In the early hours of Saturday, March 15, 2014, thousands of job applicants made their way to 37 test centers nationwide as directed by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). The test centers comprised trade fair complexes, football stadia, high schools and tertiary institutions. Applicants were further instructed to come along with the following – acknowledgement slip, means of identification, writing materials and clothing suitable for physical exercise.
Matter of fact, the recruitment exercise did not start here. September 2013, the NIS published a notification for general recruitment. Applications were solicited from suitably qualified candidates (SSCE, NCE, ND, HND, BSc, PhD holders). The outlined process required interested applicants purchasing an ‘Access Code’ for a sum of one thousand naira (or more… the jury is still out on how much was required) via designated bank(s). This code was then to be used to complete an online application. Candidates who completed this successfully got an acknowledgement slip issued to them.
As expected, in November 2013, there was public outcry against this application fee charged to interested candidates. In response to this, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, explained that the one thousand naira fee “is the charge by the consulting firm to defray cost of accessing the website to fill forms. This is also intended to save the applicants the cost of travelling to Abuja to submit their application forms, as well as avoid other inherent risks, including unauthorized middlemen activities and other abuses”.
Furthermore, personnel in the same Ministry expressed reservations about this levy citing that a potential six billion naira would be generated from an estimated six million candidates. Was this a recruitment drive or revenue generation gimmick? Did the NIS not include recruitment in its plan and budget for this financial year? How was this to be funded originally? Where in the world do employers charge job applicants as little as a dime?
Nigeria’s unemployment rate is put at 23.9% (2012), on the increasing trend over the past couple of years. Too many Nigerians are unemployed. They are available and able to work but a quarter of the labor force is out there seeking employment on a daily basis. It therefore is a no brainer that the response to an NIS job vacancy advert would be in the thousands. People are looking for jobs, and for a country where government is perceived to be the biggest employer of labor, the quickest means to inexplicable wealth, and the leapfrog catalyst from grass to grace, it is only normal to expect such a massive response to a government job vacancy.
While there is no confirmed official count of how many attended the purported NIS job test, informal reports have it that football stadia in Lagos, Ibadan and Abuja were appreciably filled to the higher tens of thousands. When a thirsty man hears there’s water around the corner, he will expedite his steps in that direction. It is likely the NIS and its consulting firm anticipated this massive turnout, influencing the choice of test center types, predominantly stadia.
What kind of recruitment test is conducted at a football stadium anyway? What was the plan to structure the seating arrangement for candidates? Was the personnel supervision requirement for this large expanse even considered? There was going to be a written test as applicants were asked to come with writing materials. Are there desks or writing pads in a typical Nigerian football stadium? How were applicants supposed to write? How would they have prevented examination malpractice in such a large and porous venue? Applicants were also asked to come with suitable clothes for physical exercise. Was this to be conducted at the same venue, in the same duration as a written test? What manner of thought process failure seems to be demonstrating itself thus? Was there no option to conduct the test first in batches, and then in phases with the physical examination/exercise/fitness phase done on a subsequent date?
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) exam is held annually in Nigeria, with well over a million candidates. Recently, JAMB announced the designation of 256 centers planned for the 2014 exam. Why couldn’t the NIS synergize its job test planning with such tested formats? What consulting firm was hired for this recruitment drive? Was there no plan to shortlist candidates from online applications as a crowd control measure?
Furthermore, candidates were requested to be at the venue by 7am. Access to the venues was definitely a challenge with the massive turnout and ill-prepared personnel. There are reports of candidates having to jump fences to get into the stadium. By the rule of convergence, when you have a large volume of substance approaching a narrow flow point, there is bound to be pressure build up. This principle is evident in traffic jams all over the country – 4 lanes reducing to 2, a jam results. Similarly, a few venue gates (say 8 hypothetically) serving a crowd of 20,000 people results in 2,500 people attempting to rush through 1 gate. This failure to plan and anticipate unknowns became a carefully orchestrated set up for a stampede. People desperate to get in, eyes on the prize – that government job with supposedly limitless opportunity, too few access points, more people trying to get in, impatience, fear, uncertainty, confusion, pushing, nudging, prodding … a breakdown of order.
Unfortunately, there were casualties. It is feared that there were as many as 7 fatalities in Abuja alone. Nigerians who left home in the morning, in pursuit of a job, ended up in the morgue. They came to the NIS for jobs, but got death in exchange. God rest their souls.
There are not too many words fit to describe this sham of an exercise than failure – Failure to outsource aright; Failure to leverage and synergize; Failure to protect; Failure to solve; Failure to execute; Failure to deliver! What a mess indeed. A peculiar mess. A national embarrassment.