Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls for a day of mourning and mass protests

Statement issued day after last Saturday’s stampedes in different stadia around Nigeria killed over 20 young people, including four pregnant women, as they waited to sit recruitment exams for the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS). The latest figures are that 693,000 applicants each paid N1,000 to take the exam, meaning that the NIS collected the equivalent of $4.2 million from these young people.

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) is outraged at the avoidable wastage of the lives of scores of unemployed youths during the Nigeria Immigration Service’s recruitment test over the weekend. The promising youths had gone for the test to seek a means of keeping body and soul together only for them to be forced into their early graves by the irresponsibility and callousness of the Nigerian government.

At some centres where the tests were conducted, deaths and grievious injuries were recorded. Official sources have explained this to be a product of the impatience of the candidates to gain entry into the test venues. As usual, victim-blaming is the default response of the Federal Government to any national calamity, including those caused by its gross incompetence and the abject failure of its policies and projects.

In Abuja and many other centres, reports show that more applicants than these venues could accommodate were invited to write the tests. For instance, at the Abuja National Stadium, which has a maximum seating capacity of 60,000, over 65,000 applicants were invited. To make matters worse, only a few of the about 30 entry points into the stadium were opened. The same stories exist in many other centres.

As far as we in the ERC are concerned, the blame for the death rests primarily on the shoulders of the Federal Government and particularly the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Ministry of Interior which appear to have turned the recruitment test into an opportunity to make quick money. According to reports, only 4,556 vacancies were advertised but the NIS accepted an application fee of N1,000 each from over 500,000 applicants – making a clean return of over N500 million! This is unconscionable! This is unacceptable!! The NIS and the President Jonathan’s capitalist government are preying on the misery of hapless Nigerian youths, especially graduates, who suffer years without gainful employment.

The ERC believes it is the social responsibility of the government as the custodian of society’s commonwealth to provide a decent job for every citizen. All talk about young graduates becoming employers of labour is nonsense especially in a society where the public infrastructure, like electricity and water supply, and transportation needed to support self-employment are lacking.

Actually, the crisis of chronic unemployment which plagues the nation is a product of the inherently unjust nature of the capitalist system which prioritises profit and privilege of a few over people’s needs. As a result of capitalism, Nigeria is locked in an absurd contradiction of such magnitude that even the Finance Minister Okonjo Iweala, for all her famed qualifications as a foremost economist, is left in a quandary.

It is not as if there are no jobs. There are actually more potential skilled job opportunities than the current number of unemployed graduates can fill. In the secondary and primary schools, for instance, over 200,000 skilled teachers are needed to close the yawning gap in the teacher/pupil ratio. In the health sector, there are not enough doctors and other health professionals. In the tertiary institutions, there is a yawning need for more academic staff. We need more engineers and technicians to be employed to drive the nation’s industrialisation. So also do we need thousands of farmers, agricultural scientists, agronomists, etc., to drive the much-needed agricultural revolution and food security.

So there are jobs that need to be done. The fundamental cause of our predicament in this nation is the contradiction of capitalism, which prioritises the maximisation of profits of a few super-rich against welfare of the majority, coupled with the legendary kleptocracy called governance in Nigeria. This explains the refusal of the government to invest in turning these potential job openings into actual jobs so that the army of unemployed youths can apply for them.

This is why the ERC, while staunchly advocating the rights for free and publicly-funded public education, never fails to call for a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by an alternative socialist system as the only real way out of Nigeria’s seemingly insurmountable crisis. For as long as this unjust system of capitalism remains, the kind of unconscionable wastage of the lives of our youths while hunting for jobs which ordinarily is their right will continue to occur.

The public has been expressing outrage at this mindless wastage of the lives of the youth of the nation. We now demand that this outrage be turned into a flood of mass indignation and protest at an incompetent government and its unjust system of capitalism which has caused this wastage of the lives of our youth. We specifically call on the labour movement, civil society organisations and unemployed youths to organise a day of national mourning and mass processions to protest and demand the following:

  • Immediate sacking of Minister of Interior, Mr Abba Moro, and Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mr David Shikfu Parradang, for gross incompetence and complicity in the death of unemployed youths over the weekend.
  • Refund the N1,000 application fee and other payments to all applicants.
  • Provision of decent and well-paid jobs to all unemployed youths commensurate to their qualifications and skills.
  • Payment of unemployment benefit to all those requiring jobs but who are not employed.
  • Public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy and their democratic management to ensure benefits for the mass majority, unlike at present when only a few actually benefit.

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