Despite raising at least N710 million from poor applicants, recruitment consultant, Drexel Limited, and interior ministry authorities released only N45 million for the conduct of the screening into the Nigeria Immigration Service, which ended in fatalities, a member of the supervisory board told senators Thursday.
At least 16 job seekers died in stampedes across Nigeria on March 15, sparking widespread outrage and calls for the removal of the Minister of Interior, Patrick Abba Moro, and Comptroller General of Immigration, David Parradang.
The Secretary of the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Services board, S. D. Tapgun, told the senate committee on interior investigating the exercise that 710,000 people registered for the test, according to figures provided by the consultant, Drexel Limited. The board had no independent means of knowing the exact figure, he said.
Lawmakers heard how despite raising the huge amount, the board and the ministry still had no funds to conduct the exercise.
The secretary of the board, Mr. Tapgun, said funding was a serious challenge, and gave the impression it was the main reason the minister, Mr. Moro, refused suggestions that the exercise be staggered and conducted separately based on cadres.
Mr. Tapgun said the board estimated the exercise to cost N201 million, but after collecting N710 million, the consultant, Drexel, only released N45 million for the exercise to be conducted.
In a letter read at the hearing, the consultant had made it clear that by the terms of their agreement, it was the responsibility of the board or the ministry to fund the recruitment, as it was only contracted to provide online registration services.
The N45 million released by the firm, was regarded merely as a discretionary contribution, a disclosure lawmakers said was one of the clearest signs the government board had lost control over a firm it claimed to have hired.
Testimonies given yet at the hearing Thursday point to an exercise hijacked by the minister, Mr. Moro, who is yet to respond at the hearing. Save the secretary, other speakers said they were not duly informed of plans for the recruitment that turned deadly in the end.
The Comptroller-General, Mr. Parradang, denied knowledge of the planning for the exercise and said his suggestions were brushed aside. Another member of the board made similar claim.
In his first official comment since the disaster, Mr. Parradang said his first information about recruitment into an organization he heads, came from a newspaper advert.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported exclusively about a letter of protest by Mr. Parradang after the newspaper publication.
Speaking Thursday before the Senate committee, the immigration boss said he raised the letter after telephone conversations with all key members of the board, during which those contacted denied knowledge of the advert calling for applications.
One member of the board, Mustapha Karim, who also testified at the hearing, also said he was not aware of the plans, neither was the recruitment ever discussed at any of the board’s meetings as should have been the case.
The board member said he and other members of the board only knew of the plans after being shown a copy of the agreement for the recruitment between the interior ministry and Drexel Limited.
Mr. Karim said the agreement was signed by the minister, Mr. Moro, without the knowledge of the board. The second signature, purportedly by the former secretary of the board, Mr. Attahiru, may have been forged, he said. Mr. Karim told lawmakers Mr. Attahiru had personally confirmed to him that he never signed the document.
The Immigration boss, Mr. Parradang, said one of the most outstanding breaches of the exercise was the decision by the planners to take over the recruitment of both the senior and junior cadre, unlike past practices whereby the supervising board takes charge of the senior cadre, while Immigration Service recruits the junior cadre. The minister, Mr. Moro, is the chairman of the board.
“For all my years in the service, no one had ever taken away from us the right to recruit the Cadre B officials. And that was why I protested very vehemently,” Mr. Parradang said.
On why he did not complain about the anomalies, or initiate a process to abort the planned recruitment when it was clear the exercise did not follow the expected practice, Mr. Parradang said “It is very clear from my presentation that why we could not stop this process was because we were not the drivers of the process.”