By Dare Lawal
It is a battle for survival at the top of the ministry of interior as both the minister, Abba Moro, and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) boss David Parrandang try to shift the blame and pass the buck over the disastrous recruitment exercise which they conducted.
The two men appeared at a two-day public hearing held by the senate committee on interior.
Parradang completely denied the minister at the sitting saying the Immigration Service was never the “driver” of the recruitment, but it simply complied with the Ministry of Interior’s directives.
The Comptroller-General noted that throughout his years in the Service, nobody had ever taken away the power of the NIS to recruit operatives of the Service from levels 1-7.
Also, Parradang told the committee that he was opposed to the collection of money from applicants, adding that he advised that the exercise be staggered and state of origin be adopted.
According to reports:
Parradang said on September 9, last year, Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prison Services Board placed advertisements in some national dailies for appointments into the Superintendent, Inspectorate and Immigration Assistant cadres.
He noted that the advertisement was signed by the then Board Secretary, Dr. Attahiru.
“I immediately placed a call to the secretary that I am not aware that the board met on this issue. I also placed a call to the permanent secretary too whether there was any decision of the Board to place an advert in the paper.
“I also placed a call to the two commissioners that are seated before you here whether they were aware that the Board met and agreed for a publication to be made to recruit in the Service, but they all answered in the negative,” Parradang told the lawmakers.
The Immigration boss said that he wrote the then secretary to express “my dismay that as a stakeholder, as the head of a Service that is supposed to recruit, I was not aware of this exercise.”
Parradang said that the secretary pleaded that “I should understand with him that he was under immense pressure to put up the advert”.
Parradang quoted Attahiru to have said “I should not write the letter, but I said no, this is an official matter; it is not an issue to do with Mr. David Parradang but with the Nigeria Immigration Service.”
He added: “So I wrote him a letter that I was not given any benefit of a reply till way back in October when he had been removed from the ,inistry. Along the line, we were asked to look for funding and I had to look for funding for this exercise from the office of the Director General of Budget.
“I wrote him a letter that we have waiver from the Federal Civil Service Commission to recruit 4,556 operatives of the Nigeria Immigration Service.
“He told me categorically that government was very conscious of overheads and there would be no money made available for it. I thought he was just being reluctant.
“So, I kept pressurising him. I went to that office practically every day for the whole of that week and subsequent weeks.
“The last concession I got from him is that I should wait, that maybe it would be captured in the 2014 budget.
“So, along the line, the Committee of the Board met; we discussed this issue of Drexel (consultant) being the service provider and I said ‘look, I am not in support of anybody collecting money for recruitment’.
“I remember very clearly during that meeting where the two commissioners were. I told them that I read in the papers that in Niger State there was recruitment and people were meant to pay and there was a lot of outcry in that state and the governor had to step in and cancelled it.
“I said, ‘look we may go this line gentlemen if we don’t take time’. But we kept going and we had no other board meeting, to my knowledge, till when the secretary called us to the Steering Committee Meeting in January.
“I told them that it is advisable for us to stagger the exercise and to go by states of origin. But when we appeared before this Committee of the Senate in one of the committee rooms here, we were all seated here and we got to know that we will be conducting recruitment examinations on the 15th of March, 2014.
“That was the first day I heard that. I did not hear from any board; there was no board meeting to that effect.
‘As a man in uniform you obey the last order.’
Parradang went on: “Subsequently, everybody that asked me when is Immigration recruitment before then, I used to tell them that I don’t know but subsequently anybody that asked me, I would reply that the Honourable Minister had declared categorically that we will recruit on the 15th of March and that is what we are going to stick to.
“Then I sent the DCG Human Resources to attend all subsequent meetings and when it came to the issue of funding, he told me that they had made a budget of N212million to be used for that exercise.
“I asked him where the money was going to come from, you know that Immigration does not have such money. He said it was expected that the company should pay for it. I said ‘okay, go and take representatives of the service provider to the Honourable Minister of Interior, maybe he would have funding for the exercise.
“He told me there was none till about on 13th of March 2014 when N45million was made available for him to carry out that exercise’.
“We were left with the option of having to mobilise all our officers in the state commands to attend to the recruitment exercise. We sent bulk SMS to all of them, saying, look, gentlemen, this is the day we have to work with.
“All of them kept calling me to ask how they were going to get money to do this exercise? I told them if any money is given to me I will make it available to you.
“No money was made available to the Nigerian Immigration Service and the exercise was supposed to be conducted.
“If you notice too there was no advertisement, giving clear guidelines on how to go about it until the 14th of March that people were asked to go to the various centres for the tests.
“I will like to state that on a state-by-state basis, the Nigeria Immigration Service is deeply pained about the events that led to loss of lives of 16 people.
“I want the figures to be corrected. We had seven people that died in the Federal Capital Territory. We had five that died in Rivers State. We had two that died in Niger State. We had one in Bauchi. We had one in Edo. Those are the exact figures.
“On the fateful day when we started hearing reports that this was what was happening in the field I came back from Jos and I met the Secretary in his office we sat all through till midnight getting direct reports from each of the state commands.
“We had given them clear guidelines on what to do. We asked them to contact the regular stakeholders that we normally meet together, like the FRSC, the NSCDC, hospital authorities, that they should get people to assist us because this is a short notice thing, but on that day the crowd was really overwhelming.”
Asked why he did not stop the exercise, he said, “we were not the drivers of this process at all.
“So, the decision to stop it would never have cone from me. I was not the driver of this process and my position had been very clear on this.”
One why he did not see the tragedy coming, Parradang said: “Of all the capacities that God has given human beings, nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow.
“All of us are optimistic, basically. We were of the hope and of the belief that this is a genuine intended activity that nobody would want anybody to lose his life or even get injured. We did not and could not have seen that it was going to fail.”
He went on: “For all my years in the Service, nobody has ever taken away the power to recruit from level one to level seven from the NIS.”
Parradang said he protested in writing, but was assured that his fears had been taken care of.
Most of the state commands of the NIS told the committee that they received only N300, 000 out of N45 million released by the consultant to the board.
The minister however said the board was aware of the decisions. For the first time, Moro also took responsibility for the failed exercise saying that “As the Minister of Interior, under whose purview this unfortunate exercise took place, I cannot abdicate my responsibility. The buck stops at my table.” Moro who also blamed the devil for the failed exercise has however refused to resign.