• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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How job seekers are duped to death

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The curtain is yet to be drawn on the issues surrounding the recent recruitment exercise organised by the Ministry of Interior for the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) which ended in disaster.

The fatal recruitment exercise for which the unfortunate applicants paid N1, 000 for application form, outside of exam kits they were forced to buy, was the second time the Service had done this in five years.

In 2008, about 17 persons died of exhaustion and several others hospitalised during the recruitment exercise of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS).

A candidate, who participated in the exercise at the time, said that inadequate safety precaution and the non-provision of ambulances and other first aid facilities aggravated the situation.

“The candidates died of exhaustion after a long distance race that covered about 3.5km. The casualties were due to the carelessness of the immigration officials. After the strenuous physical exercise, they drove us to a hot exam hall, which made people to start collapsing. The medical aspect of it was very poor,” he said.

BDSUNDAY investigations show that the practice has become so infectious that even the military, which in the past begged young Nigerians to put their “lives and limbs at risk in the service of the country by enlisting”, now routinely demands payments for application forms for such enlistments.

This unwholesome practice has unfortunately been embraced by federal, state and local government agencies and parastatals, including the Nigerian Prisons Service (NIPS) the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), the Nigeria Customs Service, the Civil Defence service, among others.

Many MDAs, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Independent National Electoral Commission are said to have been engaging in this illegal act of requesting job seekers to buy scratch cards before they can gain online access to fill their application forms. “These organisations are, however, following in the footsteps of the Nigeria Police Force, which started the odious policy during the tenure of a former Inspector-General of Police, Mike Okiro,” a critic said.

 FG compensation effort commendable, but…

Last Wednesday, the Federal Government had directed that all those who lost their relations would have automatic slot for three applicants, one of whom must be a woman. President Goodluck Jonathan also directed that all those who sustained injuries and were currently hospitalised be given automatic employment in the service.

He also set up a committee led by the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission, to conduct a fresh exercise. The committee has the Comptroller-General of NIS as well as representatives of the Inspector-General of Police and the heads of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Prisons Service, State Security Service and the Federal Road Safety Commission as members.

Despite the Federal Government pronouncement, calls are still being made for severe punishment to be meted out on Abba Moro, minister of Interior and David Parradang. Moreover, critics said such compensation would not bring back the death and as result unnecessary.

Speaking with BDSUNDAY, Helen Onos, a matron with a hospital in Lagos, said government was to blame for the death of the job seekers and that the so-called compensation amounted to dancing on the grave of the dead.

“Assuming I was a member of the family to any of the victims, I wouldn’t accept such a job offer. Do you know why? It would amount to reaping from the misfortune of my dead relation. These were youths who suffered all manner of deprivation from government while they were alive and died while seeking jobs promised by that same government, how do you think they would be feeling wherever they are for the insult government is now heaping on them? Onos said.

Another commentator questioned the rationale behind the slot given to the deceased’s family, adding that what Nigerians want was for the people involved to be first punished before the compensation.

A rip-off

Pundits accused the Ministry of Interior, NIS and other agencies that now engage such inhuman method of recruitment as preying on the hopelessness of the vulnerable Nigerians.

Human rights activists have called for sack of all those concerned in the exercise.

“This is a big slap on the psyche of Nigerians. The Minister of Interior and Comptroller-General of Customs need to be relieved of their positions. They should also be prosecuted and made to refund the N1000,’’ said Justin Okechukwu Onwujekwe, lawyer and human rights activist, in an interview with BDSUNDAY.

“The immigration knew quite well that those young people were not trained in military or paramilitary.  So why subject them to the rigour,’’ he added.

A pundit said: “If you have been out of a job for one month, you would agree with me that the pang of joblessness is so strong. Now, you can imagine what people who have been jobless for over four to five years are suffering. For a government agency to have called these vulnerable citizens and subjected them to payment of huge sums of money for a job not guaranteed, is not only wicked, but satanic. In sane societies, heads would have started rolling by now, but  I assure you that with all the threats from the Federal Government, nothing is going to happen to any of those responsible for the ugly incident of Saturday.

Another observed that what “the NIS should have done was to electronically weed out the unqualified applicants at the point of application. Since they know their target, they should not have gathered multitudes of people under the scorching sun and rain, when they’re looking for only 5000 persons. The impression such a picture created to the outside world is that Nigeria is a failed state. By the way, it is a Stone Age approach to recruitment. They did not even put into consideration the level of insecurity in the country, that such huge gathering could have attracted terrorist attack. A lot of things really went wrong.”

“There are no jobs, there is no enabling environment and everybody is on his or her own. As if the situation is not bad enough, agencies of government that should create jobs are hiding under the high unemployment rate in the country to perpetrate all manner of evil, and to enrich themselves.

