Former Minister of Interior, Senator Abba Moro, on Thursday, linked the former Comptroller General (C-G), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), David Parradang, to the 2014 recruitment tragedy.
Moro, who currently represents Benue South Senatorial District, made the disclosure before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja, while being led in evidence by his lawyer, Paul Erokoro, SAN, as first defence witness (DW1) in the ongoing case against him.
Parradang, who was the C-G of NIS between 2013 and 2015, was the first prosecution witness (PW1) in the case filed against Moro and others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC had, on May 11, 2016, arraigned Moro, alongside with a former Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mrs Anastasia Daniel-Nwobia; an ex-director in the ministry, Felix Alayebami and a firm, Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd.
They were arraigned on an 11-count charge bordering on conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in the botched 2014 NIS recruitment exercise.
Although the charges were amended on February 23, 2018, the defendants pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Justice Dimgba had, on June 25 while delivering ruling in a no-case submissions by the defendants, discharged and acquitted Dretex Tech Nigeria limited from the entire charges.
Giving his testimony on Thursday, Moro said from the report of the committee the ministry set up to ascertain what actually happened, “some officials who were assigned to certain centres were not on ground to provide leadership.”
The former minister, who described the incident as unfortunate, said the sad event occurred only in four centres out of the 34 centres across the country.
He mentioned Minna, Edo and the FCT as the four venues where the tragedy was recorded.
He said to complement the success of the e-portal employed in the exercise, senior officials of the services and ministry were deployed to various centres while other security agencies were invited to ensure a hitch-free exercise.
“The current Comptroller General, Muhammed Babandede, was deployed to Lagos.
“The then C-G, David Parradang; C-G, NSCDC, Olu Abolurin; C-G of Fire Service, Okebiorun and C-G of Prison Service were supposed to coordinate centers.
“The director Para-Military in the ministry coordinated the North east.
He said Parradang, who was the C-G at the time, was deployed to FCT to supervise.
“In FCT, the C-G of NIS, Parradang, was not available to control the crowd when things went out of hand.
“It was the absence of proper leadership at the centre due to the absence of officers assigned.
“This was partly the reasons for the accident,” he said.
When Erokoro asked him where Parradang could have gone during the recruitment exercise, he said “from what I learned later, he travelled to Jos to attend a function.”
Moro said though it was not his responsibility to supervise centres, in Jos where he had gone for an official function, he took time to visit the two centres at Jos Government College and Gboko Play Ground.
“At the open play ground, question papers were in short supply and I had to pay for extra copies,” he said.
The lawmaker said even at the Lagos Centre, where the current C-G, Babandede coordinated, he was able to avert any incident of death.
“Babandede, sensing that the crowd was overwhelming and confusion and chaos weré imminent, he immediately cancelled the exercise and announced the new date for applicants,” he said.
Moro said there was stampede at the four centres where deaths and injuries were recorded from the report made available to him.
“At National Stadium Abuja, applicants scaled the fence to get into the stadium, climbed the bridge in the eagerness to write the exam,” he said.
According to him, the management of the stadium opened only two of the eight gates making it extremely difficult for applicants’ easy access and this led to the death and injury of applicants in the desire to enter the venue.
The former minister, who said he did not know the names of people who died in the incident, said from available record, 15 people died.
He disagreed with Parradang, while giving his evidence that he did not know anything about the recruitment.
“He was a member of the Board of the ministry and attended some of the meetings”
He also addressed press conference in his office on March 6, 2014, informing Nigerians of the date of the recruitment exercise,” he said.
Moro also said that the then Deputy Comptroller of NIS, one Ayodeji also wrote to all the commands of Immigration intimating them of the date of the exercise of the recruitment and requesting all the commands to liaise with state governments to secure venues and other facilities as well as securing the services of all security agencies.
He said the e-recruitment was to ensure transparency, cost effectivenss, give opportunity to all Nigerians and to solve the problems of long distance travel of applicants with hazards of accident, armed robbery attack, etc.
Justice Dimgba adjourned the matter until February 23 for continuation of trial and cross examination of DW1 by the prosecution.