Before sunrise, in the early hours of Saturday seven young Nigerians put on white shirts and left their homes. In their hands their school certificates, a pencil, biro and eraser. They were heading toward the national stadium, intending to partake in the lottery-like Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise. A few hours later their lives were stuffed out and their soulless, unknown corpses in now dusty shirts in the lonely mortuary of Abuja’s National Hospital yet to be identified by their loved ones.
By now, the media reports at least 17 Nigerians who have died during the tragedies in Abuja, Benin, Port Harcourt, Minna and Kaduna. The reports about the actual death toll are conflicting but there is no doubt that amidst the senseless killings of the recent days, weeks and months we are now facing a disaster where the responsibility for the loss of lives is so easily traceable to the guilty ones and anything else but their emphatic prosecution would dishonor the dead and be a shame to us, the living. Therefore I accuse Comrade Abba Moro, Minister of Interior and David Paradang, Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service of murder by negligence.
Murder by negligence is established when someone´s acts are careless, neglectful or willfully blind that it leads to the death of others. How does this legal category apply to yesterdays NIS recruitment disaster? Abba Moro and David Paradang were aware of more than half a million applicants, yet there were neither sufficient security and nor crisis control plans in place for such a huge gathering. The security agencies fired warning shots, teargas and used horsewhips to control the movement of the crowd that was already out of order, which did not help the stampedes.
The Comptroller General and the Minister of Interior yesterday failed to control the crowd they convened and about seventeen (17) Nigerians lost their lives, due to willful negligence. Death and injury has trailed badly planned recruitment exercise in the past so any prudent official can foresee harm that is avoidable
Abba Moro and David Paradang have clearly failed to meet their responsibility in office before, during and after the disaster and must provide to Nigerians, answers to the following questions.
- Who decided to conduct the entire recruitment exercise at one day instead of splitting it into several events?
- Who decided that it is necessary to invite about 520,000 applicants and not reduce the number through a previous selection?
- Who was the nationwide coordinator of the NIS recruitment exercise?
- What agency was responsible for providing security and coordinating the cooperation between the agencies involved?
- What officials represented the Comptroller General and the Civil Defense, Fire Immigration and Prison Service’s Board (CDFIPB) of the Ministry of Interior at each of the scenes?
- When were the Police, the Civil Defense, the Road Safety Corps and the State Governments informed about the recruitment exercise?
- Did the involved agencies meet prior to the recruitment exercise to coordinate?
- Was there any written strategy for the crowd management and an emergency plan drafted?
- How many officers of what agencies were deployed at each scene?
- Was any agency specialized in crowd management deployed at the densely populated venues?
- The president has been on record in 2011 instructing the National Security Adviser to conduct a special training on crowd management to security agencies after the stampede at a PDP rally in Port Harcourt? Were those officers involved in the preparation stage of this exercise?
- If Lagos the recruitment exercise was suspended due to insufficient security preparations, why was the exercise not suspended in other centers to avoid further casualties?
- When was the CGI and the Minister of Interior informed about casualties and what actions were taken after that?
- Why was there an absence of information, coordinating and documentation of casualties, injured and missed persons more than 24 hours later? What agency is responsible for providing moral and psychological support to the injured and relatives of the deceased?
- What are the procedures on ground now for the missing persons, for the injured, for the dead?
- Who is going to compensate the relatives of the deceased and the injured?
- Why did the minister put off addressing the issues till Monday, a full 48 hours after the tragedy?
One thing that is certain is that investigations won´t happen if the public is not collectively looking for answers to these questions. We can’t afford to be distracted from the issues while waiting for the government to set up another committee which will never indict or prosecute the guilty.
Nigerians must show that they are fed up with investigation-reports that violate the truth and only reflect power struggle between Ministers and committee members.
We must all put our heads together and dig to the bottom of this criminal negligence, keeping the rod of anger hot and flaming. If state institutions join in, they are highly welcome but we can not wait for them to take the initiative. We have to investigate by ourselves, using friends, families, whistle blowers, documents in public domain, the media, etc.
So I implore you to join the cause for justice. Someone has to pay the price and take responsibility for these deaths. Families of the lost and injured deserve the truth, an apology and we cannot move on until it is provided. Let us take up the investigation collectively and share our finding on with one another. We have started hashtag #MurderByNegligence and look forward to uncovering the truth with you all.
Azeenat, a social media activist and human rights campaigner contributed this piece from Abuja