Nigeria’s interior minister, Abba Moro, has denied responsibility for the deaths of more than a dozen job applicants at Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment centres across the country Saturday.
Mr. Moro said the job seekers were to blame for the stampede that killed over 13 applicants.
Angry Nigerians have called for the minister’s resignation, alongside the comptroller of Immigration Service, after seven applicants died in stampedes in Abuja, while at least four died in Port Harcourt and two slumped and died in Minna, Niger State.
Unconfirmed reports say the total figure of casualties is higher.
Hundreds of thousands of applicants arrived at test centres in all the 36 states and Abuja, leading to stampedes.
In the Federal Capital Territory alone, more than 60,000 candidates filled the national stadium venue of the recruitment exams, and were allowed access to the venue through only a single doorway.
Speaking in Jos, Plateau State, where he inspected the exercise, Mr. Moro said the applicants should blame their “impatience” for the stampede and the deaths.
He said applicants refused to follow instructions handed them by the recruiters.
“The applicants lost their lives due to impatience,” he told journalists. “They did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise; many of them jumped through the fences of affected centres and did not conduct themselves in an orderly manner to make the exercise a smooth one. This caused stampede and made the environment unsecured.”
Mr. Moro said about 520, 000 people registered for the recruitment exams, and that only 4,556 will be recruited at the end of the exercise based on the available vacancies.
During registration for the job tests, the Immigration authorities received N1, 000 from all the applicants, in defiance of several directives from Nigeria’s House of Representatives that government agencies refrain from charging job applicants.
The lawmakers have issued repeated resolutions to that effect, but all have been disregarded by the agencies, and other government establishments, including the military.
At 1,000 per candidate, the Immigration Service would have pocketed at least N520 million based on the total figure of applicants provided by the Interior minister, Mr. Moro.
The NIS had declared vacancies for about 5,000 personnel across the country and engaged the services of an ICT firm, Drexel, to create an online registration platform through which money was extorted from applicants.
Drexel, however, came up with a complex registration process which required the applicants to download forms at cyber café, fill a part of it to generate a slip referred to as “Pay4me.”
It was the “Pay4me” print out that qualified applicants to pay the sum of N1, 000 to dedicated NIS accounts in designated banks all over the country.
The commercial banks that were involved in the transaction included the United Bank for Africa, UBA, Fidelity Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc and Ecobank Transnational Plc.
On the payment of N1, 000, a teller was issued with data including candidates’ validation number, transaction number, application number and application type, among others.
The teller was again taken to cyber cafés where candidates used some of the information on it to complete the registration process and get acknowledgement slips.
However, several thousands of jobless Nigerians paid to grab the about 5,000 job opportunities advertised by the NIS.
But the examination which took place on Saturday turned bloody in several places including Abuja, Port Harcourt, Rivers State and Minna in Niger State.
Applicants said the chaotic arrangements for the test on Saturday was merely to justify the monies paid to the service by the applicants.
“They did not make any plans for the applicants. Even during the test, we had to fight and hustle for the question papers. A lot of the papers were torn,” said one applicant who requested not to be named.
“We paid N1, 000 during the application process and I can tell you now that it’s a total fraud,” he added.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has called for immediate investigation into the deaths.
Olisa Metuh, who is the national publicity secretary of the PDP, called on the Ministry of Interior and relevant government agencies, to immediately begin an investigation to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the stampede.
Mr. Metuh said the party was “shocked and deeply saddened” by the deaths of job seekers.