Sunday, 16 March 2014

Immigration Recruitment: Scores Dead, Injured At Test Venues In Nigeria [Photos]

Tragedy struck on Saturday which threw the nation into deep mourning as several Nigerians, whose total number is yet to be determined, died in parts of the country in the process of seeking employment with the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).
From Abuja to Minna in Niger State, from Port Harcourt in Rivers State to Benin City in Edo State, it was a tale of woes and lamentation as youthful Nigerians lost their lives in circumstances that are questionable.
While many were said to have died of suffocation, many reportedly died from tear gas released on them by security agents.
Indeed many who died were allegedly killed by gun totting security operatives.
It was indeed tears at the Abuja National Stadium as operatives laboured  to revive scores of applicants said to have been trampled upon in a stampede that occurred on Saturday morning at the media gate of the complex, venue of Abuja centre of the nationwide aptitude test for recruitment into the NIS.

At least 10 of the applicants were feared dead, even as unconfirmed report said two of them were pregnant women.
Scores others fainted and sustained injuries and were immediately rushed to different hospitals by security operatives, who felt helpless in the face of surging crowd of unemployed persons.
At the Abuja National Hospital where most of the fainted were taken to, the medical personnel refused to confirm number of the dead.
But sources at the hospital hinted that about eight persons were on the list of those brought in dead.
Survivors were seen lying on bare floor as hospital personnel prevented journalists from taking any photographs.
Trouble started at about 9.20 am. The mass of applicants that arrived the stadium as early as 4.30 am for the exercise that was scheduled for reportedly tried to force their way into the gates, even as operatives laboured to screen them.
As a result of pressure from behind, applicants closest to the partially opened gates, were crushed against the gate.
The unprecedented turnout overwhelmed the 60,000-capacity Abuja stadium. Every inch of the edifice was taken by the mass of applicants, while thousands sat helpless outside the facility, casting doubt about the administration’s claims at job provision.
Others who could not stand the hassles decided to return to their homes. In Abuja alone 68,000 applicants were listed to sit for the examination.
Minister of Interior, Abba Patrick Moro, had on Thursday assured the nation that logistic and security measures had been put in place to ensure a hitch-free exercise.
But that turned out otherwise, at least in Abuja, where a handful of police officers and men of the different paramilitary agencies and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) appeared unprepared for what happened.
It took the fainting of one of the applicants, a pregnant woman, for the operatives to open the gates wide, only to discover that scores others had been crushed underfoot by the surging crowd.
Eyewitnesses claimed that 18 people fainted in the stampede as foot wears, bags, certificates and shawl litter the entire place.
Survivors, including women, could easily be detected in the crowd because of their dirty look as the while outfit they put on had turned brownish.
Outside the stadium itself, it was chaos. The applicants blocked the ever-busy Airport Road.
Many had to scale the barbed wire to gain entry into the facility. At a point the police fired a canister of tear gas to prevent people from rushing into the stadium at the approach of security vehicle.
Some of the applicants, who spoke to Sunday Independent, condemned the arrangement put in place by NIS and the Interior Ministry, and wondered how the two government agencies could have conducted exam for 68,000 persons at the same time.
“I am very disappointed that the NIS and the Interior Ministry could have put this shabby arrangement.
“It is shocking to see that people left their homes to look for jobs only to return as dead bodies. We came here early but they refused to open the gates.
“They were aware of the number of people that are coming for the this exercise in Abuja. But, look at the number of security personnel here, very few.
“There is no medical arrangement, what I can see here is just one ambulance”,  stated one Eke O. Eke.
Adeyemi Babalola, who came all the way from Ibadan for the exercise, maintained that the risk is not worth it.
He observed that nationwide, data base of the consulting firm that handled the online application show that more than eight million applicants filled forms to enlist in the NIS and paid N1000 each to get registered.
According to him Lagos centre has  53,000 applicants, with the least state having 3,500 applicants.
Inside the stadium itself, there was more confusion as a handful of Immigration officers battled to get the  exercise off the ground.
Officials claimed that the exercise was scheduled for, while accreditation was billed for
Spirited efforts to separate graduate applicants from OND and School Certificate applicants met with more confusion.
As at press time applicants were still loitering the facility, while many left for their homes in anger abandoning the exam entirely.
One Agnes said: “I am going home, I am even happy to be alive. Many of us who came here are now dead. It is very bad the way this people are treating us”.
The test eventually held amid confusion and fighting two hours later. While the graduate applicants, who sat at the upper terrace of the stadium, had the aptitude test, those of other certificates at the lower terraces was mired in confusion. Some applicants got the question papers while others did not, resulting in brawl.
Frustrated applicants were not attended to by anyone nor information passed to them as they waited for hours while some who could not withstand the stress were seen being conveyed to the hospital after collapsing as a result of exhaustion.
Before 12 noon, not less than 10 persons were reported to have collapsed and taken to hospital in ambulances which were driven through the huge crowd milling in and around the gates and adjourning roads around the stadium.
Hawkers also had a field day extorting applicants who were hungry and thirsty as prices of food and drinks were hiked to the consternation of the buyers who had no option but buy.
A sachet of water sold for between N20 and N50, while bottled water was sold at a minimum of N200.
Some applicants who could not afford the high prices of drinks were seen getting water from the taps in the public toilets around the stadium while some were seen clustering around some taps within the open fields around the stadium getting water into empty jars of bottle water to drink.
While the wait for information from the organizers of the event continued,  at about 1;15 pm, at  entrance 31b into the main bowl, a pregnant applicant went into labour and was hurriedly carried into the toilet by some ladies who came to her rescue to help take her delivery.
