 20.