GUARDIAN April 5, 2014
How can Nigeria, a country so blessed, live in abject-poverty of the soul and of the body? We cannot solve the paradox of want in the midst of plenty by doing away with plenty.
The confusion, the killings, the hatred, the war in the land is caused by poverty. When I heard of the tragedy of the immigration recruitment exercise, three things came to my mind: The employment young Nigerians, who have gone to the university with neither education nor skill; the Nigeria government that does not participate in the preparation of our education and poverty of understanding the depth and danger of unemployment with its attendant security problem; and the youths who have completely refused to invest in themselves ,refocus their attention and energy and examine their values and mindset.
One of the mindset of most Nigeria young people is getting to the top without labour. Getting a government job, to most young men, is the realization of dream without work. This is the tragedy of Nigeria and it does not encourage patriotism. The immigration blunder and its aftermath, the tragedies of that week have awakened my conscience as a Nigerian to speak. The senseless killing of our fellow Nigerians in Borno, the slavery and killings of innocent Nigerians in the Ibadan forest, the child slavery and the baby factories in Imo, the kidnapping and killing in Anambra, the child prostitution and export of young girls of Edo origin to Italy and the oil bunkering by retired generals and connected Nigerians, as well as the trade in arms in the Niger Delta are big stains on our collective soul-the shame on a nation.
This is not the Presidents matter; it is our collective responsibility. Nigerians had anticipated that the number of applicants for Nigeria Immigration service (NIS) aptitude test would definitely exceed the space available to be filled this year.
This anticipation stemmed from previous experiences with other federal and state job interviews in the country, where a government official would always announce that the applicants far exceeded the spaces for a given job.
For example, in 2012 Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, announced that 800,000 Nigerians applied for a 1,500 space vacancy in his commission.
Jega was accused of not allowing all the applicants to participate in the job test. In other words, he was accused of secretly recruiting people to fill the posts.
But the INEC Chairman, while denying this allegation, said the vacancy was advertised in the newspapers. He said: “There is no way anybody will say he missed the advertisement. We put an application form online and over 800,000 applied .That information was provided. On the basis of the information, we did our screening.
“INEC wants to employ 1,500 people during this recruitment exercise and over 800,000 applied. There is no way you can interview 800,000 people. We have criteria for short-listing those that we invited.
“For example, we are employing people for entry level positions. But people, who have Masters and PhD applied. There is no way we can employ them for the entry level positions.”
This is where the paramilitary organization got it wrong and the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, under whose watch NIS operates, President Goodluck Jonathan, as well as Nigerians have all admitted to this error.
First, the available space to be filled in NIS was only less than 5,000.The number of Nigerians who applied varies. While some put the figure at six million and alleged that they were asked to pay N1,000 as registration, others said the number was not up to that. But whatever the true figure, many critics have said there could be better ways to handle the recruitment exercise. Nigerians are aware that apart from attempts by some opposition groups and political parties to politicize the tragedies recorded at some of the venues for the aptitude test, if it was successful and such a good number was employed by the NIS that would have amounted to a reduction in the total number of Nigerians in the labour market. Even the President s staunchest critics know that this looming crises is what he has been planning and strategizing to resolve. In Nigeria, there are two ways to live a life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, and the other is as though everything is a miracle.
In 2011, the country’s unemployment rate, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, stood at 23.9 per cent, and 2012, youth unemployment was put at 54 per cent. But many believe, and rightly so, that the figure is far more than what was given. And the number of applicants that showed up for that NIS aptitude test demonstrated this true state. To those who must have blown the figure out of proportion, while an alleged six million Nigerians applied for the job, about 530,000 were invited for aptitude test for 4,000 spaces, with Abuja alone recording 75,000 applicants at National Stadium.
At the Liberty Stadium venue of the exercise, instead of normal 16,000 people that the stadium can carry, the applicants that thronged the place climbed up to over 25,000.
Also the government Girls Day Secondary School, Minna in Niger State, witnessed over 12,000 applicants. The turnout later produced casualties in Abuja and some other states, following stampede at the venues, while many others sustained injuries.
But while Moro was giving explanations after the incident, he told Nigerians that the six million being peddled was not correct, saying the true figure of applicants that registered for the job was 526,650.
Maintaining that text messages were sent to those who applied and were qualified, he said the ministry decided to decentralise the exercise by creating 37 centres for ease for both the applicants and those to conduct the exercise. Unfortunately, the next day after the incident, there were speculations that the slots had been allocated to state governors and legislators even before the exercise, thus adding to the confusion and anger in the land.The federal government has now gone ahead to institute an investigation into the incident and the report would show a way forward.
Finally, we must take a look at the position of Eseoghene Odiete, the Nigeria creative director of Hesey Designs and Public Relations consultant, who has urged the country’s unemployed to look inwards, because there is no way the government can provide employment for all. The best the government can do is to provide the environment for business to thrive.
–Prof Azaiki is the Coordinator of The National Think-Tank