Rumpus in Immigration Service over N1000 recruitment charge

A group of youths under the aegis of Nigerian Unemployed Youth Vanguard (NUYV) led by one Solomon Adodo, its National Coordinator, stormed the Ministry of Interior office located at the Area 1 Old Secretariat, Abuja, in their numbers on September 23, 2013, to protest the collection of N1000 compulsory fee from them before they could enlist in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).
The job seekers who defied the heavy downpour in Abuja to register their grievances, maintained that the levy was not only immoral but wicked considering that most of the applicants who number in millions have been jobless for over 10 years since graduating from universities and wondered why an agency of government would be demanding fees from applicants for jobs that were not even guaranteed.
One of the applicants estimated that given the number of jobless Nigerians itching to land a job, the Interior Ministry may raise over N2 billion from desperate job seekers.
More than 30,000 applicants were said to have applied for jobs in the NIS under its 2013 recruitment exercise handled by the Ministry of Interior.
Daily Independent gathered that the Civil Defence, Immigration, Fire and Prisons Services Board indeed contracted the job to collate and process the millions of applications to a consultant which imposed processing fee on the applicants.
In the last three weeks, thousands of these job seekers have besieged some banks to effect the payment.
It took the intervention of Permanent Secretary of the Interior Ministry, Mrs. Fatima Bamidele to pacify the protesters even as she promised to look into their grievance.
Barely 24 hours after the protest, officials of Ministry of Interior rose from a crisis meeting on September 24, 2013, declaring that the N1000 it charged the applicants was ‘intended to save the teeming job seekers the cost of travelling to Abuja to submit their applications, aside inherent risks and other abuses associated with manual handling of applications that may run into millions.
In a statement by Mrs. Bamidele, the Ministry said it indeed authorized a consultant, whose identity was not given, to charge a maximum of N1000 as processing fee “to cover cost of scratch card to access the Internet site”, adding that the ICT-based recruitment exercise was adopted to ensure fairness, transparency and accountability.
But whereas no scratch cards were sold, applicants were requested to pay to some designated banks.
The statement claimed that the Ministry took the measure to guard against repeat of past recruitment exercise which ran into hitches because of the sheer volume of the applications and the controversy it generated.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Interior Ministry and NIS do not charge and will not accept money for jobs, and anybody that demands money or bribe will be appropriately sanctioned”, the statement added.
When Daily Independent visited offices of the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prison Services Board (CFIPB), the agency that hired the consultant, nobody was willing to speak on the development, as the Director was said to be among officers attending the crises meeting.
One of the commissioners, who pleaded anonymity, however volunteered that it is normal for people to protest, saying that other agencies including the police and army charge higher fees on applicants.
“Our fees are moderate. What about police and army which charge higher fees?” he queried our reporter.
However, it has been alleged that the consultancy job was contracted out to the wife of a prominent Senator.
A reliable source close to the CDFIPB hinted that the Interior Minister, Abba Patrick Moro actually contracted the job to a consultancy firm said to belong to the wife of the Senator which presently runs the CDFIPB employment portal.
Efforts to uncover the identity of the consulting firm could best be likened to the biblical Carmel passing through the eye of the needle as the firm was shielded. A number of Interior Ministry officials confronted refused to comment on the issue as if it was a taboo.
George Udoh, Special Assistant to the Minister, bluntly refused to comment on the matter and directed our reporter to the Director of CDFIPB, who we gathered is less than two weeks on the job.
The Commissioner in-charge of Appointment and Promotions M. Zakari also refused to entertain questions from journalists, saying instead that it is only Moro, Chairman of the Board that can authorize any such public comment regarding the activities of the board.
When contacted on the issue, the Public Relations Officer of NIS, Chukwuemeka Patrick Obua was equally not forthcoming, saying instead that the task of recruiting personnel for the services is vested in the board.
He explained that in the past the various services were given the privilege to conduct the recruitment exercise independently for the junior staff cadre, adding that controversy that trailed last recruitment exercise may have informed recent action of the ministry.
