A controversial recruitment exercise which allegedly favoured a section of the country is going on at the Nigerian Immigration Service with jobs slots being secretly allocated to top government officials, sources told Daily Trust.
This is happening just three months to the exit of Controller General of the service Mrs. Rose Chinyere Uzoma, who is accused of favouring her kinsmen from the Southeast in the distribution of the vacancies.
A source in the House of Representatives said already the committee on Federal Character has opened investigations and asked the Immigration service to suspend the exercise.
The source said Uzoma appeared before the House committee last week to defend accusations of failure to publicly advertise vacancies and giving undue favouritism to the Southeast.
Uzoma, according to the source, told the lawmakers that the service did not advertise the jobs so as not to unknowingly employ terrorists, but the lawmakers reminded her that even the Military and Police are advertising their vacancies in spite of the prevailing insurgency.
She also said she had already obtained approval from the Head of Service of the Federation to employ 4,560 people.
The committee therefore asked her to provide details of the present distribution of the Immigration work force based on state of origin.
A committee member said they found out that out of over 25,000 Immigration staff, Uzoma’s husband’s state of origin Imo has the highest number with 1,190; Kano has 350; Lagos has 400; while Sokoto has the least with 200.
The committee therefore ordered her to stay action on the recruitment until she provides details on how she intends to share out the slots, but with priority to be given to the states that at present have low representation in the service.
Daily Trust learnt that before the lawmakers tried to pull the brakes, Uzoma had already offered hundreds of job slots to top government functionaries, including the Presidency which is offered 250 slots, Jonathan’s mother 40 slots, First Lady 100 slots, Interior Minister Abba Moro 100 slots, two commissioners of the Immigration board 30 slots each, and the Federal Character Commission 250 slots.
A source said the Federal Character Commission was given those job slots for giving the Immigration service waiver on the advertisement of the vacancies.
Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati did not respond to text a message sent to him asking for his comments on the alleged offers of Immigration job slots to the Presidency and Jonathan’s mother and wife.
For its part, the Federal Character Commission, through its spokesman Usman Jimada, denied being compromised by the Immigration Service. Jimada added that the commission will continue to pursue its mandate of fair and equitable recruitment in a manner that is transparent and beneficial to all Nigerians.
When asked for comments, spokesman for the Immigration service Mr. Olumbar Joachim said he was not aware of the Presidency getting offers to fill certain vacancies but added that there was nothing wrong with the Presidency or other officials making recommendations to the service.
“I am not aware of that and I don’t think it is correct,” he said, adding: “But for the Presidency giving recommendations, it is a different thing. Assuming that you, you know this person is of good character and all that, it’s a different thing. You are recommending somebody; it is not as if it is mandatory that that person would have to be recruited. What it means is that you are saying this person is not a criminal, you are saying that this person is a Nigerian.”
Joachim also denied that the CG is recruiting massively from her state of origin Abia and her husband’s state Imo. He said the exercise was open to scrutiny from the Federal Character Commission since it is mandatory that every state filled its quota.
“You cannot say madam is from Abia her husband is from Imo, Immigration is recruiting 1500 now Imo is producing 500; it is not possible anybody will ever do that,” he added.
He said all state controllers of Immigration were involved in the recruitment exercise.
Joachim said also the service introduced stringent vetting measures including having a guarantor to ensure it does not admit criminals, referring to a recent incident where an Immigration officer was arrested on suspicion of being a Boko Haram member.
“One thing is certain, the service will not engage in any exercise that will endanger the lives of innocent Nigerians. Two, considering the situation we are in now we will go the extra mile to ensure that criminals and terrorists are not brought into the service,” he added.
‘This cannot stand’
When Daily Trust contacted chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Federal Character, Rep. Ahmed Idris (ACN, Plateau), he said they have opened investigations into the “illegal” recruitments in the Immigration service.
“We have met twice with the Comptroller General, the last was on Saturday and she told us that they are recruiting 4,500 new officers out of which 1,200 is for senior cadres or degree holders while about 300 is for Diploma and secondary school leavers,” he said.
“Based on the reports we got, we have asked for their nominal roll and her last recruitment which will be given in a template that will reflect state by state distribution and even local governments. Section 4 of the 1999 constitution is very clear about Federal character in every government organisation and we won’t allow anybody who violates it to go scot-free.”
On whether the committee will reverse the recruitment, Idris said: “Certainly we will not only reverse it but we will go further and apply for their prosecution for perpetuating illegality.”