CHIEF MIKE A.A. OZEKHOME, SAN,
LL.d, D.Litt, DA, HonDL, Ph.D (HC), LL.M, LL.B (HONS),
BL, KSM, F.AES, FNIM, F.ICA., F.chMC, FNIER, LFIBA
Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist
Nigeria has once again witnessed a shameful national calamity of monumental proportion, a horrendous tragedy brought about by the greed, avarice, callousness, and ‘I do-not-give-a-hoot’ attitude of highly placed Nigerian Government officials. On Saturday, 15th of March, 2014, a day that will forever be etched and cast in stone in the minds of Nigerians, especially the families of the deceased victims, 21 jobless Nigerian youths including three pregnant women met their untimely and most horrific death at various stadia across the country, while participating in an aptitude test for recruitment into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS). The test put together by the Ministry of Interior with Abba Moro at its helm of affairs, was a precursor for employment to fill some paltry 4,500 vacancies at the NIS, while the organisers mindlessly collected N1000 each from 693, 000 applicants.
Hungry, jobless, harpless, but qualified youths across the nation, trooped out in their hundreds of thousands at a perceived opportunity to be gainfully employed. Alas, the exercise turned out to be a palpable display of “man’s inhumanity to man”
THE CRISIS OF UNEMPLOYMENT IN NIGERIA: POSSIBLE FALL-OUT
Upon my release by my kidnappers on the 12th of September, 2013, one of my seven-point demands on the Nigerian Federal Government was the “declaration of a state of emergency on youths unemployment”. I was, and still am, concerned that Nigeria walks the ropes of a dangerous precipice if the monster of unemployment is not killed immediately.
According to the National Burea of Statistics, 54% of Nigerian Youthss are unemployed, while a total of 23.9% of all Nigerians, about 40 Million Nigerians, remains in the unemployment market as at December, 2011. The report also said that 60% of Nigerian graduates are also unemployed.
From the desperation observed in the hungry, dejected, angry and anxious 693, 000 Nigerian youths pursuing a miserly 4,500 jobs, as they no longer believe in meritocracy, but “God Fatherism”, the above statistics appear obviously fundamentally flawed. Nigeria may therefore self-destruct and self immolate through a violent French Revolution or “Arab Spring” type of unrest, uprising or insurrection, unless something drastic is done. It will undoubtedly be a ‘War” between the “halves” and “halves-not”, between the wealthy elites and the holoi-poloi.
How can peasant parents who struggle to educate their children in expectation of upliftment from the doldrums and jaws of poverty bury the same children whose only “crime” was travelling to designated centres to seek for jobs? This is most outrageous, disheartening and unacceptable.
THE FIGURES OF FATALITY
As early as 5:00Am, the stadia in Abuja, Lagos, Benin, Niger, Markudi and Portharcourt, were already overflowing with jobless, but hopeful Nigerian youths, to write an aptitude test scheduled to hold at 10:00am! The 60, 000 capacity Abuja stadium had over 70, 000 job seekers. To qualify to write the exam, each applicant was coerced with extortionist exhibitionism to remitt the sum of N1, 000 to the Ministry. In all, there were about 770, 000 applicants. Consequently, the Ministry of Interior and NIS smiled to the bank with a handsome, princely N770 million naira, while many of our exploited and victimized youths met their untimely death. How do you extort money from poor job seekers?
Most painful is that amongst the dead were three pregnant women bringing the total innocent youths whose lives were prematurely snuffed off by the Federal Government to 22 Nigerian youths.
In Minna, three applicants out of the 11, 000 candidates at the Women Day Secondary School died, when security agents clearly lacking any skills in crowd control, fired tear-gas at the already exhausted applicants.
In Abuja, seven applicants were confirmed dead in circumstances not unrelated to sheer over-crowding when security operatives belatedly attempted to drive a Hilux vehicle into the Abuja stadium.
