He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God (Proverbs 14:31)
The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have enough; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little (Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
What a devil art thou, Poverty! How many desires – how many aspirations after goodness and truth – how many noble thoughts, loving wishes toward our fellows, beautiful imaginings thou hast crushed under thy heel, without remorse or pause (Walt Whitman)
et’s not miss the point: we are dealing on the de-congestion and de-emphasizing of the Lagos seaports, and the full utilization of all other sea ports in Nigeria, as ways to create jobs. The point this column was trying to make in the last paragraph of the preceding part of this article was that the Nigerian government wanted to exacerbate unemployment, poverty and hunger in the country by its move to impose higher duty on imported used vehicles (Tokunbo), when there’s no real local manufacturing of vehicles in Nigeria, but, only the assembling of foreign manufactured vehicles, which are not enough for the market, are very expensive, and unaffordable for millions of Nigerians. Why take away what poor Nigerians depend on, when there’s no affordable alternative? The government also got it wrong by increasing the duty on imported rice, when local production is not enough for the market. Thereafter, the government reversed its decision, when it dawned on it (the government) that it first took actions before thinking about the consequences, when it was supposed to be the other way round. Before going further, let’s look at how and why about 20 Nigerians died, a week ago, while looking for an NIS job.
That’s what this column has been harping on: The unemployment rate in Nigeria has gotten out of hand. People wanted an immigration job, but, ended up losing their lives or got maimed in the process. Almost everybody is shocked by the cheap and avoidable death of hapless and desperate young unemployed Nigerians who wanted to be immigration personnel; that dream came to grief on March 15, 2014. In the preceding part of this article; when this column quoted Eamon de Valera (1882 –1975) as having said “We cannot afford idleness, waste or inefficiency”, many didn’t get the hidden message in it (the quote). The death of about 20 Nigerians, who got instant death instead of the job they were looking for, has proved this quote right. We cannot afford idleness in the sense that the unemployment rate has skyrocketed, people are now desperate to get a job, any job; we cannot afford this waste, in sense that the 20 souls lost were wasted due to carelessness on the part of the officials involved; and, we cannot afford this inefficiency in sense that the ministry of interior and the Immigration Department displayed crass inefficiency in the handling of the recruitment exercise. Unemployment leads to poverty, desperation and in some cases, death, as we have just seen. Unemployment brings unrelenting and debilitating hardship for millions of Nigerians; it prolongs dependency on parents, diminish self-esteem and fuel frustrations. That’s why every government should try as much as it can to reduce it to the barest minimum. Many who wanted the Immigration Service job have no love for the agency, but, had no choice other than to take part in the recruitment process in order to get something doing and then stop being a liability to their parents or siblings or friends, but, unfortunately, 20 out of the millions who went, didn’t make it back alive. It’s unfortunately that those dead Nigerians paid the ultimate price while seeking for jobs in their father land.
This writer remembers that in the 1970s and 80s, many Nigerians loathed enlisting in the para-military agencies (Immigration, Customs and Police), because, the job then was regarded as degrading and reserved mainly for the “never do wells”. But today, due to high unemployment rate, many Nigerians are only interested in getting any job at all. In recent years, whenever there’s Police or Customs or Immigration’s nationwide recruitment exercise, millions of Nigerians turn up, and there’s always a harvest of deaths before the end of each exercise. Not only that, cruel Nigerians (“middle men”) do fleece many prospective applicants of their money by promising to help them get recruited, a promise never fulfilled in many cases (read the attached article below). The Punch wrote that “the consultant that handled the recruitment exercise into the Nigeria Immigration Service, was selected by the Ministry of Interior, without open competitive bidding. Findings indicated that the ministry appointed the private firm, Drexet Nigeria Limited, to handle the recruitment process, for which it charged each applicant N1, 000 for online registration. The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, had said that 526,650 persons applied for the exercise nationwide, which translates to over N526m in revenue to the ministry and the consultant. It could not be ascertained whether the ministry paid its share of the money to the Federation Account or if it was shared by the principal officials”.
Taking the message and rejecting the messengers (because the messengers here contributed in one way or the other to this unemployment problem and other problems assailing nigeria): The National Assembly, while calling for a thorough investigation of the tragic deaths of about 20 applicants during last NIS recruitment exercise across the country, expressed deep concern over the high level of unemployment in the country saying it is time for it to be tackled. Both chambers of the National Assembly also called on the Federal Government to come up with practical solutions on how to tackle the monster of unemployment.
