Minister of the Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, who is in the eye of the storm following last Saturday’s stampede at the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment centers across the nation, which left no fewer than 19 job-seekers dead and several others injured, has continued to blame everyone but himself as he again laid the responsibility for the tragic incident on doctors, nurses, bankers, teachers and others in paid employment.
According to him, these already employed individuals thronged the various recruitment centers in their numbers with the hope of getting Foreign Service postings and being eligible for pensions if employed by the service, despite the fact that they did not apply for the advertised vacancies.
Moro’s aide, Mallam Salisu Dantata Muhammed, who spoke on behalf of his boss in Abuja yesterday, said contrary to widely circulated reports, the ministry put every logistics in place to cater for the expected applicants at all the centers nationwide.
The aide also heaped some of the blame for the stampede on the penetration of social media, saying that many of the applicants were inviting friends and relatives, who did not apply for the job in the first place to the centers through Facebook, text messages and other portals.
Muhammed said: “It’s odd that many of those who turned up included employed bankers, engineers, medical doctors, nurses, teachers and others who wanted to cross over to the Immigration Services at all costs.
“The Minister and officials of his ministry considered last Saturday’s incident as very regrettable, more so as the unexpected huge crowd shattered the near perfect arrangements they had put in place against anticipated huge crowd.
“The Interior Ministry made adequate provisions for the expected mammoth crowd at the National Stadium meant to conveniently sit 75,000 people.
It was gathered that more than 45 percent of those who eventually turned up for the recruitment exercise were not supposed to be at the centers.
According to Muhammed: “About 520,000 applied for the recruitment exercise across the federation. For instance, we had in our record that applicants totaling 68,000 were to be at the Abuja Stadium. But at the end, nearly 70 percent of non-applicants forced their way into the stadium.
“Apart from the committees that planned the exercise ahead, we had security personnel drawn from the Immigration, Civil Defence, Prisons, Fire Services and others to complement the Police. We made adequate preparations.
“But they overpowered the security personnel. Many of them got impatient and very desperate to get attention, and in the process, they began to climb and jump across impossible places in order to gain access to the stadium. That was the beginning of the stampede.
“The crowd got more desperate when they learnt that they could get Foreign Service postings and then become pensionable. So doctors, nurses, teachers, engineer, and all manners of people who had paid jobs turned up and increased our dilemma”, he lamented.
The minister’s aide said the flood of criticisms that greeted the stampede were uncalled for, arguing that the critics did not bother to find out what caused the stampede.
To underscore the feeling of sadness that Mr. Moro and top officials of the ministry are experiencing, Muhammed said they have embarked on special intercessory prayers, specifically for those who lost their lives in the ill-fated exercise.