Some of the job seekers who took part in the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, recruitment test held nationwide on Saturday, have narrated how they survived the stampedes which claimed many lives and left many of them injured during the exercise. Sixteen applicants were confirmed by the Minister of Interior, Abba Morro, to have died at various venues of the nationwide recruitment exercise as a result of stampedes. These include the applicants that participated in the exercise in Abuja (7), Rivers (5), Niger (2) Edo (1) and Jigawa (1). The victims included a pregnant woman who went to sit for the exam at the Abuja centre, Nigeria’s capital.
The News Agency of Nigeria , NAN, reported that aside those that lost their lives, many applicants sustained injuries during the exercise. While some have received treatment and have been discharged, some were still being treated at the various hospitals across the country.
Many of the job seekers have described the treatment they received during the exercise as inhuman and tragic.
One of the applicants who identified herself as Mrs. Valentine described the exercise as hectic and cumbersome.
“As early as 6.30 a.m. on that Saturday, over 20,000 applicants were already gathered at the Sani Abacha Stadium (in Kano) for the aptitude test. When I eventually gained entrance into the stadium, the queue was already long. There were a lot of things going on. People were greasing palms (giving bribes) so as to be attended to. There was no adequate security arrangement as the long queues were not orderly.
“At about 9.30 a.m., there was stampede as the crowd outside the stadium struggled to come inside. There were about five queues leading to the stadium. I saw people falling on people, many were panting, while many laid flat on the ground. Applicants lost personal properties including bags, phones and foot-wears. Many people also fainted but I cannot say of any death. The aptitude test started around 3.30 p.m. and it was by the grace of God that I was able to participate,” she narrated.
Mrs. Valentine who has a higher National Diploma in Accounting also expressed concern over what she described as preferential treatment given to degree holders. In fact, apart from the stampede that almost took my life, I was annoyed when they separated HND holders from degree holders during the test. That was the height of discrimination and I was forced to ask myself where we are heading to as a country. If the government does not want to recognize HND holders, they should scrap the polytechnics because it is inhuman for one to spend over five years studying only to be insulted at the labour market.
“I understand private organizations give preferential treatment to degree holders but why should it happen in public establishments? This is not encouraging and I believe something must be done about it,” Mrs. Valentine stated. One of the applicants at the Lagos venue of the exercise, who simply identified his name as Lekan , also told P.M.NEWS about the inhuman treatment they were made to pass through during the recruitment exercise that took place at the National Stadium in Surulere.
Lekan said that before 7a.m. many of the job seekers had arrived at the premises but did not have access to the main stadium. The applicants had arrived very early in the morning but had to wait till 9.30a.m. before the Immigration officers in charge of the exercise started arriving to conduct the test.
“There was no seating arrangement for us; we had to wait for them standing in groups. Entrance into the stadium was later open around noon, when people were asked to march into the stadium. When the officers came, we were first asked to queue up and raise our hands up as we filed into the main stadium, where the exercise was scheduled to hold. Even before the exercise began fully, two applicants fainted as a result of the stress they went through to gain entrance into the centre.
“It became messy when we were instructed to go and sit down but the gates leading into to where we can seat were locked. Applicants had to climb the gates to get a place to sit. Some of the ladies who could not jump were assisted by their male co-job seekers. Those who were able to struggle for question papers sat on the field in the scorching sun to write the exam, which was the first stage of the recruitment exercise.
“While this was going on, many applicants were still outside trying to gain entrance to the stadium. It became so rowdy and noisy. Some of the applicants did not get their question papers while some did not know where to submit their answer sheets. It got to a point that teargas and guns were shot into the air to calm the situation, but many applicants were not dissuaded as they struggled to get question papers. They later apoligised but many were injured. But I am happy that no lives were lost like in some centres across the country. It was a bad experience,” Lekan narrated.
Another applicant, Mrs. Mary Ogida, while narrating her experience, said that the trauma was so much that she would prefer to hawk sachet water in order to earn a living instead of undergoing such recruitment exercise again. Meanwhile, during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, the minister has explained that the tragedy that occurred during the nationwide recruitment exercise was caused by unruly applicants, reiterating that many jobseekers showed up for the test without applying.
Reacting to the tragic incident, many stakeholders have called for investigation into the stampede that claimed the lives of the applicants, describing the tragedy as sorrowful and regrettable. The House of Representatives called on responsible agencies to seek for the immediate and remote cause of the tragic stampede. Speaker of the House, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, described the death of the applicants as sorrowful and regrettable.
Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), while reacting to the incident called for the sack of the Interior minister. According to him, “In his highly insensitive reaction to the tragic incident the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro claimed that ‘the applicants lost their lives due to impatience, they did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise….’
“The reckless statement is designed to cover up the criminality involved in the job scam. Contrary to the resolution of the House of Representatives that the Ministry of Interior should not collect any application fee from applicants, Mr. Abba Moro extorted the sum of N700 million from 700,000 job seekers to fill 4,556 vacancies. In order to maximize ‘profits’ from the misfortune of the applicants the Ministry of Interior refused to involve other agencies of the government including the police, state security service, federal road safety corps in the recruitment exercise. Hence, there were no ambulances to attend to those who might fall sick and security personnel to maintain law and order at the examination centres.
“In the light of our experience in the mismanagement of crowds in similar exercises in the past the Ministry of Interior ought to have made adequate arrangements to secure the lives of the Applicants. Having failed to discharge his constitutional duty in the circumstance Mr. Moro has turned round to blame those who lost their lives for the criminal negligence of the Federal Government. Since the Ministry of Interior is vicariously liable for the avoidable deaths of the applicants we call on the Federal Government to sack the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro. In addition, the bereaved families of the deceased should be compensated by the Federal Government. Henceforth, the Federal Government should ensure that the millions of unemployment youths are paid monthly maintenance allowance in line with the provision of Section 16(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They do not have to take up arms against the State before they are amnestied by the Federal Government.” The All Progressives Congress, in a statement in Lagos, described the incident as a direct consequence of unemployment problem plaguing the nation.