It is not right to subject the 2000 employees of the NIS to another test

The decision by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to subject 2,000 of its employees to another screening exercise is a continuation of the scandal that has for more than two years dogged the exercise. The affected persons were employed in 2015 by a presidential committee set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan, following the tragic incident that marred the March 2014 recruitment exercise, where several candidates died.

Unfortunately, the new recruits got caught in the crossfire of petty politics when they were initially asked to go by the current administration which would later set other preconditions for their absorption, following public outcry. This is despite the fact that they were employed after a transparent and competitive process.

Justifying the proposed fresh screening exercise, the NIS Comptroller-General, Mr. Muhammed Babandede said the “2000 dispersed officers” were expected to go through “necessary security clearance, undergo a drug-test, certificate verification as well as the implementation of the civil defence, fire service, immigration, and prisons service board (CDFIPB) policy on age-on-rank”. Babandede, who was the Deputy Comptroller-General of the NIS when the exercise was carried out in 2015, said those who recruited the young men and women went beyond the instruction of the former president, adding that those who committed the offence had been punished.

Notwithstanding Babandede’s efforts at rubbishing the exercise that produced the 2,000 dispersed recruits, we believe the process was transparent enough and it was indeed on merit, following laid down guidelines. And based on the outcome of that process, we also believe that, all factors considered, the recruits were the best among the hundreds of thousands that applied at the time.

Therefore, it will be unjust to subject them to another screening exercise after they had gone through a laborious recruitment process which included writing computer-based tests, interviews and screenings. It is even more irresponsible that the federal government would attempt to cynically do away with these young men and women who had undertaken a three-month training in parade drills, paramilitary ethics, immigration manual, weapons handling (G3, AK47, rifles, etc.) and over a dozen courses relevant to the NIS.

We note particularly that the House of Representatives had on April 12, 2016, passed a resolution, advising the Ministry of Interior and the NIS to reabsorb the aggrieved recruits after a dispassionate review of their case. Rather than do that, the NIS through its circular dated August 15, 2016, rolled out new stringent criteria for the re-screening of the young men and women.

To show the level of insensitivity, they were even described as “fresh applicants”. Yet, these are people who have received training, carried out the necessary documentations and issued service numbers. We want to make it clear to the NIS authorities and the Ministry of Interior that these are not fresh applicants; they are employees of the NIS who deserve justice.

The “age- on- rank” policy (placing of age restrictions/ceilings for ranks within the service), which the NIS is touting should not apply to these people. This is because the policy was first published on May 25, 2016 by the NIS board, a year after their employment. Even at that, the memorandum dated June 13, 2016, specifically stated that the policy was meant only for new intakes into the service (after its enactment). And it cannot be applied retroactively for the dispersed officers.

Against the background that the word out there is that the controversy was created so that some political leaders within the current government could employ their own people through the backdoor, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene by instructing the Ministry of Interior and NIS to absorb the 2000 young men and women immediately. That is the only path of honour.