It was an indication of system failure across the nation yesterday. Twenty-three Nigerian job seekers who left their homes to sit for the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment examination did not return home alive. They were trampled to death. Scores were seriously injured.
According to investigation, over 6.5m Nigerians who paid an application fee of N1, 000 each applied for 4,000 NIS vacant positions and were all made to sit for the exams at venues on the same day.
At the last count, LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that tragedy occurred in the FCT, Port Harcourt, Minna, Gombe, and Benin venues of the examination.
In the Abuja National Stadium, over 60,000 applicants turned up for the recruitment test.
The 60,000-seater stadium was filled to capacity when LEADERSHIP called at the stadium about 11am, with thousands of others milling around the stadium complex and outside.
An immigration officer who did not want to be mentioned said about 68,000 applicants were at the stadium but only 4,000 would be employed nationwide.
Most of the applicants were seen looking haggard and frustrated and anxiously looking for refreshment. Scores were said to have collapsed during an early morning stampede at the entrance gate to the stadium. A source at the National Hospital, Abuja, said 10 of them died.
An eyewitness and an applicant, who gave his name as Nuhu, said the tragedy happened shortly after 7am when a security official opened the gate and candidates who were already gathered rushed in.
According to him, all the efforts the gatemen made to ensure orderly movement in the complex were futile as the throng of applicants pushed and shoved, resulting in the trampling of scores, mostly ladies.
Although the Immigration Service, which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior, is yet to release the official list of casualty, a source at the National Hospital has since confirmed the incident. Efforts to get the service spokesman, Mr Obuah, proved abortive.
LEADERSHIP Weekend can authoritatively report that, contrary to fears that the aptitude test would have been cancelled, the service still administered it on a rather short notice to the applicants.
The exams which lasted just 35 minutes started about 3:43pm and ended 4:29pm.
In Port Harcourt, scores of persons were injured during a stampede also at Liberation Stadium in the Rivers State capital.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that the stampede occurred when the over 20,000 applicants tried to force their way into the 15,000-capacity stadium.
At the time when our reporter visited the Liberation Stadium, most of the injured persons were said to have been rushed to the Military Hospital, located along the Aba-Port Harcourt Road, for medical attention.
When contacted, the public relations officer (PRO) of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in the state, Mr Abang Bisong, confirmed that there was a stampede at the recruitment exercise in the state.
Bisong said, “During the stampede, some candidates fell and were trampled on, while some became unconscious. They have been taken to the military hospital for treatment and we have not received any information on their condition.”
The Braithwaithe Memorial Specialist Hospital, Port Harcourt, a Rivers State government-owned secondary health facility, confirmed that four persons died in the stampede.
A doctor on duty, who pleaded anonymity, told journalists that out of the 12 persons that were brought to the hospital, four died while four others were still in critical condition.
He disclosed that another four victims of the stampede were revived and discharged.
Pregnant women Dies , 30 injured
A pregnant women was among thousands of jobseekers participating in the Benin zone of the Immigration recruitment exercise. She slumped and died inside the main bowl of Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium following a stampede.
The applicants had turned up for the exercise as early as 6am, but the screening couldn’t start till 2:15pm when some of the applicants started leaving after the stampede .
Trouble started around 10am when the Immigration officials in charge of the screening lost control of the crowd, prompting the soldiers on guard to start shooting sporadically into the air.
Over 28, 000 applicants that took part in the one-day exercise started running for safety that resulted in a stampede .
As the time of filing this report, over 30 persons who received various degrees of injuries had been revived at nearby hospitals, while the remains of the pregnant woman had been taken to an undisclosed hospital.
Some of the applicants in an interview condemned the way and manner the exercise was conducted.
Mr Isaac, an applicant, expressed shock over the inhuman way they were treated by the recruiting officers.
“Can you imagine, sir, this is 2:10pm; we are still loitering around with no concrete information from the recruiting officers.
“Oga, they should help ask the immigration officials why the shooting . To organize the applicants is easy. Now, the shooting has caused a big problem. Now a pregnant woman has died, while other people who sustained injuries have been hospitalized.”
