Less than 24 hours after President Goodluck Jonathan offered automatic employment tickets to injured applicants during the recent recruitment exercise of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), about 200 applicants have approached the National Hospital, Abuja, seeking to be registered as beneficiaries in the presidential largesse.
A source close to the hospital also confided in LEADERSHIP last night that the applicants had been coming in trickles, claiming that they had treated themselves at certain private hospitals after the stampede.
The source, who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, also disclosed that some of the applicants claimed that since the federal government was going to rely on the medical records from the hospital, they also needed the medical certificate to be considered for the automatic jobs.
He added that some of the applicants, who claimed to have sustained serious injuries at the incident, brandished documents of participation at the botched exercise at the National Stadium in Abuja.
The source said: "There is a deep problem in the land and people are becoming more desperate. This is sheer wickedness. Can you imagine a situation where some people are now claiming that they sustained injuries during the stampede and treated themselves in private hospitals and now need money since government has said that it will pick the medical bills?
"Incidentally, federal government is yet to make any funds available to us as we treated the victims without collecting any amount from them.
"Some of them are even claiming that they are related to the dead victims, saying that they are ready to take the three slots earmarked for the deceased. It will also interest you that some of them brought lawyers that will file legal action against government and claim compensation on their behalf.
"There was this pregnant woman who refused to be persuaded on the grounds that she must be given automatic employment or she would remain in the hospital. We had to use diplomacy before she agreed to leave."
Jonathan cancels Immigration recruitment, gives 3 automatic jobs to injured, deceased's families
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday cancelled the recruitment exercise conducted by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) at different venues across the country that led to the death of over 20 Nigerian jobseekers.
The unemployed graduates including three pregnant women died as a result of the stampede which occurred at Benin, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Minna during the recruitment exercise conducted by the Ministry of Interior.
Minister of Information Mr Labaran Maku, who announced the president's cancellation of the exercise after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday, said Jonathan also directed that the families of those who lost their lives should be given three slots each in the NIS to be filled by their family members in a fresh recruitment, adding that one out of the three must be a woman. The injured are to get automatic employment.
With this pronouncement, 62 injured persons and three people from each of about 20 applicants that lost their lives are expected to get automatic employment from the federal government.
Briefing State House correspondents, the minister disclosed further that a special committee chaired by the chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FRSC), Mrs Joan Ayo, has been set up by the president to conduct a fresh recruitment exercise to fill the vacancies in the NIS.
Other members of the committee are comptroller-general of the NIS David Parradang, a representative of the inspector-general of police, a representative of the comptroller of the Nigeria Prisons Service, a representative of the corps marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corps and a representative of the commandant-general of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Maku said Jonathan also directed that except for exercises conducted by the armed forces, the type that resulted in the death of the jobseekers last Saturday, should not take place again. "He (Jonathan) instructed all MDAs henceforth never to embark on any exercise of this nature in recruiting people into the public service, because what happened could have been avoided altogether. He has directed that henceforth no one outside the army, police, who usually recruit people through physical exercises -- no other MDA of government -- is allowed to embark on this type of exercise that we witnessed on Saturday," the minister said. "Our hearts go out to the families of the deceased; this nation is fully behind them. The grief is not their own; the grief is the grief of all Nigerians and the grief is the grief of the government and the people of Nigeria. We regret it and pray for the souls of those who have departed.
"Council noted that it is regrettable that this took place at a time that every effort was being made by government to increase spaces available for employment. For example, last year we were able to get 1.6 million employed in the various sectors of the economy and the public service. However, this incident is so painful to all of us and we will not want to see in this country young jobseekers looking for job and losing their lives in the process."
He further said that President Jonathan will meet with the families of the deceased to express condolences as soon as he returns from his trip abroad.
"We assure the nation today that every step will be taken to look into the various lapses in recruitment exercises into the public service, to be sure that all those who are qualified get access to the public service without going through this kind of experience," Maku added.
Enough of this impunity - Col Dangiwa
Former military administrator of Kaduna State Col. Abubakar Dangiwa (rtd) has said that there is the need to put a stop to impunity, adding that the recent Immigraton recruitment tragedy is avoidable.
He also warned against public servants that are using their office to fleece Nigerians through various fraudulent schemes aimed at making money from the misery of the people. They should stop it henceforth or risk the wrath of the masses, he said.
Dangiwa, who is also the chairman, Movement for Unity and Progress, stated this in a statement personally signed by him and made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday.
He faulted the NIS aptitude test that led to the death of 23 Nigerians across the country at test centres last weekend.