At about 2.15 pm, news went round that the question papers for the test had arrived, leading to a surge among the crowd, who were outside the main bowl, in an effort at getting a seat in the already filled to capacity stands.
The stampede caused by the surge eventually led to a number of deaths with scores seriously injured.
One of the applicants. who was at the scene of the stampede, told Sunday Independent that the number of dead was higher than seven, saying what he saw was up to 25.
As at press time, there has  been no official list of casualties figures released by the organisers, but Sunday independent can report that the bodies of the dead applicants have been deposited at the National Hospital, Abuja morgue.
Reacting to the development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, on Saturday said it was “shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the untimely death of the people who lost their lives at the National Stadium during the exercise.
Metuh said it was “unfortunate and disheartening that the victims paid the supreme price while trying to be more useful to the nation.”
While commiserating with the families of the deceased, the ruling party prayed for the speedy recovery of the wounded and charged the Ministry of Interior and all relevant agencies of government to immediately swing into action to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the stampede.
The PDP also charged all government agencies and parastatals, as well as all its  elected and appointed officials at all levels to redouble their efforts in curbing unemployment in line with President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda and the PDP manifesto.
Meanwhile, authorities of National Hospital, Abuja, on Saturday confirmed seven persons among 67,000 NIS job applicants in the FCT dead.
Tayo Haastrup, the spokesman for the hospital, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the seven, five women and two men, were brought in dead and that the bodies had been deposited at the mortuary.
“The hospital received some casualties from the stampede from the ongoing Immigration recruitment at the National Stadium.
made the denial while reacting to media reports over a stampede that occurred at the command venue for the exercise.
He explained that those who sustained injuries during the stampede at the stadium were given medical attention by medics, who were present at the venue of the recruitment exercise, while others were taken to hospitals.
Abang admitted that there was a stampede at the stadium when those who turned out for the exercise were more than those expected.
Explaining further, Abang said that the command had expected about 20,000 genuine applicants for the exercise, but those that turn out for the recruitment were more than the number and the capacity of the stadium.
When Sunday Independent visited the stadium at about, it was difficult to gain access to the main bowl of the sports complex due to the huge population of applicants. About 40,000 persons attended the exercise and the Immigration officials and other security agencies were overwhelmed by the large turnout.
According to a source close to the Command, some of the recruits, who could not have access into the venue of the exercise scaled over the stadium walls to enter, while others climbed over the stadium gates and in the stampede that ensued, many potential recruits were trampled upon.
Another source explained that the ensuing struggle by the applicants to gain access into the stadium took place during the screening of candidates as the applicants forced opened the stadium’s main gate and in the process many fell down and were trampled upon by others.
However, normalcy was brought to the stadium when more security personnel were mobilised to the venue of the exercise.
An Immigration official, who will not want his name mentioned, blamed the stampede on the large number of applicants who could not make it to their states of origin, but decided to try their luck in Rivers State.
According to the official, applicants were expected to report to their state of origin for the exercise, but many for several reasons, could not go home but decided to come to the venue for Rivers State.
From Benin City, two pregnant women and a nursing mother were feared dead with 20 others seriously injured, while participating in the Benin zone of the Immigration recruitment on Saturday at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City.
They were said to have slumped and died instantly as a result of exhaustion brought about by stampede inside the main bowl of the stadium
Over 28,000 applicants had turned up for the exercise as early as, but the screening could not start till about 2.15pm, when some of the applicants started leaving after the stampede.
Reports had it that trouble started at about, when the Immigration officials in charge of the screening lost control of the  crowd prompting the soldiers on guard to start shooting sporadically in into the air as a way of controlling the crowed and this frightened the applicants who started running for safety that led to the stampede.
As at the time of filing this report, the over 22 persons injured were being revived at a nearby hospitals, while the two pregnant women and the nursing mother’s bodies were said to have been taken to the government hospital in Benin.
Some of the applicants, who spoke to our correspondent, condemned the way the exercise was conducted, blaming the immigration officials in charge for poor arrangements and bad coordination of the exercise.
One of the applicants, who gave his name as Isaac, expressed shock over the inhuman way the applicants were treated by the recruitment officers.
“You should ask the immigration officials, why the shooting in the first place. To organise the applicants is easy. Now, the shooting has caused big problem.
“Three persons died, over 20 persons are being hospitalised. Now, the exercise is put on hold”, he lamented.
The story is not different from Minna. Tragedy also struck there on Saturday as three persons out of the 11,000 candidates, who turned up at Women Day Secondary School, Minna, for examination into NIS were fear dead.
It was revealed that the incident occur in a stampeded during accreditation for candidates to enter into the examination hall and the situation got out of the control of immigration service personnel.
Our correspondent learnt that when they were unable to control the crowd they opened tear gas and in the process seven persons collapsed and were rushed to the hospital where three persons gave up the ghost.
However, security sources told journalists that NIS personnel were overwhelmed by the crowd that lined up to 2 kilometers from the venue of the examination adjacent Federal Secretariat, Minna, to enter into the examination hall.

No comments:

Post a Comment