Top officials of the Ministry of Interior, who pleaded for anonymity, alleged that the Immigration high command has dragged the Minister, Abba Moro, before the National Assembly for awarding the exercise as a contract to the wife of a senator.
They said this negates the civil service procedure, alleging that “so far, more than 3,000 applicants have applied”.
According to them, “the recruitment of junior officers (Inspector, Assistant Inspector and Immigration Assistant) is vested on the Comptroller General of Immigration Service (CGIS). Officers are not happy with the Minister over his excesses in his taking over of the functions of the service chiefs under his ministry, especially in areas of appointment promotion and positing of officers as his kinsmen of the Idoma stock are favoured very well.”
They called on the president to transfer him from the Ministry.
“Similar thing happened during Mrs. Rosemary Chinyere Uzoma’s regime which led to her sack by the Minister and the Senate setting up a panel. Till date, the outcome of the panel is not known because the Senate President is trying to save him, as the report is still awaited”.
The Minister was also accused of contracting out to his personal company the online registration and application for expatriate quota positions.
It was alleged that companies willing to bring in expatriates are charged N50, 000 as registration fee and N25, 000 as application fee.
“The registration fee is not accounted for. Quota application is supposed to be handled by the citizenship and business department of the ministry”, it was alleged.
Officials of the NIS are also worried that they are more or less becoming redundant because most of their jobs have been given out to consultants.
“Our functions have been hijacked by contractors. They only issue passwords to Immigration officers who do the data capturing”, one officer alleged.
Another NIS officer who does not want her names in print said the only way to bring sanity to the Service is to grant it full autonomy.
She decried the situation where the CGIS has to consult the Minister on all issues, saying most of the officers are demoralised.
She also corroborated the allegation that the wife of a high ranking Senator is involved in the ongoing recruitment exercise, saying that one of the Senator’s daughters is a Special Assistant to Moro “and is running much of the activities of the Minister”.
“What is the pedigree of the consultant handling the recruitment? Why didn’t they give the consultancy to reputable international consultancy firms like KPMG?” another officer queried.
He said previously, the normal recruitment procedure was handled by various states’ civil service through advertisement.
“After that, the applicants would file out. Men were expected to be 5ft 6 inches; women were expected to be 5ft 3inches. Consequently, the recruiting officers would look out for body built. The applicants would write tests before going for interview. That was how we entered the NIS. The current CGIS, David Paradang, himself entered through that procedure about 25 years ago with the necessary qualifications. New intakes don’t respect their superior officers again nowadays because of how they enter the service”, he lamented.
Special Assistant to the Minister, George Udoh, said he cannot respond to the issues but directed our reporter a Director of the board, who said he was less than two weeks in office.
The former Director and some board members were removed by Moro not too long ago because they were opposed to his move to promote some Immigration Officers who were not qualified.
An official of NIS who preferred not to be named acknowledged that the recruitment in the past was delegated to the CGIS and had been accepted as a right, even though it is a privilege.
He however said the withdrawal may be due to the controversy that trailed past recruitment, or for some other reasons not known to the service.
Until his appoint as the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service in June this year, Paradang, then an Assistant Comptroller of Immigration, was in charge of state coordination at the NIS Headquarters, Abuja.
He was appointed following the sack of Rose Chinyere Uzoma for alleged indiscipline, high handedness and corruption.
Shortly after the appointment, Paradang renewed his pledge to fight the issue of corruption among the personnel.
He vowed to rid the Service of corruption associated with recruitment.
He said “We cannot afford to have corruption in the recruitment exercise of the Service.
“When the foundation is really bad, the whole thing will collapse. We intend to make sure recruitment is open, fair and open to all Nigerians.

“All parts of the country are supposed to be represented and they must be represented. The system will be cleaned and you will see it and you will confirm it when I meet with you next time.”

Daily independent
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