Simon Ateba & Nnamdi Felix

There are documents that indict embattled Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, over the failed recruitment exercise into the Nigeria Immigration Service

It was a N700 million deal that went awry and left a deluge of grief, anger and regret. The botched 2014 recruitment exercise by the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, was designed with a singular mindset: to enrich those who call the shots at the Ministry of Interior and their cronies, at the expense of desperate unemployed Nigerian youths.

An immigration security agent speaks on a microphone to job-seekers gathered in Abuja National Stadium to apply for work at the Nigerian immigration department, Abuja, on March 15, 2014.

An immigration security agent speaks on a microphone to job-seekers gathered in Abuja National Stadium to apply for work at the Nigerian immigration department, Abuja, on March 15, 2014.

The recruitment exercise, described by many as an official scam, left about 20 Nigerians dead and many others seriously injured.

Initial plans for the bungled exercise were hatched on Thursday, 20 December 2012, when the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with a Makurdi-based private company, Rosebonny Technologies Ltd., in conjunction with Ecobank plc. The company was to develop and deploy an online platform for applications into all paramilitary services under the Ministry.

Article VI of the MoU focused on the revenue generation capacity of the project. The section shows the Minister and Rosebonny agreed that the application access code fees and the sharing formula would be contained in a subsequent agreement which was expected to flow from the MoU signed by both parties.

About two months after the Minister signed the MOU with the company, Rosebonny Technologies submitted an outline business case for the project and proposed N1,000 fee per applicant for the recruitment exercise into all the paramilitary organisations under the supervision of  the Ministry.

In the business outline, the company proposed that 25 per cent of the N1,000 application access code to be paid by each applicant would go the Ministry of Interior while the company would rake in 70 per cent of the access fee. The outstanding 5 per cent would be paid to Ecobank plc.

Rosebonny was also to bear the responsibility of defraying and/or paying the entire code vendors’ commission from its share of 70 per cent. This project was mooted under the unsolicited business format indicating that the private company approached the Ministry on its own without being invited or solicited to design the project.

•Abba Moro: Went ahead with the exercise despite protests

•Abba Moro: Went ahead with the exercise despite protests

This also seemed to connote that no other company was invited to demonstrate their ability to design such project with a view to having an alternative as to cost of the project or formula for sharing expected revenue.

Sources said things, however, went awry when the Minister and the company fell out over irreconcilable differences, stemming from the proposed sharing formula. The Ministry thereafter placed an advert in a national daily on Tuesday, 9 September 2013, calling for applications for e-recruitment into NIS. “Applications are hereby invited from suitably qualified persons for full-time appointment to the following positions in the Nigeria Immigration Service,” the advert said, dividing the positions into categories.

Category A advertised positions for Superintendent cadres and Assistant Superintendents II CONPASS 08, while Category B called for qualified candidates to apply for the positions of Inspectorate Cadres, Assistant Inspector CONPASS 06 and Immigration Assistant III 03.

While candidates for Category A were asked to present evidence of a Bachelor’s degree from a recognised university, those in Category B were told they must hold a National Diploma from a recognised institution. All candidates were to be between 18 and 35 years old.

Every candidate in Category A was to be a Nigerian by birth or descent, and between the ages of 18 and 35. In addition, male candidates were to be not less than 1.7 metres in height and have well-expanded chest measurement of not less than 0.87 metres. Female candidates were to be at least 1.64 metres tall.

The advert also stipulated that candidates must not be suffering from any mental or physical disability, and must be free from any form of financial embarrassment as well as be of good character. They must not have been found guilty of any criminal offence in the past.

Apart from height difference, which placed the height of male candidates at 1.68 metres and 1.65 metres for female candidates in Category B, the conditions were virtually the same regarding good character and fitness. Completed applications were to be submitted on or before 20 October 2013.

Another company, Drexel Technical Global Nigeria Ltd., was said to have thereafter been single-handedly engaged by the Ministry for the project, without any disclosure on the sharing formula.

The Board of the Immigration Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Prisons and the Fire Service, which indicted Comrade Abba Moro over the botched recruitment exercise claimed it was sidelined in the entire exercise.

The Board members, led by Mr. S.D. Tapgun, alongside heads of agencies under the Ministry of Interior who appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives last Wednesday, told the lawmakers that there was no Board approval for the failed exercise.

“Only the Interior Minister and the Consultant he engaged for the exercise can tell Nigerians exactly what happened. Even the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service was not involved; he was not part of the recruitment at all. There was no Board resolution to recruit anybody. When we the members of the Board learnt about the recruitment, we wrote to the Minister that we are not in support of engaging the services of a third party to conduct recruitment for the Immigration Service, but he ignored our letter and went ahead to engage the Consultant named Drexel Technical Global Nigeria Limited. The Consultant fixed everything, including a N1,000 fee which they claimed was administrative charges,” Tapgun stated.

•Job seekers struggle for exam sheets at Abuja Stadium.

•Job seekers struggle for exam sheets at Abuja Stadium.

