Angry citizens are demanding the sack of the minister of Interior, Abba Moro, and the comptroller general of the Nigerian Imigration Service, NIS, over the death of at least 14 persons during its nationwide recruitment examination.
Following stampedes in overcrowded venues of the NIS examination, 14 applicants died while scores were wounded in several centres.
While a shocked nation was still morning and asking questions, Moro coldly put the blame of the tragedy on the young people whom he blamed for being unruly.
“The applicants lost their lives due to impatience; they did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise. Many of them jumped through the fences of affected centres and did not conduct themselves in an orderly manner to make the exercise a smooth one. This caused stampede and made the environment unsecured,” the minister told a newspaper.
A total of 520,000 persons, including many pregnant women, took part in the exercise in which the NIS plans to recruit only 4,556 people. Each applicant paid N1,000 for application form.
In spite of the deaths following the stampede, the recruitment examination was still conducted for the fittest who survived the mad rush.
At the Nnamdi Azikwe National Stadium, Abuja, the examination which was conducted in batches for B.Sc, HND, OND, NCE and SSCE holders, commenced at 4:00 p.m and was characterised by a lot of irregularities, candidates who took the test said.
Many applicants, who could not find their way into the venue because of the huge crowd, wrote the examination outside the stadium.
Spokesman for the National Hospital Abuja, Tayo Haastrup, confirmed that seven persons were brought in dead and that the bodies had been deposited at the mortuary.
“The hospital received some casualties from the stampede from the ongoing Immigration recruitment at the National Stadium. Those that died were seven in number, five women are and two men, their corpses have been deposited at the mortuary,” Haastrup said.
The situation at the National Stadium Abuja was replicated in other parts of the country like Rivers State, where a stampede equally marred the recruitment exercise, resulting in the death of four persons.
Hospital authorities at the Rivers government-owned Braithwaite Memorial Hospital in Port Harcourt confirmed that four candidates died during the stampede.
In Owerri Imo State, no fewer than 10 applicants, including three expectant mothers, fainted while waiting for the commencement of the test.
Similarly, two applicants -a female and a male- slumped and died at the recruitment venue in Minna, Niger State, on Saturday where over 12,000 applicants converged for recruitment exercise.
The state’s commissioner for Health, Ibrahim Sule, who confirmed the death of the two applicants said while the female was reported dead on arrival at the hospital, the male applicant died of his injuries on admission at Minna General Hospital.
The speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, has described the deaths as unfortunate, sorrowful and regrettable.
In a statement issued by his special adviser on media and public affairs, Imam Imam, the Speaker urged the authorities concerned to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the tragedy, and advised them to map out strategies to prevent future occurrence.
He also called on governments at all levels to work closely with the organised private sector to tackle the unemployment problem facing the nation.
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has called on the ministry of Interior and relevant government agencies, to immediately swing into action to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the stampede.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh, further urged government agencies and parastatals, as well as all PDP elected and appointed officials at all levels of government to redouble their efforts in curbing unemployment in the country.
A similar tragedy occured in 2008 when no fewer than 20 people died in various states of the federation during a recruitment exercise into Nigeria Prisons Service, Nigeria Immigration Service and Customs Service.