"We feel constrained to call on the authorities to take steps to stop this impunity and fraud. For a start, the Ministry of Interior should refund the money extorted from the jobseekers and pay adequate compensation to the victims of the tragedy that happened last week,"Dangiwa said, adding that what makes the Interior ministry's case annoying is that the minister has remained adamant in refunding the moneys paid by job-seeking Nigerians, who out of desperation paid N1,000 each for the NIS recruitment scratch card.
He said: "There is no question that a diligent investigation of this tragedy is necessary. Yet the longsuffering public does not have to wait for any probe to deal with the fact that the minister collected N1,000 from each of the over half a million jobless Nigerians (some accounts put the figure at 6.5 million) for jobs that were apparently never available in the first place.
"In spite of the tragedy and the public outcry, the minister has remained adamant in his refusal to refund anything from what was collected from the victims. 'It is a non-refundable deposit,' he kept insisting! This clearly suggests that even without any probe, what the minister set out to do was not to help jobless Nigerians get jobs but to use their joblessness to extort money from them."
The former military administrator of Kaduna State went on to explain that, in spite of the outpouring of grief from all corners of the country, Moro is insisting on remaining in office to clean the mess, adding that he does not seem to have a clue of the anguish and shock Nigerians were put through by the incident.
Speaking further, he described the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) as another department of government that is notoriously extorting Nigerians. "The FRSC has vowed, come June this year, to arrest and impound vehicles of motorists who fail to pay, re-register and obtain new number plates for their vehicles. They said they would do the same thing for those that do not pay and obtain for a second time a driver's licence, even if their current licences are yet to expire.
"It is a measure of the arrogance and impunity displayed by public officials that the FRSC refuses to offer any explanation or the justification as to why they are compelling millions of Nigerian motorists to pay N35,000 for plate numbers, and another N15,000 for a 'driver's licence' they already have.
"The FRSC must be stopped from proceeding with their scheme to collect money from Nigerians under false pretences. However, in the event that this fails to prevent the FRSC from proceeding with their scheme of extortion, as was the case in the past, we wish to call on all Nigerians to refuse to pay. If the FRSC has enough detention cells, it will be welcome to arrest and keep all Nigerians in detention with effect from June 2014," he added.
Refund N1,000 application fee, NGOs, experts tell Moro
Hours after Jonathan pronounced the cancellation of the controversial recruitment test which held nationwide on Saturday, March 15, and ordered that three slots be reserved for families of the over 20 victims that lost their lives in the stampede, mixed reactions have continued to trail the refusal of minister of interior Abba Moro to resign.
While some experts have insisted that if the N1,000 recruitment fee is not refunded to applicants , the setting up of a committee to be headed by the chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission to conduct a repeat exercise will not justify the deaths of the innocent victims, others believe that if it is attempted it will result in double tragedy.
The groups raised questions such as: Will the compensation to bereaved families justify the deaths of the unfortunate Nigerian youths? Does it mean that people are now encouraged to kill so long as the victims will be compensated? Are Abba Moro and David Paradang glued to their official seats that they cannot be sacked? Is President Jonathan setting a precedent that people should always die to get automatic recruitment tickets?
The president, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Comrade Ibrahim Zikwullahi, however, described the compensation as a step in the right direction, maintaining that no price paid by government can match the lives of the deceased youths.
He said, "It is not enough. The federal government should give blanket automatic employment to Nigerian youths. This is because, year in year out, they die searching for job. Some die of hypertension, accident, among others.
"It is not about the miserable N1,000; most of these applicants would have lost the bank tellers they used to purchase the form. It is about the continuous humiliation of our youths, brazen insensitivity to their plight and the logic behind the scam at the Immigration that needs to be permanently addressed. The money won't bring back the dead."
For his part, the president, Empowerment for Unemployed Youths Initiative (EUYI), Ambassador Solomon Adodo, said that nothing can stand as atonement for the lives lost but the decision to compensate the bereaved families is the first impressive step ever taken in Nigeria.
He said, "Lives lost can never be regained. This is the president's empathy. I also want to say that the numerous calls for Abba Moro's sack is not the solution to the systematic problem in Nigeria. This tragedy should force government into paving way for correction."
We are careful to know whom we release dead NIS applicants to - National Hospital
The National Hospital, Abuja, has expressed caution over the release of the remaining six dead applicants still in its care at the morgue, saying that it will not release them to "anyhow" people.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, yesterday, the hospital's director for management information service, Mr Tayo Haastrup, said, "We don't want to release the bodies to just anybody especially now that they announced they were going to compensate the families of the dead victims. We want to be very sure. You know how people are."
Meanwhile, three injured applicants, among them two pregnant women who were on admission at the National Hospital, Abuja, were discharged yesterday from the hospital.
Out of the 40 that had varying degrees of injury, 11 had been on admission at the hospital since Monday when five were also discharged.