A witness, Mr Tabugn Sylvanus who testified in court during the ongoing trial of former Interior Minister, Abba Moro, has disclosed how miserly release of fund by the contracting company, Drexel Nigeria Limited, caused the National Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment tragedy.
Sylvanus, an NIS retired Director and Secretary of the Board told the Federal High Court on Friday, that despite the fact that about N1 billion was got from sale of forms, only N45 million was made available for the conduct of the tragic immigration recruitment exercise in 2014 that claimed the lives of about 18 job seekers.
According to him, out of N201 million required for the proper conduct of the exercise, only N45 million was released. He is the second persecution witness to testify in court during the ongoing trial of former Interior Minister, Abba Moro.
He added that late modifications made to the recruitment exercise caused the number of projected participants at the Abuja test venue to rise from 6,800 to over 66,000.
Mr. Moro, who was also the chairman of the board of the NIS, is accused of defrauding hundreds of thousands of job seekers, who paid N1, 000 each for the recruitment test.
Moro was charged to court by EFCC alongside Anastasia Nwaobia; a deputy director in the interior ministry, Felix Alayabami and a company, Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited.
Sylvanus explained, “We wrote the chairman (Mr. Moro), indicating the cost of the exercise. We came up with N201 million and forwarded to the honourable chairman for approval. The chairman gave his approval and conveyed same to Drexel.
“The company fired back that they were not supposed to be responsible to fund the exercise. But as a benevolent gesture; they attached a cheque of N45 million as their contribution to the exercise. The cheque was received around March 12 at 3 p.m.
“Immediately we informed the chairman who ordered that we trim the budget to meet the available sum of money. We launched the cheque of N45 million. Officers were able to get their alert on Friday, but a few others could not get the money till the following day.
“The chairman took a glance at all our plans and said we should proceed. The only objection he had was that the initial arrangement for candidates to sit for the exams at their various states was altered because candidates had indicated preferences.
“Because of the change in the announcements that candidates should sit at their choice venues, FCT that had about 6,800 now got up to 66,000 candidates. They now came looking for the National Stadium and for that, an additional N3 million was required. From the budget, we had to collapse what we had proposed for marking and for fuel to be able to get N2 million. The Comptroller General, Immigrations also sent in N1 million making N3 million.”
He added that officers who surveyed the National Stadium Abuja, by 4am on Saturday the day of the exercise, had reported that some applicants slept at the stadium, awaiting the exercise.
This report he claimed, gave him a warning sign that the security architect that was in placed may not hold.
he narrated that the several calls he put across to the board chairman failed to yield result as he was not able to hear him due too much noise in the background.
Sylvanus efforts to reach Mr Moro were abortive, he said he was told afterward that Mr Moro was in church and had his phone switched off.
According to him, when Moro was finally contacted, they all went to get details of what happened.
“At 11 o’clock after we had gotten in touch with all the states, we went to the National Stadium, but could not get in. While we were trying to get in, we got a report from the officer in charge of the FCT recruitment that there was an incident in the western gate. We went to the National Stadium where the security explained to us and the honourable minister what had happened.
“What happened was that there were people from inside the gate that were trying to get out and some from outside who were trying to get in. The number of those trying to get in was more that those from inside trying to get out. So while they were trying to get in, the ones outside fell the gate and on those inside and they were trampled upon.
The trial judge, Namdi Dimgba, adjourned the case for hearing till October 14 having listened to the witness for several hours.
By Ebere Ndukwu …
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