No fewer than 15,000 people participated in the NIS recruitment exercise in Kano.
The NIS comptroller in the state, Mr Zitas Nanpon, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday.
NAN reports that the screening and examination took place at the Sani Abacha Stadium, located in Kofar Mata in Kano metropolis.
“Right now not fewer than 15, 000 applicants are on ground and more are still coming into the venue. The standard is that everybody that has an acknowledgement slip is eligible for this exercise,’’ he said.
Nanpon, however, commended the state government for providing the venue which had enough space to accommodate all the candidates.
He assured the applicants that the examination would be conducted after the screening, and advised all the applicants to be patient and orderly to ensure that the exercise was hitch-free.
In Benue, no fewer than 17, 800 applicants took part in the exercise at the Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi.
The public relations officer of the service in Benue, Mr Tersoo Ukeyima, told NAN in Makurdi that the NIS was overwhelmed by the number of applicants and did its best to accommodate them.
Ukeyima said there were challenges in crowd management, but commended officers for discharging their duties in controlling the crowd.
He said no casualties were recorded and assured that the First Aid Department of the command was on hand to tackle any eventuality.
Some of the applicants, who spoke on the issue, commended the officers for the orderly conduct of the exercise, saying they were satisfied.
Some, however, expressed fears that the exercise might not be completed on schedule owing to the crowd.
In Gombe, 5,000 candidates from Gombe and Borno took part in the exercise at Abubakar Umar Memorial Stadium, Gombe.
The NIS comptroller in Gombe, Mr Y. G. Emmanuel, said: “As you can see, the exercise is going on and we have been here since 3am to ensure everything is in order for a smooth exercise.’’
No fewer than 20,000 of the 26,000 applicants that applied turned up for the aptitude test at the Kaduna centre yesterday.
Murtala Square, venue of the exercise for the Kaduna centre, was filled to capacity when our correspondent visited.
As early as 6am yesterday, the centre was besieged by a mammoth crowd with the applicants putting on white shorts and shirts.
The majority of the candidates were seen on a long queue while others were hanging around. They described the whole exercise as a formality and total nonsense, alleging that those to be employed had already been picked.
Our correspondent observed that some of the applicants got frustrated and left the venue of the test without writing.
It was also confirmed that some of the applicants collapsed due to the crowd and hot weather, but as at the time of filing the report, there was no reported case of any casualty.
One of the applicants, Adams Shuaib Olowo, who spoke to our correspondent said, “I was here as early as 6am because the text messages we received from the organizers of the aptitude test said the exercise will commence 7am. But the time is 2pm now and nothing has been done yet.”
Meanwhile, all the roads leading to the venue were all barricaded while shop owners and business ventures shut their doors as a result of the large crowd.
Comptroller of immigration, Kaduna State command, Apang Takum, who spoke to newsmen at the venue, said his command was doing everything possible to ensure a hitch-free aptitude test in the state.
7 applicants die in 3 Jos centres
Seven applicants lost their lives in three out of the 37 centres where the aptitude test into the Nigerian Immigration Service was conducted yesterday while scores of others were injured as a result of stampede occasioned by the large turnout for the exercise.
The minister of interior, Abba Moro, told newsmen while inspecting the exercise in Jos, the Plateau State capital, yesterday that information reaching him indicated that seven people lost their lives at the National Stadium Abuja, Niger and Lagos State, adding that two of the victims were female and five male.
“The applicants lost their lives due to impatience; they did not follow the laid-down procedures spelled 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.”
He pointed out that 520, 000 people applied for the exercise across the country, and that the centres were spread to avoid overcrowding, adding that only 4,556 will be recruited at the end of the exercise based on the available space.
Moro disclosed that the deputy controller of immigration operation and passport told him that he had cancelled the exercise in Lagos due to the unruly behaviour of the applicants and told them to wait for further directives.
According to him, the Ministry of Interior embarked on the process to ensure transparency, adding that the mistake will form a base for how to organise future exercises.
3 fear dead, 4 critically injured in Minna
Three persons out of the 11,000 candidates who turned up at Women Day Secondary School, Minna, for examination into the Nigeria immigration service were yesterday feared dead.
