The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, on Monday explained why he is yet to leave office seven months after he masterminded a poorly organised recruitment exercise that killed no fewer than 20 applicants in stampedes at overcrowded venues across the country.
After the March 15 tragedy, several Nigerians demanded the resignation or dismissal of Mr. Moro and the Comptroller-General of Immigration, David Parradang, as well as their criminal prosecution for involuntary homicide.
The duo, with Mr. Moro more culpable, had put in place a sham recruitment process that enabled the interior ministry to extort at least N520 million in compulsory levy imposed on applicants.
The minister, who initially blamed impatience and refusal by applicants to abide by instructions for the tragedy, has since accepted responsibility for the incident.
He has however refused to step down.
But speaking on a Channels TV’s breakfast programme, Sunrise, on Monday, Mr. Moro made it clear he would not resign, saying he would rather stay put in office to clear the mess caused by the incidence.
“The point at which we are now is not about resignation. That time has gone,” Mr. Morro said in response to a question over why he refused to quit despite widespread calls by Nigerians on him to do so. “At the time (people were calling for his resignation), I think emotions were very high. I was in the eye of a storm.
“At that time, a lot of options were on the table… The issue is do you resign or do you stay to sort out the problem that have been created?
“I decided that staying and mopping up the mess caused by the lack of proper implementation of our plans is better. That’s the point we are now.”
The minister said Nigerians should consider the tragedy as an accident which he too did not plan for or envisage.
“I also have families. I didn’t set out on that journey knowing that accident would occur that would lead to the death of human beings.
“We took everything into proper perspective. If we had succeeded, a few Nigerians would have congratulated us for the job well done.
“But now that accident has happened, we will learn from what happened,” he said.
Mr. Moro also explained why his ministry was yet to implement a directive by President Goodluck Jonathan that three family members of each dead applicant be given automatic employments.
He said after President Jonathan made the announcement, the Federal Government also set up a committee over the recruitment tragedy, and that his ministry preferred to wait for the panel to present its report before acting.
“Finally, the report is ready, waiting for submission and implementation,” the minister said. “The next level is implementation. What I can say is that the people affected should exercise understanding and patience. Nobody will allow further mistakes.”
Only 4,556 vacancies were advertised by the immigration service, but 520,000 applicants registered to write the March 15 recruitment test. Each applicant was required to pay N1,000 processing fee to be eligible to participate.
A PREMIUM TIMES report estimated that the NIS made at least N520 million from this compulsory levy imposed on applicants.
The extortion of the job seekers was done in flagrant disregard of the directive by the House of Representatives that government agency should desist from charging applicants taking part in recruitment exercises.
However, in his reaction to the tragedy at the time, Mr. Moro attributed the deaths to the applicants’ “impatience.”
“The applicants lost their lives due to impatience; they did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise,” Mr. Moro had said.
“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,” Mr. Moro had added.
Mr. Moro’s comment sparked anger across Nigeria, with many citizens taking to social media to call for his immediate sack.
The Federal Government and the National Assembly constituted separate committees to probe the tragedy at the time. But the reports of the panels are yet to be made public.