Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) Comptroller-General, Mrs. Rose Uzoma
By Chinedu Eze
AAfter two years in the saddle, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) Comptroller-General, Mrs. Rose Uzoma, may be leaving in a blaze of controversy. Already, the stage is being set for the controversy, which if not quickly doused, could rubbish all she had laboured for since she emerged the first female substantive head of the service in 2010.
At the heart of the simmering controversy, which has pitted her against other top shots in the Immigration is an alleged secret recruitment of personnel, a few months to her retirement from the service.
According to top NIS officials, Uzoma with the assistance of a few of her trusted allies, has embarked on the task of recruiting over 5,000 Nigerians into the NIS and sidelining others in the process.
THISDAY learnt that many Immigration officers are embittered by the “secrecy” of the exercise, which denied them any involvement. They are accusing their boss of not following due process, which include strict compliance with the federal character principle, job advertisement and open scrutiny of those being employed to ensure that they meet defined criteria to work in a paramilitary organisation like the NIS.
One of the officers, who decried the arbitrariness in the recruitment process, told THISDAY that 90 days before the comptroller-general retires, she embarked on the exercise without involving other officers and is using hidden locations like primary schools as venues for interviews.
“There was an approval by the Federal Government to employ more people into Immigration but the recruitment exercise is being done secretly so there is serious tension among top officers and people are insisting on equitable representation according to the federal character policy,” the officer, who craved anonymity, said.
Another Immigration official also alleged that since Uzoma became the comptroller-general, “we started noticing secret recruitment in Immigration and in the present exercise, a senator from Akwa Ibom has submitted 30 names of his people to be employed. She has been in charge for over two years and will be retiring in 90 days.”
NIS Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joachim Ohumba, in a telephone interview, defended the secret recruitment. He explained that the reason why the exercise was being carried out secretly was that in 2006, there was an open recruitment, which led to the death of many candidates that came for the interview.
He said it was wrong to describe what the comptroller-general was doing as a racket because she had not failed to abide by the process, adding that all the people who were submitting names, including the senator mentioned earlier, were just doing that in the hope that if their candidates met the given criteria, they would be employed.
“As I am speaking with you now, I have letters from governors, members of the National Assembly and others. That senator brought letters from the members of his constituency but some of them may not meet the criteria for employment. These are just letters of request. This exercise started in 2010,” said Ohumba.
On allegations that the federal character principle is not being adhered to in the employment process, he said the comptroller-general had earlier directed all state comptrollers to produce candidates from their states for employment.
He said the criteria for employment include a background check on candidates, which requires a senior Immigration, army or naval officer to write a reference letter for a candidate, testifying to his good behaviour.
However, critics of the exercise faulted the argument that the management resorted to secret recruitment because people died during the 2006 recruitment and attributed that to poor management “which have taught us a lesson on how to do it better this time”.
“Other paramilitary institutions and government agencies conduct recruitment exercises in the open and carry it out successfully, so why can’t Immigration do the same?” one of the sources queried.