LEADERSHIP Sunday findings revealed that the incident occured in a stampede during accreditation for candidates to enter into the examination hall and the situation got out of the control of immigration service personnel.
It was learnt that when they were unable to control the crowd, they opened tear gas and in the process seven persons collapsed and were rushed to the hospital where they gave up the ghost.
Security sources told LEADERSHIP Sunday that Immigration Service personnel were overwhelmed by the crowd that lined up to 2 kilometres from the venue of the examination, adjacent Federal Secretariat Minna to enter into the examination hall.
Curiously, thousands of the job seekers came in exotic cars. All the roads and spaces in and around the stadium were crammed with vehicles, making it difficult to gain access to the stadium.
A candidate said he saw serving policemen and others who wanted to change jobs at the venue.
One Sampson said he had been at the stadium since 5:45am but that at 2pm when he spoke to this reporter, the examination had not taken off. The officials separated degree holders from those with diploma.
Jobseekers accuse FG of fraud
Unemployed young men who gathered at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu, yesterday for the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise have accused the federal government of defrauding them.
Some of the jobseekers who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday said they came to the stadium about 8am for the examination but were disappointed over the refusal of officials of the NIS to conduct the exercise.
Our findings revealed that most of the jobseekers were forced to travel back to their residential areas when it was clear to them that there would be no recruitment test..
“This is a fraud, after we paid over N1,000 to purchase forms. I ‘m not happy that officials of NIS decided to treat us like this. I’m sure that they were forced to announce that the exams will take place today.
“It is unfortunate that the federal government through the NIS has defrauded us. Some of us borrowed money to pay for the form. I bought canvass and other materials this morning but I went to my house with all the materials because I could not use them. I don’t know where our hope lies. That is why people are travelling out of Nigeria every day.
“How can the government collect N1,000 from each of the applicants and refuse to at least conduct exams for us. We know that they have already taken their brothers and sisters but they should have at least allowed us to take the exams,” one of the applicants who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
The Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium was filled to capacity.
Immigration stampede a national disaster – TUC
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has described the death of Nigerians during a stampede at the recruitment exercise conducted by the Nigeria Immigration Service as a national disaster that shows the critical state of Nigeria’s unemployment.
The TUC also called for full-scale investigation into the matter, while also commiserating with the families of the dead.
TUC president Comrade Kaigama Bobboi, who spoke to leadership Sunday, said those wounded during the stampede must be taken care of by government.
He said, “There is also need to probe the amount collected from these young Nigerians. Because this is just Immigration. Whatever you see now will be replicated in police, customs and other government agencies.
“This goes to show the level of unemployment in the country. Our heart goes to the families of those who lost their lives. May God grant them the fortitude to bear their loss.”
PDP demands immediate investigation, mourns victims
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday said it was extremely grieved by the death of young Nigerians during a stampede at the recruitment exercise conducted by the Nigeria Immigration Service at the National Stadium, Abuja and demanded an immediate investigation into the matter.
According to a statement by PDP’s national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the ruling party is “shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the untimely death of the young citizens who were at the exercise not only to secure jobs but to be allowed the opportunity to contribute towards the development of the nation”.
The party said it was “unfortunate and disheartening that the victims paid the supreme price while trying to be more useful to the nation”.
While commiserating with the families of the deceased, the ruling party prayed for the speedy recovery of the wounded and charged the Ministry of Interior and all relevant agencies of government to immediately swing into action to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the stampede.
The PDP also charged all government agencies and parastatals as well as all its elected and appointed officials at all levels to redouble their efforts in curbing unemployment in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda and the PDP manifesto.
Meanwhile LEADERSHIP Sunday has reliably gathered that the minister of interior, Abba Moro, and the comptroller-general of immigration, Mr David Shikfu Parradang, may lose their jobs following the tragedy.
A top presidency source who pleaded anonymity disclosed that the president was shocked and furious at the ugly incident, pointing out that such tragedies have become a recurring decimal in the Ministry of Interior.
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