…Accuse trainers of sexual harassment
By ROMANUS UGWU
When Bayelsa State-born Ekpere Precious applied for and secured enlistment in Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) last year, his joy knew no bounds. Confident of better life ahead, he was happy to miss his former job as an accountant in a secondary school.
But eight months down the line after going through all the rudimentary and professional training as Immigration personnel alongside 2, 000 others, Precious has realised rather too late that his supposed new job was a fluke afterall, because it never existed in the first place! Obviously, his decision to leave his former employment for the phantom immigration job was his worst in life.
Today, Precious has not only lost his former job, he has failed to be formally enrolled in the Immigration job after he was trained and exposed to the professional secrets of the profession, including arms handling.
Narrating the ordeal of the 2, 000 trained recruits during a peaceful protest at the supposed Ministry of Interior in Abuja recently, he said: “We were recruited by the Ministry of Interior for the Immigration Service on May 22, 2015, and sent to our various state commands where we underwent three-month induction training.
“The induction involved mainly intense military drills, physical exercise and aggressive courses on immigration duties, police duties, border patrol, arms/weapon handling, ECOWAS surveillance and investigation, passport, CERPAC and security awareness among other courses relevant to the operations of the Immigration Service.
“To our dismay, a memo was received from the supposed service headquarters on August 20, 2015 directing that the recruits be dispersed forthwith. It is important to note that during the period of the induction, these recruits were made to buy Service shoes, uniforms and other accoutrements without any allowance/salary.
“Most of us left our previous jobs to join the Immigration. For example, I had to resign my job and forfeit the official accommodation provided to me as an accountant in a big school in Bayelsa State. I had to relocate my family and because of the finance involved in the training, I had to sell most of my property.
“Three months after our induction training, sadly, the circular to disperse us forthwith without any official explanation on why we were directed to go home, came in August last year. We have been at home for over eight months now with uncertainty. Painfully, we have heard that there is currently a replacement going in the Immigration and that close to 2,000 recruits are currently undergoing training at Immigration training schools across the federation.
“In naira and kobo, the estimate of what I have spent so far, right from the time we were recruited till date is more than N500,000. After the Computer-Based Test (CBT), we had to travel to Kano for induction and stayed in an hotel for days.
“I regret everything now because I was initially very reluctant to apply for the job because of the situation of things in the country, but someone practically forced me to enlist and funny enough, I received a notification for the test, went through the process and was very surprised with the transparency of the whole exercise. A reputable organisation conducted the exercise. My life has been turned upside down with the situation I found myself now.”
Same situation in Federal Task Force
Like Ekpere, Mr. Adelokiki Pius was not only a happily married man, but had a booming business until January 2013, when the urge to enjoy a piece of the national cake as a federal civil servant made him to join the Federal Task Force.
According to Adelokiki, that singular decision has ruined his business and marriage as his wife has since abandoned him. Adelokiki and 51,000 other colleagues recruited as Federal Task Force personnel by the Federal Government during the Jonathan administration have been thrown into a life of uncertainty and hopelessness.
Narrating their sad experiences, the Federal Task Force trainees, who stormed the National Assembly to protest what they have passed through since the training started in 2013, passionately appealed to the Presidency to offset their accumulated training allowances and salaries put at N4.03 billion.
The trainees complained that each of the 51,000 members spent between N70,000 and N1 million to obtain the recruitment forms, buy the kits and undergo the requisite training.
They alleged all manner of maltreatment during their recruitment and training, including extortion, sexual molestation and abuse of ladies and married women, adding that despite paying as high as N20,000 each to collect their employment letters, they were dispersed with teargases on returning from the break to resume duties.
Mode of recruitment and training
Adelokiki stated that their training started in Furo, Lagos on January 7, 2013 with 13,000 trainees. He said: “We trained on white outfits, but we started suspecting the authenticity of the programme when the number of trainees rose to 51,000 across the federation. Some of us got the recruitment application forms from the house of a prominent politician in Lagos while others got theirs at FERMA office in Lagos. While some paid N80,000, others spent as high as N200,000 to N300,000 to get the forms.
“But, the women paid less for the recruitment forms, especially those ladies ready to sacrifice their body. They gave the forms free of charge to beautiful ladies and some married women who were willing to have sex with them in exchange.
“To confirm the immoralities, the training grounds were littered with used condoms every morning we came out for training. There was a lady with us here called Promise (other name withheld by Abuja Metro). They stripped her naked because she refused their sexual advances. I served three days punishment for rescuing her from their harassment. We passed through hell in their hands during the training.”
He recalled that in an apparent move to discourage suspicion, the organisers came to Lagos from Abuja with newspaper cuttings of where then President Jonathan endorsed the training and agreed to pay their salaries and allowances.
“Such reports would boost our morale and keep us going, but little did we know that they were playing on our intelligence. When they promised us N150,000 training allowance and N50,000 monthly salaries, many of us even went the extra mile, borrowing to pay the charges they kept levying us. Surprisingly, they told us to go home on January 15, 2015 to get our voters cards ready for the general elections.
“Before discharging us after the training, they issued us employment letters and compelled us to pay N20,000 to collect them. I sold my telephone and many other personal belongings to raise money to collect my appointment letter, with the excitement of becoming an employee of Federal Government.
“However, on our return to get our postings and assume duty, they turned us back at the gate, denying knowing us at all. They unleashed mobile policemen on us, who beat and dispersed us with teargas. Many of us sustained injuries while they were trying to disperse us from the training venue. As I speak with you, I cannot see with my left eye due to the teargas canister they shot at me. I have really spent so such to treat my eye, without anybody caring to ask me how I am coping; yet, I cannot see with it.
“That was the painful story of how we were recruited and abandoned after training for two years, without salary and/ or allowances. We have been to Abuja on protest thrice because as patriotic citizens, we do not want to be an instrument of terror and violence.”
According to the protesters, the initial agreement was that they would be deployed in various local government areas for specific jobs, including recovery of abandoned Federal Government property, monitoring the waterways, control of traffic and protection of telecommunication installations. It was gathered that the task force had the potentialities to generate at least N320 billion annually into the federal coffers.
Many died of hopelessness
Adelokiki said: “On realising that we have been defrauded of N4.29 million, the amount we paid for obtaining recruitment forms, medical test, buying of uniforms, training kits and hiring of offices in our local governments, many of our members died out of hopelessness.
“At a time, we lost count of the number of casualties recorded. More than 15 persons died during the training. Many of us abandoned our businesses and means of livelihood, sold off our belongings to meet up with the financial requirements of the trainings. Some homes have been broken today and the wives of many us had left them. My wife left me in 2014 because like many others, I could no longer bear my financial responsibilities. At least, three of our members are suffering depression and mental disorder.”
Demands from Federal Government
Adelokiki said he and his colleagues want the confirmation of the appointment letters issued to us, while the Federal Government should investigate the allegation of extortion against those involved in the phantom recruitment.
“More importantly, we demand that the three years outstanding salaries, our training allowances and other incentives be paid to all the 51,000 people that participated in the training all over the federation, including the dead. Also, we demand that certain abandoned Federal Government offices be released to us to serve as our operational base. Some of them are NITEL, office at old Otta Road in Agege, the abandoned NDLEA office in Oshodi, Federal Ministry of Works Training School in Badagry and the abandoned FERMA ground at Ijora, all in Lagos and other such offices in all the states”, he said.