The day of reckoning is here. After walking free for about two years, former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, and four others are now set to face trial for their roles in the shoddy March 15, 2014 immigration recruitment exercise that killed no fewer than 20 job seekers across the country.
After investigating the matter for five months, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has now slammed an 11- count charge bordering on obtaining by false pretence, procurement fraud and money laundering on Mr Moro; permanent secretary of the ministry at the time, Anastasia Daniel-Nwobia; a deputy director in the ministry, F. O Alayebami; one Mahmood Ahmadu(at large), and the contracting firm given the recruitment job, Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd.
The defendants are accused of defrauding 676, 675,000 (Six Hundred and Seventy Six Thousand, Six Hundred and Seventy Five) Nigerian applicants of N676,675,000 (Six Hundred and Seventy Six Million, Six Hundred and Seventy Five Thousand Naira).
The applicants paid N1000 each through an e-payment platform for their online recruitment exercise into the Nigerian Immigration Service.
The accused are also alleged to have contravened the Public Procurement Act, No. 65 of 2007 in the contract awards by not following the necessary procedure laid down by the government.
The award of the contract to Drexel Tech Nig Ltd, the EFCC said. had no prior advertisement, no needs assessment and a procurement plan was not carried out before the contract was awarded.
The contract was awarded through selective tendering procedure by invitation of 4 (Four) firms without seeking the approval of the Bureau for Public Procurement, contrary to sections 40, 42 and 43 of the Public Procurement Act, No. 65 of 2007 and punishable under section 58 of the same act, the anti-graft agency said.
Drexel Tech Global Nigeria Limited, the company that provided the online enlistment and recruitment services is said to be unregistered and had no legal capacity to enter into the said contract.
There is also said to be no budgetary provision for the exercise in the 2014 Federal Capital budget hence the applicants were made to bear the responsibility of funding the project without approval of the Board contrary to section 22(5) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000, the charge said.
The document alleged that “One of the accused Mahmood Ahmadu(who is at large) in connivance with Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd, lavished the total of N423,800,000.00(Four Hundred and Twenty Three Million, Eight Hundred Thousand naira) part of the N676,675,000 (Six Hundred and Seventy Six Million, Six Hundred and Seventy Five Thousand Naira) gotten from the applicants on the following: the sum N202, 500, 000( Two Hundred and Two Million Five Hundred Thousand naira ) in purchase of a property in a choice area of the Federal Capital territory, N120, 100,000 (One Hundred and twenty Million One hundred Thousand Naira ) used in upgrading a property in Abuja, while the total of N101, 200, 000( One Hundred and One Million Two Hundred thousand Naira) was converted to United states dollars for personal use.”
The case, filed at a Federal High Court in Abuja, is yet to be assigned as at the close of work on Tuesday.
Those familiar with the matter said Mr. Moro and the other accused persons might be arraigned before the end of the week.
A source at the commission, who cannot be named because she is not authorised to speak on the matter, had told PREMIUM TIMES on Monday that the suspects were picked up on Monday evening preparatory to their being charged.
At least nine job seekers died at the Abuja National Stadium while scrambling to secure seats for the controversial recruitment test.
The stampede ensued after the over 200,000 job seekers scrambled through a poorly organized barricade at the stadium.
In Port Harcourt, Rivers State, four applicants died from the stampede while 12 others sustained injuries and were rushed to Rivers government-owned Braithwaite Memorial Hospital.
After the 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.
They were accused of putting in place a sham recruitment process that enabled the interior ministry to extort applicants.
The minister, who initially blamed impatience and refusal by applicants to abide by instructions for the tragedy, later accepted responsibility for the incident.
He, however, refused to step down.
Speaking on a Channels TV’s breakfast programme, Sunrise, on October 20, 2014, 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.
“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.”
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