The Federal Government may not refund the N1,000 application fee that was paid by each of the 693,000 applicants that participated in the Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment on March 15.
The FG had on Wednesday cancelled the recruitment exercise, which claimed 18 applicants’ lives.
The Public Relations Officer of the NIS, Mr. Emeka Obua, told SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday that the service had not received any directive on the refund of the money.
He said such a directive would come from the Federal Government to the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro.
Also, the Ministry of Interior said no directive had been given to it from any quarters to refund the money to applicants.
The Special Assistant to the Minister on Media, Mr. George Ubong, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said no such directive had been received in the ministry.
“We have not received any directive to refund any money,” he stated.
Ubong also said the contracting firm, which handled the exercise, had been registered with the Ministry of Interior as a contractor long before the appointment of Moro as minister.
He stated, “The man has been a contractor with the ministry of interior before the advent of the minister. The minister doesn’t know him.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress and prominent lawyers have called on the Federal Government to refund the N1000 paid by each of the applicants.
The General-Secretary, NLC, Mr. Chris Uyot, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, described the conduct of the exercise as “criminal.”
He said, “We support that (refund of the application fees). Given the fact that the government has cancelled the exercise, the money should be refunded to the applicants.
“It is apparent that government needs to take unemployment seriously. It looked like all they were interested in was the applicants’ money without providing adequate facilities. The issue of employment must be seen as an emergency.”
In a separate interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, the President, TUC, Mr. Bobboi Kaigama, also asked for the refund of the money.
He said, “Since government has cancelled the exercise, it should refund the money to the applicants.”
Also, two prominent lawyers, Mr. Rotimi Jacob (SAN) and Mr. Festus Keyamo, insisted the refund.
The two Economic and Financial Crimes Commission lawyers questioned the propriety of collecting money from job seekers.
Jacobs said, “It would be unfair to retain their money and cancel the recruitment exercise. Is it not abnormal to ask young graduates to pay money before they can apply for jobs? They should not be collecting money from them in the first place.
“It is like the strong in the society victimising the weak – the rich are collecting money from the poor. That is very unfair. They should refund the money.”
Kayamo described the collection of the application fees as ‘advance fee fraud.’
He said, “It was tantamount to stealing from job seekers. They must return the money to them. What happened amounted to stealing, it is nothing but advance fee fraud.”
But Prof. Itse Sagay noted that it was not necessary to refund the fees.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, he said, “I don’t think that (refund of application fees) is an important aspect.
“If I were the President, I would recover the money from the immigration service and plough it back into youth employment and things that could better the lives of the youth, so that at the end of the day, the youth will not lose out.”
Similarly, the All Progressives Congress on Saturday said Moro and the consultants should account for the money collected from job seekers.
The Interim National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Lai Mohammed, said this in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH.
He explained that it was possible that neither the NIS nor its Comptroller-General, David Paradang, could account for the N1,000 collected from the job seekers because they did not collect the money.
Mohammed said “That is probably because the money is not with them. Only the minister and the consultant, we are informed, were responsible, and they both should be held responsible for the refund unless the money was paid into Immigration account.”
Also, the Executive Secretary, Anti-Corruption Network and former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dino Melaye, described the exercise as a complete fraud.
A legal practitioner, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, equally said the money should be returned with interest and “additional hazard allowance of N50,000.”
For the Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Dr. Abiola Akiode-Afolabi, “The cancellation without refund amounts to defrauding innocent citizens, it is condemnable.”
Another legal practitioner, Mr. Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, said, “It is sad that helpless and innocent Nigerians have to die, for the sake of seeking employment.” Punch