The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday arrested the immediate past Minister of the Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, for the March 15, 2014 employment tragedy of the Nigeria Immigration Service and the e-passport project of the service.
The EFCC also arrested the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Works and Housing, Abubakar Magaji, who was the permanent secretary at the Ministry of the Interior.
A source at the commission said, “Moro and the permanent secretary are currently in our custody and they are being interrogated based on a fresh evidence.”
As of 10pm, Moro and Magaji were still in EFCC’s custody.
It was gathered that the former minister was being grilled over the 2014 immigration job scam and the 2015 e-Passport biometric project for the NIS.
It will be recalled that on October 20, 2015, the anti-graft agency quizzed Moro for several hours over the scam which led to the death of about 20 applicants in various recruitment centres across the country.
The fraud involved the collection of about N520m from 520,000 Nigerian graduate applicants.
After the tragedy, several civil society groups demanded the resignation or dismissal of Moro and the then Comptroller-General of Immigration, David Parradang, as well as their criminal prosecution for involuntary homicide.
The trial of former Minister of Interior Abba Moro, a former Permanent Secretary and a director over the N650million proceeds of the Immigration recruitment scandal.
The three suspects were re-invited by the Economice and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) ahead of their arraignment in court today by the anti-graft agency.
The fate of a former Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Mr. David Parradang, was unknown as at press time.
About 6.5million applied for 5,000 immigration jobs but the conduct of the test in March, 2014 led to the death of 15 applicants. Scores were injured in stampede in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Minna.
Each applicant paid N1,000.
Although Moro blamed the former Comptroller-General of Immigration for the incidents, those loyal to Parradang traced the tragedy to Moro and those they described as his business partners
The EFCC stepped into the job scandal to ascertain the whereabouts of the N650 million proceeds of the exercise.
A highly-placed source, who spoke in confidence, said last night: “We have detained Moro, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Interior and a director.
“We need to tidy up a few things but it is likely that these former public officers will be arraigned in court any moment from now. I think they might go to court on Tuesday (today) from detention.
“No one can account for the whereabouts of the N650million collected from applicants. Out of the fees, N212million was budgeted for the March 2014 recruitment exercise but N45million was eventually released and some officers still helped themselves with it.
“So far about N167million meant for logistics on the test day could not be accounted for by anyone or group. “
Some of the issues that arose from the investigation are:
- Why did the ministry sideline Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prison Service Board?
- What accounted for the engagement of a consultancy firm, Drexel Technical Nigeria Limited and at what cost?
- Did the consultancy firm serve as a front for some powers that be?
- Why has the ministry refused to refund the fees to applicants?
Besides, there were evidence of financial mismanagement.
On Parradang’s fate, the EFCC source said: “We have not taken a decision on him. But do not forget that we also quizzed him.”
The Secretary to the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prison Service Board, Mr. Sylvanus Tapgun, told the former Senator Atiku Bagudu-led Senate Committee on Interior, that the consultant released N45million out of N212million requested by the board for the conduct of the exercise.
Tapgun said Drexel Technical Nigeria Limited – the consultant who anchored the exercise on behalf of the ministry— provided only the N45million as “discretionary contribution” for the screening.
He admitted that the development created “serious logistics problems on the day of the exercise.”
Earlier, Moro, said Parradang should be held responsible for the tragedy.
He said Parradang abandoned the important recruitment exercise for birthday parties in Jos.
Moro said: “If I prevented Mr. Parradang from carrying out the job of recruitment as Minister of Interior, did I go with his sense of responsibility of knowing how not to conduct employment without budgetary provision and utter disregard for extant rules?
“Yes, I wrote to the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice to seek clarification to guide the Board when I discovered that the Presidential Committee assisting the Board had assumed a life of its own and was conducting the recruitment rather than assist the Board.
“What value was Parradang adding to the work of the Presidential Committee when on March 15, 2014 he abandoned his duty to provide leadership to the conduct of the recruitment to attend birthday parties in Jos?
“The same way he chose to gallivant in America and the UK during the 2014 Promotion Exercise against official advice.
Meanwhile the 7th Senate had also directed its Committee on Interior to carry out a comprehensive probe into the matter.
The Senator Abubakar Bagudu-led committee concluded its investigation and submitted its report but was not listed for consideration.
It was reported that the committee allegedly took into consideration, the fact that Moro, who spearheaded the tragic exercise, was the political godson of the then Senate President, David Mark.
Moro was never sacked by former President Goodluck Jonathan neither did he resign until the end of Jonathan’s administration.
Another source at the EFCC said the arrest of Moro was not unconnected with the e-Passport biometric project for the Nigeria Immigration Service.
Naija247news recalled that in December last year, reported that the former minister favoured a firm by allocating 30 per cent of the project profit to the company.
Moro had stated that his allocation of 30 per cent of the project profit to the firm was predicated on the volume of its investment and cost of operations. He had said he had no stake in the company.
The biometric project, which took off in the country on September 22, 2015, was initiated by Parradang following a letter to Moro on December 18, 2014.
But Moro, according to the document obtained by our correspondent, favoured the private firm on the sharing formula for the proceeds of the project which was based on Private-Public-Partnership arrangement.
Parradang had proposed that the service provider be given 15 per cent of the $100 added to the $1,000 being charged for the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card fee.
But Moro, who signed on the letter, amended the sharing formula by giving 30 per cent to the service provider against the 15 per cent suggested by the immigration service.