The evil men do By Lawal Ogienagbon

0902F13.Goodluck-JonathanPRESIDENTS are expected to be men of their words. They do not talk for the fun of it. They speak when necessary and with authority. Whatever they say is law. They are our earthly gods because of the powers they wield. The presidential seat carries a seal of authority that grants the occupant absolute power. But leaders that are wise do not use such powers absolutely because, according to  Lord Acton, ‘’power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’’.

Leaders use their powers in different ways. Some use their powers to help people; others use their powers to oppress. Why do men seek power? They seek power in order to contribute their quota to the socio-economic development of their countries.

The president epitomises the government he leads. As the first citizen, the buck stops at his table. His orders are final and they must be carried out by his aides, except otherwise stopped from doing so by the court. Where there is no such order, the president’s word is as good as taking it to the bank. Where you have the president’s word, you can go to sleep, rest assured that all is well. No subordinate can reverse the president’s order because they know the consequences of such an action.

When presidents speak, they speak with authority. They are firm and assertive because they hold the four aces. They can do and undo. Former President Goodluck Jonathan knew too well the enormous powers of his office before he directed that families of victims of the March 15, 2014 Immigration job tragedy be employed. In a March 26, 2014 letter from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Jonathan directed that three members from each victim’s family be given immediate and automatic employment. At least one of such family member must be a female, he added.

Last March just before the elections, the former president at an elaborate ceremony at the State House, Abuja, received some members of the victims’ families. At the end of the visit, each family went home with N5 million. The families were also reminded to send the names of their members, for employment. They returned home happy and praising God for what He has done. What they did not know is that it might have been a ploy to get them to vote for Jonathan and his party in the last election. If it wasn’t, why didn’t Jonathan keep his promise to them before leaving office last May 29.

Over one year after the presidential promise, the families are still running helter-skelter, hoping upon hope that they would get the promised jobs. No fewer than 16 applicants died in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment tragedy. Because of the job crisis in our land, 6.5million persons were said to have applied for the non-existent immigration job online after paying the non-refundable N1000 fee. A consultant was said to have been given the job. The then NIS Comptroller-General David Parradang denied knowledge of the exercise, claiming that it was the brainchild of former Interior Minister Abba Moro. Between Moro and Parradang, someone is certainly not saying the truth. Since Jonathan could not move against these men, he thought the way out was a political solution.

But seven months after he promised them  jobs, none of them has been employed. They are still pounding the streets in search of jobs, with many calling daily at the NIS headquarters without luck.

Pressed to the wall, they took their case to the National Assembly, begging for justice. They told the lawmakers that the letters of appointment given to them have been withdrawn. Why were the letters withdrawn? Is it that they were illegally issued, as claimed by the Ministry of Interior’s Permanent Secreatry, Abubakar Magaji , before the House of Representatives probe panel? Could letters issued on the president’s authority said to be illegal?  At the public hearing of  the House Ad hoc Committee on Immigration Recruitment Stampede on Monday, members of the audience were stunned to hear that Jonathan’s employment order was ‘’merely symbolic’’. I do not seem to understand why Magaji described the former president’s gesture as such. What does he mean by ‘’symbolic gesture’’?

Is he saying that there was no intention to employ these people ab initio? If that is the case, why then were their hopes of a job raised? What does it say of a sitting president that his order was made in vain as Magaji is now insinuating? What will it cost the ministry to employ these people since we are being told that the problem is getting the fund to pay them?

Why were the appointment letters withdrawn? Hear Magaji : ‘’Following the failed recruitment exercise in 2014 that led to the loss of lives, the president approved the setting up of a presidential committee and mandated it to assist the board to conduct the aborted recruitment of Immigration Service. The presidential committee carried out the exercise without the involvement of the board, which is against the provisions of the board’s Act. From what we are working on, up till today, there is no single approval by Mr President to carry out such exercise. We are only hearing it from the papers’’. The lawmakers also heard that the March 26, 2014 letters signed by the SGF were not approved by Mr President, hence they were termed ‘’ceremonial letters’’.

Will these people also lose their money despite not getting the job they so much laboured for? Where is the money they paid as application fee? In government’s coffer or in a private account? Can the money still be recovered? What is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) doing to recover the money and bring the perpetrators of this big time fraud to book? Will we continue to keep silent  like this without  bringing succour to those affected? Deputy Comptroller of Immigration Yahaya Mangwi, who represented NIS management at the probe, denied knowledge of the fund, saying : ‘’We don’t know where the money has gone to. We didn’t know about the recruitment; we just saw advert in the newspapers’’.

Magaji may have his own agenda in blocking the employment of these people. It may not all be about money and illegal issuance of letters, but more of a personal thing. Who is he fighting over these people’s employment?  Indications that there is a feud between the ministry and NIS over this matter also emerged at the hearing. The board’s Secretary, A.A. Ibrahim, who signed the letters of 400 assistant superintendent officers and 1,600 junior workers said Magaji stopped the employment and also ordered the withdrawal of the letters. Who is a permanent secretary to counter the president’s order? What does he know that made him act that way?

No matter the wrangling between the ministry and its agencies, this should not be allowed to truncate people’s future. These job seekers have suffered enough. Those who should suffer are the evil men and women causing them anguish and pain. And sooner than later, EFCC should be able to bring these evil doers to justice.