Minister Moro faces sack over death of 19 job seekers
Interior Minister Abba Moro’s job was hanging in the balance yesterday after a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan.
Besides, there were protests in Abuja and Kaduna over the death last weekend of no fewer than 19 job seekers at Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment centres.
Jonathan summoned Moro and NIS Comptroller General Mr David Parradang to the Villa to explain what went wrong.
The presidential action followed the national outcry that greeted the deaths in Abuja, Minna, Port Harcourt and Benin centres of 19 applicants, including expectant women.
Eminent Nigerians have called for Moro’s resignation or his sack by the President over the poor handling of what should be a routine event.
Moro insisted yesterday that he would not resign. He blamed the victims for the stampede that led to their deaths, saying they failed to obey instructions. The minister added that some unauthorised people came to the centres to cause problems. He promised to set up a probe.
The organisation of the recruitment has been generally adjudged to be shoddy, with 520,000 job seekers chasing 4, 556 openings. There was stampede at the stadia used for the recruitment.
In Kaduna, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) led a protest to the NIS.
In Abuja, a civil society organisation spearheaded a march on the office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
The NLC, in a statement by its President AbdulWaheed Omar, called for a probe of the deaths.
Moro and Parradang were at the Presidential Villa for over two hours. They were led to the President’s office by the Chief of Staff, Gen. Jones Arogbofa.
Jonathan described the “incident” as sad.
Speaking at the inauguration of the National Conference in Abuja, he said: “As we were preparing for this inauguration, a very sad incident happened on Saturday.”
He called for a minute silence “for the young lads who died on Saturday”.
It was learnt that Jonathan tongue lashed the two officials for about 20 minutes. They were reportedly dumbfounded throughout the session.
They could not give cogent reasons for the deaths.
The President was reported to have told them: “I am highly disappointed with your performance. I cannot tolerate this.”
It was learnt that the President’s mood suggested that the time was up for the two officials to resign – if they could read his countenance.
A highly-placed source said: “We have never seen the President in such a foul mood at the Villa. The case was compounded by the fact that the Minister and the Immigration chief could not give cogent reasons.
“They were just blabbing.
“At the end of the 20-minute session, the Minister and Parradang wobbled out of the President’s office, uncertain of their jobs.”
Another source in the Presidency said: “The President’s reaction suggested that they cannot go scot free at all. If they do not quit, he might show them the way out of government.
“What the President did was to tongue lash them, leave them to ponder and take the path of honour by quitting; otherwise they will be removed without dignity.”
It was gathered that Moro and Parradang were still trying to lobby some governors and highly-placed Nigerians to keep their jobs
Security agencies have started probing the involvement of a company, Drexel Nig. limited, in the recruitment tragedy.
A top official of one of the security agencies said: “From our preliminary findings, over N7billion was collected from 734,000 candidates who applied for about 4,556 vacancies.
“We are investigating how the company was engaged, the terms and the service rendered to the NIS.”
The peaceful protest at the Kaduna State command of the NIS was led by NLC Vice-President Isa Aremu. The protesters arrived at the NIS office early in the morning and blocked its entrance. They prevented the staff from entering their offices.
The union members carried placards that contained various inscriptions and a letter of protest which they wanted to deliver to the state controller.
However, the officers on duty barred the workers from the premises, telling them that the controller was not in the office.
Aremu demanded compensation for the families of the 19 victims.
He urged Jonathan to demonstrate that no life of an applicant would further be wasted at any recruitment centre.
He said: “The President should take action so as to prevent shameless exhibition of incompetence and non-service delivery by some of his ministers.”
The Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), led the Abuja protest.
The Executive Director of CASER, Mr Frank Tietie, led some members to the NHRC headquarters.
Tietie urged the authorities to probe the incident and bring those found wanting to book.
He said lack of crowd control measures and medical emergency personnel at the centres across the country was a violation of the applicants’ rights to life and dignity.
Tietie said preventable deaths, occasioned by negligence and inaction, were rife in the country.
He called for urgent action to prevent a recurrence.
The CASER executive director submitted a petition addressed to the UN Human Rights Commission to the Executive Secretary of NHRC, Prof. Ben Angwe, for onward transmission.
Angwe described the incident as “sad, not only to the commission but also the Federal Government and country at large”.
The commission is investigating into incident.
Angwe expressed regret that the exercise, which was meant to provide jobs for Nigerians and reduce unemployment, resulted in avoidable deaths.
He said that the incident had kick-started a new beginning in the campaign for the protection of the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
He assured the group of NHRC’s commitment to assisting in identifying the victims and ensuring they were compensated by the government.
The NHRC executive secretary praised CASER for its action, saying it indicated that groups were heeding the commission’s call for sensitisation of Nigerians to their human rights.
The NLC said the congress was saddened and shocked to learn of the avoidable deaths.
Said Omar: “It is grossly unfair for the Immigration Service to have invited thousands of our youths to physically present themselves to compete to fill a miserly 4000 vacancies.
“Nothing but crass opportunism can explain this heartless scam.
“A more rational and discerning recruitment process could easily have reduced the number by insisting on raising minimum standards.
“The explanation by the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, that 520,000 applicants were invited for 4,556 spaces and that the applicants died in a stampede due to impatient and non-adherence to laid down orderly procedure, is rather weak and untenable.’’
Omar noted that to have invited so many applicants for such few spaces was unacceptable.
He called on the Federal Government to investigate the NIS, query the methods it adopted and the discretion it exercised in conducting the programme.
“It is also important to remind government of the danger that unemployment, particularly unemployment of qualified youths, represents.
“We, therefore, call on the government to tackle unemployment with increased commitment, and appropriately sanction those who have had a hand in causing these scandalous deaths.”
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) described the stampede as a national disaster. It called for an investigation.