A protest letter from the Immigration boss, Mr. Parradang, sheds light into a process many Nigerians believe was hijacked and terribly mismanaged by the interior ministry.
Nigeria’s interior minister, Abba Moro, backed by the supervisory board for Immigration, Civil Defence, Prisons and Fire Service, marshalled a surprisingly secret plot to hire new staff into the Immigration Service, deliberately sidelining immigration authorities from a recruitment process that turned deadly and ended in fatality last Saturday, PREMIUM TIMES can report today.
About 18 job seekers died and several more were wounded on Saturday in stampedes across Nigerian cities as hundreds of thousands of applicants overran recruitment centres as they struggled to access locked venues.
The more than 520,000 applicants were made to pay N1, 000 each for their registration.
Outraged Nigerians have called for the minister’s sack, as well as the removal of the Comptroller-General of Immigration, David Parradang.
The Nigerian government said the exercise has been cancelled and that a committee will oversee another test.
President Goodluck Jonathan promised investigation in a brief mention of the tragedy on Monday.
But government sources at the Federal Executive Council meeting Wednesday say the president merely warned ministers and heads of government agencies against such recruitment drives, and did not appear willing to sack officials culpable in the bloody recruitment.
But PREMIUM TIMES has now established a troubling power play at the highest level of decision-making on the recruitment, involving Mr. Parradang on the one hand, and the minister, Mr. Moro, and members of the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Services board on the other.
Officials interviewed and documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, provide a narrative of how the interior ministry single-handedly pressed on with earlier preparations for the recruitment last year without the knowledge of Mr. Parradang, and how the Immigration comptroller-general protested the move, urging the board to suspend the exercise.
In a letter to R. Attahiru, the then secretary of the supervisory board, Mr. Parradang spoke of how embarrassed and surprised he was to learn, from a newspaper, of plans to hire new hands for an organization he heads.
“The said publication or advertisement for the appointment of persons into the Nigeria Immigration Service without consultation or any input whatsoever from us is to say the least, surprising and embarrassing to me,” he wrote in the letter dated September 9, 2013.
The newspaper publication Mr. Parradang referred to was a Daily Trust, September 9, 2013 advertisement announcing the ministry’s plan to fill vacancies in the immigration department.
The announcement, asking young Nigerians to apply for the positions, was signed by Mr. Attahiru, as secretary and director of the board.
The announcement was made by the interior ministry, headed by Mr. Moro.
Officials, who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES, said Mr. Attahiru’s name was only appended to the publication to give the process credibility as he too was not duly informed. The sources said Mr. Attahiru protested and later left that position.
PREMIUM TIMES could not confirm that claim. But what appears supportive of that explanation is a follow-up publication by the same ministry, early October, 2013 announcing the extension of the closing date for the job applications.
That new publication was signed by S. D. Tapgun, and no longer Mr. Attahiru.
But the letter from the Immigration boss, Mr. Parradang, sheds light into a process many Nigerians believe was hijacked and terribly mismanaged by a ministry perhaps driven by a desire for profit-making and possible self-enrichment by its officials.
Mr. Parradang said while federal law empowers the board, headed by the minister, to carry out recruitments, it also delegates that power to the Immigration Service, particularly for the enlistment of junior cadre workers.
“I therefore request to know if the powers delegated to the Service to conduct recruitment of junior cadre personnel into the service has been withdrawn,” Mr. Parradang wrote in his two-page complaint.
Under Section 4 of the Immigration and Prisons Services Board Act, 2004, the board is empowered to conduct recruitments and promotion of staff of the Immigration Service. Still, Section 6 of the law says the board “may, subject to such conditions as it may think fit, delegate any of its powers to the affected services”. Such delegation should not affect staff on grade level 8 and above, the law states.
Regardless of that discretionary tone of the law, Mr. Parradang said the practice for years had been for Immigration to conduct the recruitment of the lower cadre, called category “B”.
“I feel NIS(Nigeria Immigration Service) should be taken along in this issue regarding staff recruitment into category “B” in particular, which is usually conducted and supervised by the service,” he said.
It is not clear what transpired after the protest, and what role Mr. Parradang w eventually played months after in the ill-fated exercise of last Saturday.
A spokesperson for the Immigration Service, Chukwuemeka Obuah, refused to comment for this story despite scheduling an appointment with this paper in his office. He did not honour the appointment and has failed to answer or return calls ever since.
The spokesperson for the minister, Mr. Moro, denied the head of Immigration was sidelined in the ill-fated recruitment.
“That is not possible,” said Ubong George. “There is no way the minister would sit down and take any decision on his own.”
Mr. George said any decision affecting the member services of the board is always discussed at a meeting and that all stakeholders are usually carried along.
“The minister maintains a very good relationship with the heads of all the services and there is always a meeting.”
Reminded that Mr. Parradang may have only been carried along- if he was indeed- possibly after his protest last year, Mr George said he could not recall any protest letter from the comptroller-general.
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