THE MOTIVE BEHIND THE INTERVIEW
The main motive behind this shameless display of sheer incompetence, greed and avarice, was the humongous money to be made from the entire exercise. This is made manifest from the following message from Drexel Nig Ltd (the company to which this obvious scam was outsourced), to each job – seeking applicant: “present this payment slip along with the cash amount displayed above to the cashier at any of the supported banks listed on the portal to make payment. Once your payment is completed at the bank, ensure you collect your validation number before leaving the banking hall. YOUR VALIDATION NUMBER IS YOUR ONLY PROOF OF PAYMENT” (their emphasis, not mine)
THE BRUTALITY AND NEGLIGENCE EXPOSED
To place in proper perspective the chilling callousness and inexcusable negligence of Minister of Interior, Abba Moro and his fellow co- traveler, Mr david Parradang, using the Abuja stadium disaster as a classical case study, it must be stated that whenever there are international soccer games involving Nigeria in the stadium whose capacity is 60, 000, hundreds of military and Police Personnel, members of the Civil Defense Corps, Boys Scouts and other supporting security agents are put in place for orderliness and crowd control. The Red Cross and other medical emergency agencies are also put on stand -by for emergency health mishaps. All the gates of the stadium are then left open for easy and unhindered ingress and egress. However, curiously, on the fateful day, all the above listed personnel and measures were absent and only one gate was opened for use! Hungry, but educated Nigerian youths were led into bloodbath waiting to happen and it did happen.
A juxtaposition of all the above negative steps underlined a recipe for disaster. It was a potential time bomb waiting to explode and it did explode, a time bomb, not set by Boko Haram, but created and set in motion by the negligence and callousness of Abba Moro and Mr David Parrandang, the Comptroller-General of Immigration.
The no peccadillo conduct of Abba Moro is further amplified by the fact that these applicants who arrived at the aptitude test venue as early as 5:00Am, did not get tested until about 5:00Pm, 12 hours later. Consequently, the applicants were exposed to the brutal and debilitating harshness of the afternoon scourging and baking sun, without any respite. With the constant pushing, pulling and shoving, garnished with extreme hunger of most of the applicants who had neither breakfast nor lunch, the stage was set for a replication of the Hobbesian state of nature.
Clearly, no provision was made for an organized testing for examination method or a conducive environment for the test. There were no tables to write on. Many were kept standing. It was simply a money – spinning “Kalokalo” venture by the Abba Moro-led ministry, and the Immigration approratchit, motivated by sheer greed, fueled by total incompetence and with little or no value attached to the lives our youths.
SET UP A COMMISSION OF INQUIRY
To make matters worse, and add salt unto injury, rather than show remorse for the avoidable loss of lives, Abba Moro, with impunity, and recklessness, blamed deceased Nigerians for “impatience”. Clearly, we have a Minister who is ignorant of the fact that he is a servant of the people; a minister, who would not display human feelings, sympathy and empathy when it mattered most. Abba Moro is not, with all respect, fit to be a minister. Abba Moro and Parradanag must go! If they do not resign voluntarily as done by Mr Mark Harper, the British Immigration Minister who resigned on February 7, 2014, for erroneously (but illegally) harbouring a house help whose immigration papers had expired without his knowledge, then Mr President should fire both of them immediately. This would enable a Commission of Enquiry to thoroughly examine, investigate, take public evidence on this National tragedy and make recommendations for this incident and to guide against future ones.
The Nigerian Immigration Service and its directors, till date have refused to take any responsibility for their gross negligence, or acknowledge their short-comings in the entire exercise. Rather, the non-apologetic and remorseless Moro and Mr David Parrandang have continued to subtly lay the blame at the cold grave side of the hapless dead. Indeed, with deliberate insult to the collective intelligence and sensibilities of all Nigerians, the NIS arrogantly claimed that the exercise was successfully conducted in 31 States of the Federation. How insensitive! What a gratuitous insult!
REFUND THE APPLICATION FEES AND CONDUCT POSTMORTEM EXAMINATION ON THE DECEASED.
I hereby call on the Federal Government to order that the application fees collected be refunded to all the applicants, order a thorough post-mortem examination to be carried out on the corpses of the deceased, whilst the living but injured be adequately cared for medically and compensated.