Poor organisation

Critics have continued to knock the organisers of the recruitment exercise for poor organisation. According to one of them, “For God’s sake, why should the organisers of this interview gather all these people in one day and at a place? Why didn’t the organisers arrange this interview in batches? Why didn’t they spread the interview across many days? Why didn’t they conduct this interview in smaller groups and in different locations like LGAs? Why didn’t they deploy the use of internet to screen down the number of illegible candidates? Can they interview 14,444persons in a day? Did they deliberately create a market for themselves, for economic gains at the expense of the applicants and our nation?

An official of the National Examinations Council(NECO), who spoke on the condition of anonymity, wondered why the interview could not be conducted like SSCE, if the NIS was bent on adopting that hardcopy system, adding that it is high time for high tech.

Best approach to recruitment 

Valentine Chukwu, a marketer with AIICO Insurance, who participated in the recruitment exercise at the National Stadium in Lagos, says even though he already has a job, he feels under-employed and had hoped for a better deal from the Nigerian Immigration Service, being a government agency.

He adds, however, that from the way the NIS officials handled the exercise, it was certain that they did not make adequate preparations for it in spite of the many months they had to prepare.

“How can they lump everybody together in such a callous manner? Initially they told us they would share us into groups according to qualifications – that is, Senior Secondary School Certificate (SSCE) holders, OND/HND holders, and Bachelors degree holders. But that was never to be. They just huddled all of us together callously. The question papers were not even enough. It was the mad rush for the few available question papers that led to the stampede and the unfortunate death of some of the applicants,” Chukwu explains.

On what the NIS could have done differently, he says they could have separated the different categories of applicants and conducted the exercise for the different categories on different days.

“For God’s sake, there was no way the exercise would have been successful the way they organised it. We were told that they made about N600 million from the applications alone, since each applicant paid N1,000. If they had been willing to spend even a quarter of that amount on the test itself, they would have recorded greater success. But greed got the best of them,” he says.

For him, the NIS would also have looked for more than one venue in every state, or they would have conducted the exercise in batches. “Or better still, they would have contracted WAEC or JAMB to conduct the test for them nationwide. It would have been more effective that way,” he adds.

Ade Adebayo, a human resources executive in Lagos, is of the view that the NIS would have found a way of thinning down the number of applicants before the final exams.

“There is no justification for the N1,000 they collected from the poor applicants. However, having collected that amount, they would have done everything possible to ensure a hitch-free exercise. For instance, they would have devised some processes to bring down the number for the final test,” Adebayo says.

He narrates how his organisation once organised a recruitment exercise for a start-up media outfit in Lagos.

“They wanted about 10 writers. We put up a vacancy announcement asking interested applicants to send in their CVs to a specified email address. When they did, we got up to 5,000 CVs. From the CVs alone, we got the best 1,000 results. Then we asked each of the applicants to send in a recent article written by themselves on any subject. From there again, we selected the best 50. It was these 50 people that we invited for the final test, from the initial 5,000,” he says, adding that NIS had no reason to conduct a test for 600,000 candidates to fill in about 4,500 positions.

Participants recount woes

A participant at the immigration interview told BD SUNDAY that while the interview started late at 5.30 pm in his venue, it did not last longer than 30 minutes.

“One of the officials even told us that the interview was just a mere formality. He made caricature of us, saying that some who did not even participate in the exercise will get the job at the end of the day,’’ said Okwudili (surname withheld), who participated in the exercise in Awka, Anambra State.

Another participant lamented that despite the the lateness of the officials, which she said was a deliberate ploy to disqualify them, the officials did not even care to listen to their problems.

“It was like a school certificate examination. It brought back memories of our Senior School Certficate Examination (SSCE),’’ she said.

A mother of four, who is about 44 years old, who also went for the interview at the National Stadium, Lagos, said the whole process was enmeshed in secrecy right from the process of registration.

According to her, the applicants were made to pay to any bank of their choice without knowing the account number they were paying to. All they did was to fill the form online, print it and take it to any bank of their choice, where the bank tellers collected the forms, helped complete the applicant’s teller, and the amount of N1, 000 was paid into an account only the bank knows who operates it.

“We were given a duplicate teller without the account number written on it. ven at the interview venue, some applicants were compelled to pay entry fee. From the word go, the exercise was heading for doom. When I saw the crowd, it was scary, but you know I had to follow through. At a point the suffocation became so much that it was only by divine intervention that we survived,” she said.

An applicant, who also participated in the exercise, gave a graphic picture of his experience in the previous interview he participated in 2012.

“In 2012, the Federal Polytechnic Nekede sold forms for lectureship appointment at the rate of N3000. Various positions were advertised. We were toldthat there woud be shortlist of cadidates who applied, after which an interview would take place. But we are still waiting for the interview till date,’’ said Innocent (name withheld), who claimed he took part in the exercise.

“The funny side of it is that we eventually did not see the list of those taken. I learnt that some that were well-connected finally got the job secretly.  Furthermore, some people who said they were connected to authorities of the school were also collecting between N100,000 and N300,000 to get the job,’’ he added.

 Zebulon Agomuo, Chuks Oluigbo, Odinaka Anudu and Kelechi Ewuzie