The trial of embattled former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, continued on Friday with the prosecution presenting yet another witness to further give evidence regarding the role played by the ex-minister in the ill-fated 2014 Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment, which led to the death of about 20 applicants in various centres across the country.
Former Director/Secretary of the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Service Board, Sylvanus Dan-Kano Tapgun, who testified as PW2, gave details of how Moro circumvented due process to effectively strip the Immigration Service of delegated powers enjoyed by the Service in the recruitment of junior officers.
Led in evidence by counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Aliyu M. Yusuf, Tapgun stated: “I resumed from training on September 13, 2013.
“It was while discussing with sectional and unit heads that I got to know about an ongoing e-registration exercise.
“I sought a copy of the agreement, but I was told that there was no copy amongst the staff of the Board.
“The exercise was not a part of the handover notes, but I was aware that the exercise was ongoing because it was captured in the minutes.
“Meanwhile, there were a lot of complaints regarding the e-recruitment exercise, some of which were that the candidates could not access the portal until very late at night.
“Board members complained that they were not carried along.
“The Comptroller General, Immigration, particularly told me that he had sent a letter on September 9, 2013 in which he complained about delegated services being taken over by a consultancy agency.
“He also complained that the advert was placed without consulting the NIS.
“After he reminded me a second time, we had to organise a search for the letter.
“We found the letter seven to eight weeks after the CG had sent it in.
“It was then that I wrote a draft response, which I took along when I went to see the Chairman (Moro).
“He directed me to deal with the letter.
“I sent a response informing the CG that I knew that the NIS was not aware.
“Dr. Lifu and Dr. Zakaria, the Permanent Commissioners representing the North and the South on the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Service Board, also indicated that they had sent their views regarding the letter to the Chairman.
“At this time, there were invitations from the National Assembly, the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-governmental Affairs, as well as the Federal Character Commission as they had sought to know how the allotment of positions for the Immigration was going to be done.
“The Chairman (Moro) said we should not attend any of those meetings without his approval, so I sent the circular to that effect.
“The Youth Unemployed Vanguards held rallies at the National Assembly and the Board, seeking the stoppage of the N1,000 that was being charged for the online registration.
“We met with the leadership and were able to contain them.”
The PW2 also gave evidence to the effect that Zenith Bank wrote to confirm if it should stop the collection, to which the Chairman (Moro) replied that there would be no stoppage because an agreement had already been signed.
According to Tapgun: “The registration officially ended on the 27th October, 2013 and returns were rendered as received from Drexel to the Chairman (Moro) who further approved a week extension due to the national holidays that fell in-between the extension.
“Consequently, in January 2014, Drexel wrote that they were ready to conduct the interview exercise in the six geopolitical zones which was to commence between January 29, 2014 and February 2, 2014.
“We wrote to the Chairman that it was not the duty of Drexel to conduct the recruitment exercise, that they were eroding the powers of the Board.
“He didn’t respond but invited the CG, NIS and I on January 30th, 2014 to go and arrange the conduct of the exercise, to ensure that there were no ‘further payments’.
“On February 20, 2014, the Minister was at the National Assembly for Budget Defence and he was confronted with questions regarding the recruitment exercise.
“He said it was going to be on the 5th of March.
“We considered the date as very sudden because it set the Committee on panic mode.
“We had just about three weeks to deliver and we had no money for the exercise.
“The Chairman (Moro) encouraged us to continue, assuring us that he was going to look for the funds.
“Since funds were not readily available, the Committee gave funding options and recommended that the exercise be postponed.
“But the Chairman said that there wouldn’t be any staggering and that the exercise must take place as scheduled.
“He gave a budget of about N201 million with a further request that Drexel be asked to fund the exercise.
“He gave his approval and we conveyed this to Drexel.
“Drexel wrote back that it was not their responsibility, but as a benevolent gesture, attached a cheque of N45 million as their ‘contribution’ towards the exercise.
“The cheque was received on the 12th of March, three days to the exercise.
“The Chairman then directed that we should trim the budget according to the available sum of N45 million.
“We came up with an amount that fitted the budget on Thursday, March 13, 2014, two days before the exercise.
“Due to the sudden change in venues announcement in the FCT, where we had made provisions for 6,800 applicants, the number shot up to 66,000 applicants.
“We had to move from Area 10 Stadium to the National Stadium at a cost implication of N3 million, collapsing the budget provisions for marking of papers and diesel.
“We called the CG, NIS and he sent another N1 million.
“About 11am, we decided to visit the National Stadium, but could not get close because of the crowd.
“We eventually got a report from the officer in charge of the FCT recruitment that there was an incident at the western gate that led to loss of lives.
“Candidates outside the gate trying to force their way in pushed the gate and it fell on the applicants inside the gate who were trampled upon.
“We made a detour to the National Hospital and saw candidates being treated.
“At that time, seven candidates had been declared dead already.
“Meanwhile, other reports of incidences came from Niger, Edo, Rivers, Jigawa and Bauchi States.”
A copy of the report was tendered and admitted as exhibit.
Earlier in the proceedings, the PW1, David Shikfu Paradang, a former Comptroller -General of the NIS, while being cross-examined by Sunday Ameh, counsel to the fourth defendant, Drexel Global Tech Limited, stated: “To my knowledge, the fourth defendant (Drexel) put in place the e-learning platform and applicants applied through the platform.
“The services provided by Drexel in that platform were at zero cost to the Federal Government.”
Paradang added that he and the Committee members were not fully briefed on all the processes that the Ministry and the Board went through to arrive at the N1000 per applicant, saying: “I only saw it in the advert.
“I did not participate or play any role as the contract was drafted and signed before my tenure.
“I am aware the company, Drexel, made N45 million available to the Secretary to the Board being payment for logistics to the exercise.
“Some of these monies were passed directly to the officers in the Command for the exercise.”
The matter has been adjourned to October 14, 2016 for continuation of trial.