The Board of Immigration and the Comptroller General yesterday laid the blame for the deadly recruitment fiasco on the doorsteps of the Interior Minister Abba Moro.
The Immigration jobs test on March 15 caused stampedes at various centres around the country, leading to the death of 16 applicants, with many others sustaining injuries.
Speaking before the Senate Interior Committee in Abuja yesterday, the Nigerian Immigration Service boss Mr. David Parradang
said he and the other board members were sidelined by the minister in conducting the exercise.
Parradang said he was aware of the decision to conduct recruitment but only read the vacancy advertisement in the newspapers.
“For all my years in the service nobody has ever taken away our powers to recruit officers from level 1-6. This is the first time it happened,” he said.
“On the 9th of September, 2013 the 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 in the service, but they all answered in the negative.”
Parradang said he thereafter wrote a letter to the then secretary on the matter, saying to him “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 till way back in October when he had been removed from the ministry.”
Parradang said he only knew about 15 March as the date set for the recruitment exercise nationwide during the 2014 budget defence before the Senate Interior Committee on February 20, when the minister mentioned it.
“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, you follow the last order,” he said.
“Subsequently, everybody that asked me when is Immigration recruitment, before then I used to tell them that I don’t know but subsequently anybody that asks me I will reply that the Honourable Minister has declared categorically that we will recruit on the 15th of March, and that is what we are going to stick to.”
Earlier in the day, two permanent commissioners on the board, who were first to testify before at the investigative hearing, exonerated themselves saying the minister sidelined them in the process that led to the recruitment exercise.
“As a board member I am not aware of the recruitment until after the agreement was signed which was between the Interior Ministry and the consultants, the minister signed for the ministry and not the board,” said Dr. Mustapha Zakari, who has been on the board since 2008 and who spoke for himself and his other colleague.
He said also alleged that a letter which purportedly conveyed the board’s approval of the recruitment carrying the signature of its former director and secretary was forged.
“The former secretary to the board Dr. Attahiru told me that someone else signed the letter for him. That the signature is not his own and said that according to the Immigration Act, the service is supposed to handle the recruitment of junior cadres of the service while the board is vested with the powers of recruiting senior officers,” he said.
Also yesterday, the company that provided the online portal for the Immigration recruitment electronic application, Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited, exonerated themselves from blame over the tragic exercise.
The company’s secretary and legal adviser, Maiyaki Theodore Bala, said the terms of agreement between them and the Interior Ministry were only limited to the provision of the electronic portal for applicants. He said also that they only charged N750 per applicant, while N250 was bank charges.
“The responsibilities of providing an electronic platform for the management of data for all applicants cast on our company was dutifully consummated and discharged. It would be seen that it was not part of our responsibility and we did not partake in any way in the conduct of the ill-fated examination of 15th of March, 2015,” Bala said.
He said it was out of patriotism that they later issued a cheque of N45 million to the board as their contribution to the conduct of the recruitment exercise as they were not mandated by the terms of the agreement to do so.
But in his response, the Interior Minister denied sidelining the board and the Comptroller General, saying Parradang and all board members were present when the recruitment decision was taken.
Moro said he had the authority to implement the decisions of the board because “the board is not different from the minister. It is wrong for anybody to say that they were not carried along.”
He said the exercise was conducted with good intention, bearing in mind allegations of racketeering and corruption in previous exercises.
“We never knew that while we were planning, the devil had his own plans,” Moro said.
Explaining the process that led to the tragic exercise, the minister said, “On the 30th of January, when the first meeting was held, between the board of the NIS and the company, far-reaching decisions were taken. Committee resolved that stadia and educational institutions offered better facilities considering the huge number of candidates involved.
“The meeting agreed that the Comptroller General of Immigration should liaise with state governments to source such venues while they made arrangements to provide adequate security at the venues and stadia with the assistance of other sister organisations.”
Moro said also the board mandated that, “in line with the provisions of item 2.16 of the e-recruitment agreement between the interior ministry and Drexel Technology Limited, that a steering committee would conduct the selection and examination of candidates. The meeting adopted the members present at that meeting as the steering committee of the recruitment exercise.”
He listed those who attended the said meeting to in include Mr. S.D. Tapgun (Director, Secretary), D. S. Parradang (DG,
NIS), Mrs. Ajibade Gbemisola (Legal Adviser), Shehu Dogo Mohammed (Deputy Director, member), Olkamera A. I. (Assistant Director, member), Bello Turakawa (member), Awe B. I. Agboluga (member), Oyedeji. T. V (Comptroller, Immigration Service, member), Tanko Ayuba (representing Drexel), William (representing Drexel), Abioye Bankole (representing Drexel) and Kabiru Idris and Nasir Yusuf (ICT).
He also revealed that the Federal Character Commission approved that N1000 be charged as recruitment application fee based on a guideline it issued in 2011.
Declaring open the hearing yesterday, Senate President David Mark said there would be no sacred cows or cover-up in the investigation.
Mark, who was represented by Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba, described the deaths of the applicants as an “unfortunate and embarrassing incident.”
“Because we want to get to the root of the matter, we won’t prejudge what happened. I want to urge the committee to approach the investigation with an open mind to unravel what happened and those who should take responsibility should take responsibility so that we can get to the root of the matter,” he said.