NIS tragedy: Reps summon interior minister, CG …to conduct public hearing over bungled exercise

The House of Representatives on Tuesday summoned the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, and the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mr. Shikfu Parradang, to explain why 21 young Nigerians died on Saturday in their bid to be enlisted in the NIS.

Moro and the CG are to appear before the Joint Committee on Labour, Employment, Productivity/Justice/Public Service Matters, which will conduct a public hearing on the tragedy.

The hearing will be concluded within two weeks.

The House also resolved that the Federal Government should identify the families of the dead victims and offer their members “automatic employment”.

The decisions of the House followed a motion moved by a member from Kogi State, Mr. Sunday Karibi, who recalled that among the 21 victims, were three pregnant women.

He told the House that the Ministry of Interior and the NIS collected N1,000 each from over  1 million youths as administrative fee for only 4,500 vacancies.

Karibi added that the painful aspect was that some of the victims survived road accidents to get to the venues only to lose their lives.

He blamed the deaths on the “poor arrangements” made by the NIS and the ministry.

“In the end, only 20 per cent of the candidates could take the test because of the poor arrangements at the venues.

“Twenty-one Nigerians, including three pregnant women, lost their lives.

“The NIS realised about N1billion from the sale of forms. Why could they not organise a proper test for them?

“We must condemn this exercise unequivocally and commiserate with the families of the victims,” Karibi said.

Chairman, House Committee on Diaspora Affairs, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, asked the House to ensure that the minister made public, the names of the consultants, who allegedly conducted the exercise.

Dabiri-Erewa demanded a refund of the N1,000 collected from each of the candidates, in addition to paying compensation to the families of those who lost their lives.

“They knew that the jobs were not there in the first place; why collect money from people only to let them die?

“The Finance Minister (Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) claimed that this government provided 1.5million jobs.

“From the large number of Nigerian youths we saw on Saturday, where is the evidence that 1.5million jobs were created?”, she added.

It was a day of self-indictment by lawmakers, who said the National Assembly should share in the blame of the incident.

One member from Plateau State, Mr. Bitrus Kaze, drew the attention of the House to comments in the public domain, suggesting that some National Assembly members were given slots to fill before the day of the test.

“This has to be investigated because I can speak for myself.

“I was neither aware of such slots nor did I benefit. It is a shame that we should be involved in this kind of mess,” Kase told the House.

A member from Lagos State, Ms. Jumoke Okoya-Thomas, also observed that the National Assembly should have stopped the exercise from taking place if it had prior information that proper arrangements were not made for the candidates.

“I blame the National Assembly because it is a shame to sit here and allow our children to die that way,” she rounded off in an emotion-laden voice.

Another lawmaker from Kano State, Mr. Ali Madaki, warned that Nigeria was already failing as a state, but nobody seemed to care.

According to him, all the indices of a failed state are here, with the killings going on all over the country without solutions.

Madaki spoke further, “Nigeria is a classical example of a failed state.

“A state where people are killed daily as if their is no value for human lives.

“We are the only country in the world producing large quantities of crude oil but cannot refine it to meet our domestic consumption.

“It is a shame, a big shame, Mr. Speaker.”

He had proposed that the House should recommend the sacking of Moro and the CG to President Goodluck Jonathan, but he was overruled by the Speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal.

Tambuwal explained that it would be “hasty” to make such a recommendation since the matter was still under investigation.

“Let the principle of fair hearing be applied in this case.

“Let us not be judgmental yet since we have asked our committee to investigate the incident,” the speaker added.

The lawmakers later observed a one-minute silence in honour of the dead youths.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has mandated its committees to conduct a public hearing to determine the causes of death of some Nigerians on Saturday at recruitment centres of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).

The committees are also to invite all relevant stakeholders to find out the remote and immediate causes of the stampede that took place at the centres and suggest the way forward.

The committees are those of Interior, Labour and Productivity, Public Service Matters and Justice.

The House on Tuesday in Abuja also commiserated with the families of applicants who lost their lives and also resolved that the relatives of victims be identified and offered automatic employment.

It further resolved that all mass recruitment exercises into Federal Government agencies must be done through the internet and in more conducive environment than that of Saturday.

These resolutions followed a motion by Rep. Karimi Sunday (PDP- Kogi) which was adopted when put to vote by the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal.

The motion is entitled:” Tragedy at 2014 Immigration Recruitment Exercise in Nigeria as one million Nigerian Youths scramble for 4,500 job placements.”

Sunday, while moving the motion, said that on March 15, many Nigerian youths trooped into all the nation’s state capitals and major cities to participate in the 2014 NIS recruitment exercise.

According to him, about 70,000 youths showed up in Lagos for the test, 20,000 at Liberty Stadium, Ibadan and the 60,000 capacity National Stadium, Abuja was overcrowded with 70, 000 applicants.

“This was the same trend in other state capitals on the said date,” he said.

He said that the “poor” organisation of the exercise resulted in chaos and stampede in all the centres where several persons were reported dead and many injured.

He, therefore, urged the House to condemn the handling of the March 15 NIS recruitment test and the relevant committees of the House should investigate the matter.

In their various contributions to the motion, lawmakers agreed that the NIS incident needed to be investigated.

Rep. Nkoyo Toyo (PDP- Cross- Rivers) said that the Saturday’s incident pointed to a structural problem that could be attributed to the large population of the country.

“I am in support of the call to investigate the matter,” she said.

Reps. Chris Etta (PDP- Cross- Rivers), Razak Bello- Osagie(APC- Edo) described the recruitment tragedy as a show of “shame” and “national disaster” which they said had affected Nigeria’s prestige.

Rep. Abike Dabiri- Erewa(APC- Lagos) said that those saddled with the responsibility of conducting the recruitment must take ” full” responsibility for it.

In his contribution, Rep. Bitrus Kaze (PDP-Plateau) said that the NIS incident showed that the exercise was not properly planned.

He said that the reports in some media that immigration slots were given to members of the National Assembly were false and agreed that the Saturday incident should be investigated.

 

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