For the bereaved families, nothing can bring their loved ones back; and no amount of gift or offer or restitution or compensation can offset the value of the lives lost, as human life cannot be quantified, and nobody knows what the dead would have been in their life. But, the President has done a good thing by assuaging the bereaved families’ grief and pain to an extent. While directing the immediate cancellation of the deadly Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment exercise?, President Jonathan also ordered that three young members of the deceased families?, one of which must be a female, are to be given automatic NIS employment. The President also ordered that the injured should be given automatic NIS employment. To avoid the reoccurrence of such tragedy in future, the President ordered that with the exception of the Armed Forces and the Police, who usually recruit people through physical exercises, all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are henceforth barred from embarking on any exercise of this nature in recruiting people into the public service, because what happened could have been avoided altogether.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) rightly noted that the massive mindless looting of the public treasury has seen funds that could have been used to create millions of jobs end up in the deep pockets of corrupt government and PDP officials, without any consequence for the thieves, while the incompetent federal government led by a clueless President continues to deceive the public with cooked figures showing job creation where indeed there have been job losses. The APC said further “Today, sadly, the truth has been laid bare: 5,000 or so vacancies declared by NIS have attracted over six million applicants, from which over half a million was shortlisted, according to published reports, and the desperation of our youth to eke out a decent living has been exploited by a villainous government that forced each applicant to cough out 1,000 Naira, thus raking in 6 billion Naira from jobless people”.
Rights activist, Bamidele Aturu, said “Of course, mass poverty and joblessness are a direct consequence of the irresponsibility of the ruling elite and the political class. We must not stop at mere condemnation of the act of the officials. We must demand a thorough judicial probe of the unacceptable killing of these young Nigerians. In the interim the head of immigration must resign now”.
Watching some of the photos released showing the applicants who came for the recruitment exercise at different stadia all over Nigeria, one can’t believe that such a number of Nigerians turned up for recruitment as the scene looked like spectators watching the national football team play, but, lo, they were Nigerians in search of immigration job. Although President Jonathan was unhappy with the death of the young Nigerian job seekers, and has tongue lashed the minister of internal affairs, Mr. Abba Boro, and the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), David Parradang, but that’s not enough. Heads should roll and the government should fight corruption, that is helping in denying Nigerians jobs, while getting its act together, so that Nigerians will not be “thirsty in the abundance of water”.
What really happened?
The Tribune noted that it was one of the most devastating moments for job seekers who converged in various parts of the country to fill up vacancies in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). Many Nigerians said that exercise was not well organised, blaming the management of the Nigeria Immigration Service for not making adequate preparation for the conduct of the exercise.
- In Abuja, a pregnant woman and nine other job-seekers were killed with dozens injured in a stampede during the exercise held at the National Stadium.
- In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, applicants fainted out of exhaustion and stampede.
- No fewer than three lives were feared lost at the Benin venue of the recruitment test.
- Five persons, including a pregnant woman, were feared dead, while scores of others were injured during a stampede which occurred at the recruitment exercise of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) held at the Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
- In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, at the recruitment exercise, two of the applicants, who had been waiting for several hours, slumped as a result of exhaustion.
- In Minna, Niger State, two applicants died while seven of them were hospitalized.
The Minister of the Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, whose Ministry supervises the NIS, accused the victims of “impatience”, claiming that the deaths resulted because “they did not follow the laid down procedures spelt out to them before the exercise.” The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) while calling for the immediate sack of the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, and the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mr. David Shikfu Parradang, also wants the duo to face criminal investigation for involuntary homicide. CACOL described the Minister’s statement as callous and averred that the collection of the N1, 000 is the highest height of extortions. CACOL said, “Hundreds of thousands of job-seekers attended job-seeking examinations organised by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in different centres in Nigeria to fill just 4,556 vacancies, and each job seeker was compelled to pay the sum of one thousand Naira (N1, 000). That is the highest height of extortions because those applicants are supposed to be paid and not that they should be ripped of the stipends they have. They shouldn’t take money from the people who don’t have jobs. Where did they expect them to get money from, to go and borrow or become beggars on the streets? Besides, there is no evidence that these sums were remitted to the Federation Account as required by law. In all the places, these examinations took place in stadia, suggesting that the organisers anticipated large turn outs but they failed to make arrangements for crowd management and control. At the end, many were killed and many were injured in stampedes caused by poor arrangement. This tragedy was avoidable".