Rosebonny Technologies thereafter dragged the Ministry before a Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, seeking to stop the ministry from going on with the project and urged the court to direct the Ministry to comply with the MoU it signed with it.

The suit was however withdrawn, following an arranged settlement between the Minister and Rosebonny Technologies, and the matter was thereafter struck out by the court presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole.

While many have pointed accusing fingers at the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, and the Comptroller-General of the NIS, David Parradang, and even demanded their sack from office, documents obtained by this magazine show that the buck stopped at Moro’s table as he failed to listen to warning from the NIS boss.

The correspondences also show that the Immigration Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Prisons and Fire Service Board under the Ministry also failed to heed warning from Paradang, who resumed work in September last year.

On 9 September, the same day the recruitment adverts were published, the NIS boss sent an angry letter to S. D. Tapgun, the Secretary, Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Service Board, CDFIPB.

•Paradang: He and colleagues warned Moro

•Paradang: He and colleagues warned Moro

In the letter, Parradang expressed shock at an advertisement by the Ministry of Interior calling for application of suitably qualified persons into the NIS without his knowledge.

“I wish to draw your attention to an advertisement which has just been brought to my notice, calling for application of suitably qualified persons for appointment into Categories ‘A’ (Superintendent Cadre) and ‘B’ (Inspectorate Cadre) of the Nigeria Immigration in today’s Daily Trust,” Parradang wrote.

He added: “I wish to further state that this advertisement for employment took me by surprise and the agency which I head. I am aware that the Civil Defence, Immigration and Prisons Service Board Act CAP: 12, 2004 confers powers of appointment on the Board, however, the same Act equally delegates such powers to the services – Particularly recruitment into Category ‘B’, which has been the case until this moment.”

He said the publication for appointment of persons into the NIS without consultation or any input whatsoever from the NIS was embarrassing.

“I feel I should be taken along on this issue regarding staff recruitment into Category ‘B’ in particular, which is usually conducted and supervised by the Service,” he added.

He asked the Board if the powers delegated to the Service to conduct recruitment of junior cadre personnel into the NIS had been withdrawn. “Accordingly, I feel and request that the advertisement be withdrawn for full consultation in order to avoid a repeat of the experiences of past recruitment exercises,” Parradang said in his letter.

But the Board replied him on 29 October, dismissing his fears. In the letter, signed by the Director/Secretary, S.D. Tapgun, the Board said: “The Board regrets that as a major stakeholder, you were not consulted prior to the publication. Be rest assured that useful lessons have been learnt and we shall do our very best to ensure that all stakeholders are accorded their due henceforth.”

•Jonathan: Nigerians await his position on Moro

•Jonathan: Nigerians await his position on Moro

Tapgun added: “With regards to your fears on the exercise of the delegated powers enjoyed by the service in the recruitment of junior officers, permit me to state that we are not aware of any policy shift by the Board and the publication has not in anyway stripped the Service of the exercise of such powers.”

He concluded: “Accordingly, we wish to state that at the closure of the portal on 27th October, 2013, the applications will be processed and those that fall within the purview of the NIS will be accordingly forwarded for further actions.”

The date 27 October 2013 was a postponed date from an earlier deadline, which was 20 October. “The decision followed the declaration of Tuesday 1 October as well as Wednesday, 15 October 2013 by the government to mark Independence Day and Eid-el-Kabir celebration respectively,” Tapgun said in an another advertisement announcing the postponement of the deadline. He added: “It is hoped that applicants who have not completed their registration will seize this opportunity.”

Parradang also warned that as a paramilitary agency, it was not right for recruitment of junior officers to be usurped by a consultant.

But these issues went unheeded and while defending the 2014 Budget, Abba Moro, the Minister of Interior, announced that the recruitment exercise would hold on 15 March.

According to documents obtained by this medium, the working committee gave the Ministry a budget of N212 million to stage the exercise but was told that the NIS should be approached. But there was no budget for that purpose at the NIS. The Immigration Service demanded that Drexel Nigeria Ltd. fund the exercise.

But the company declined, claiming that its contract with the Ministry did not include the job test. “Up until 12 March 2014, there were no funds for the exercise. No adverts till Friday 14 March 2014, when I was informed that Drexel Nigeria Ltd. paid N45 million to the CDFIPB to conduct the interview. All arrangements were scaled down at the last hour, with the advert coming out only on 14 March in the dailies,” Parradang said in another letter obtained by this magazine from Abuja sources.

In the letter, Parradang added: “I called my State Comptrollers that the Honourable Minister directed that we must conduct the exercise on 15 March, 2014, and put it behind us. No logistics for them but I directed them to do their best in the circumstance.”

This magazine learnt that on 14 March, a day to the exercise, the management of the Abuja stadium had demanded for N3.5 million but there was no money left. The N45 million from Drexel had been committed.

The next day, with this shambolic preparation, about 20 job seekers died from stampedes.

…Pubished in TheNEWS magazine