Why should the blame go to another initially?

Doosuur  Iwambe

It is on record that on Saturday, March 15, 2014; about 520,000 job-seekers attended the recruitment exercise organized by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior in different centers across Nigeria to fill just 4,556 vacancies. It will also remain on record that the NIS imposed application fees of N1, 000 through an agency and over 520,000 young Nigerians paid and applied for the 4,556 slots available across the entire nation. It is also a fact that will also remain on record that about 20 young people (including Pregnant women) lost their lives while over 70 other young people were in critical conditions resulting from a stampede caused by lack of proper planning, excessive crowd, negligence to citizens welfare and a forceful attempt by security agents to disperse the young people with tear gas.

The ministry and the NIS had compelled each job-seeker, as an eligibility condition for participating to pay N1, 000. There is no evidence that these sums were accounted for as required by law. In most places, the examinations took place in stadia, suggesting that the organizers anticipated large turn outs. Inexplicably, they failed to make adequate or any arrangements for crowd management and control. This tragedy was needless, foreseeable, and avoidable. The deaths that resulted from these failures could have been avoided with proper planning. If the lives of Nigerians mean anything, the leadership and management teams in the Ministry of the Interior must be held to account for these deaths. Initially, in his reaction to the deaths, Moro accused the victims of ‘impatience,’ claiming that the deaths resulted because ‘they did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise.’ Turning out to accept blame now seems like an oversight or maybe, people advised him to do so. You will recall that Moro on Thursday claimed responsibility of the tragic deaths. According to the Minister said he was still pained and saddened by the circumstances surrounding the loss of lives in the recruitment exercise during the public hearing organized by the Senate Committee on Interior.

That promising young people will pay the supreme price in their innocent pursuit of jobs is a sad interpretation on our country. There is no question of searching for a scapegoat in this terrible misadventure. The state is guilty. This is a manifestation of system failures which accumulated over time, giving birth to this gross sight all over the country. There is no reason why Nigerians will be subjected to such an ugly sight and experience for the simple reason of employment test. What we witnessed in various test centers that day was a strong warning for operators of our systems and all of us. In other countries, those who are unemployed are given some support by way of loans etc. It breaks my heart that Nigeria is a country where applicants are asked to pay when they are applying for jobs. When Nigeria was still a country that one could be proud of, there were labour offices in all the states, where people who were unemployed would register. And from the pool of this people, government could create a shortlist of those who were qualified for the kind of jobs they were requesting for. What is the big deal in conducting interviews for people that you have to bring the whole of Nigeria to stadiums all over the country? Why were these huge number of applicants invited for only 5,000 jobs or less? Why was such a shoddy arrangement made for the test when so many people were invited? Could the test not have been done in batches to avoid a stampede? How much indeed was realized from this glaring extortion of job seekers? What happened to the money?  These are some of the questions begging for answers.

It is needless to talk about those that are daily killed by the Boko Haram sect in the North East because it is gradually becoming part of the system. For how long are we going to continue to watch the lives of the youths of this country wasted? A policy like the federal character has overstayed its welcome and need to be abolished urgently. Let the opportunities be left for those who can compete. Federal Character Policy is as despicable as zoning, which has turned to a major lubricant for transactional politics in Nigeria. We must rid ourselves, first at the individual level and later at the leadership level of corruption. I do not agree that we are all helpless before this deadly virus that has eaten so deep into all facets of our national life. This finger pointing must stop. We need to return to the spirit of hard work, positive competition and fairness that Nigeria is known for. We must retool our education curriculum towards self-reliance and entrepreneurship that are more sustainable in the long term than the white collar jobs we now crave for. Beyond the agony that it has inflicted on us, the recent immigration recruitment tragedy should teach us important lessons that will make us to rise up and do something about the culture of corruption before it destroys our nation completely.

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