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on its own part said that the death of about 20 Nigerians during the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) employment test amounts to nothing but industrial murder and called on President Goodluck Jonathan to act urgently by bringing to book those responsible for the tragedy. NLC also called on the Nigerian government to declare a state of emergency on unemployment in the country due to the millions of unemployed youths roaming the streets of the nation in search of jobs. In its words, the NLC said: “Nigeria is actually in a state of emergency as far as unemployment, underemployment and idle capacity are concerned. What the governments at all levels need is to officially recognize this grim reality and roll out (not just declare) emergency measures. America after the Second World War was not confronted with this scale and dimension of unemployment; school leavers of different grades before President Roosevelt declared a new deal, the bedrock of which was affirmative commitment to full employment at all costs including paying people to dig and fill same holes. Jonathan administration should urgently break the jinx of the painful paradox of a country with so much to be done in all sectors, with so much resource endowment and yet inexplicably saddled with such huge idle hands. Today school graduates have all the degrees, Bsc, BA, Msc, MA, PhD but they lack the singular degree to terminate income poverty, which is job. The event of the last week is a rude awakening for the administration to create jobs, jobs and jobs (in-that-order). Promotion of mass employment opportunities is fundamental for Nigeria’s economic recovery while conversely idle capacity pushes the country into under-development. We cannot be part of the 20 leading economies with idle school leavers and army of under-employed such as okada riders whose value addition is suspect. The first challenge for Nigeria is to place employment at the heart of economic and social policies. We must pursue job-led growth and NOT jobless growth”.
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) asked: “What assurance have we that our masters will or can keep the promise which induced us to sell ourselves? Let us not be deceived by phrases about 'Man taking charge of his own destiny'. All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of the others. They will be simply men; none perfect; some greedy, cruel and dishonest. The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be. Have we discovered some new reason why, this time, power should not corrupt as it has done before?” NLC went further saying that “these kinds of tragedy had become the trademark of NIS as it was becoming addictive and widespread. When tragedies get addictive and widespread, (as it is regrettably becoming the regular trade mark of the Nigeria Immigration Service) then they are no more “accidents” or flash but clearly avoidable incidents. Indeed the deaths are nothing less than industrial murder whose perpetrators are known. Nigerians do not need another probe panel on this tragedy. In 2008, under Yar’Adua’s administration, after similar carnage called recruitment, the Federal Government instituted a probe into the circumstances which led to the death of scores of applicants nationwide. The outcome of this probe was never known. Nigerians are probes-fatigue. Indeed the probe has not stopped this weekend’s industrial murders. This certainly should not be another opportunity for probe-panel beating. Nigerians demanded direct government’s actions on the part of President Goodluck Jonathan to demonstrate that no life of an applicant would be further wasted at any recruitment centre. The President should take preventive actions to prevent shameless exhibition of incompetence and non-service delivery by some of his ministers. The Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, must get to the bottom of the recent deaths, falling which he must resign from administering a Ministry increasingly notorious for employment scandals and employment tragedies. The Minister is wrong to blame the victims - the applicants/job-seekers. The blames must go to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) bureaucracy which reportedly collected illegally as much as N6billion from applicants but failed woefully in putting appropriate mechanisms for genuine aptitude tests and applicants crowd control. What the nation needed urgently was a far reaching new labour market policy that would put an end to this serial primitive recruitment exercise which left in its trail despair, tears and dead bodies rather than living employed applicants. After the centenary celebration, Nigeria must put an end to bazaar inhuman recruitment programme reminiscent of the hated slave Market of the 16th century and colonial forced labour under Lord Lugard in 19th century”.
To end it here for now: Taking into consideration the happenings in Nigeria, this writer can safely say that the country is largely a devil’s enclave, because, there’s no hope and future for the weak and the poor, just as Rev. Jim Wallis (1948) wrote that “The Bible insists that the best test of a nation’s righteousness is how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable in its midst”. This column wants to reiterate it that the ruling class is pernicious to Nigeria and Nigerians in that it has dissipated the sunlight of happiness, peace, and prosperity in which we are supposed to be living in, and has filled our land with alienations, estrangements, bitterness, insecurity, corruption, unemployment and death. This class brings us evil - only evil - and that continually. Hopefully that the poor Nigerians would soon rise in their might as one and overwhelm it (the ruling class) with such indignation it deserves.
Is this how they waste money that can be used to alleviate the people’s suffering?
To be continued!
THE THANX IS ALL YOURS!!!
Continued from Part 18