The Stampede: Nigeria Immigration, Youths’ N1,000 And “Pure Water” – Bashirat Abdulwahab

It is only in Nigeria that millions of people will apply for a job and they will all be sent SMS to write an aptitude test. For me this was just a means to justify the N1,000 application fees that was paid.

Over 65,000 youths, male and female were in Abuja stadium to write the Nigerian Immigration Service aptitude test. From 5am-6pm,  on Saturday 15th March, Abuja witnessed a hold-up of people. Taxis tripled transport fares from N100-N300, buses doubled to N200. By 7am, the first gate of the stadium was already filled up with thousands of youths dressed in white shirts and shorts. I thought Youth Corp members were released from their camp to write the test, only to realise they acted on instructions that exercise will be done before the test to know those who are physically fit. The youth were all waiting anxiously to gain entrance into the stadium. After their hustle through the first gate, accreditation was next, but unfortunately, the overwhelming crowd was too huge for the immigration officers, that was cancelled. Everyone  proceeded onto the next gate, already, people were fainting. I remember fanning a lady right infront of me because she was suffocating due to overcrowding. I hope she made it out of there alive.

At the second gate, the officers did not open the gates. Anxious youths started jumping the fence. Two were slapped and beaten by an officer who warned that no one should jump the fence. This was where the stampede really happened, no one was willing to give up, especially when that was the only gate that would gain them entrance. On entering, a lady had already fallen, and she was convulsing seriously, an officer was sighted weeping, the girl was his relative.

Different gates were used for different qualification. I remember B.Sc holders were told to enter through gate 8. That entrance was another stampede. Upon entering, everyone was asked to get seated. However, the crowd was huge, and many were on the football pitch, others hanging around behind the seats and outside. That was the first time the National Stadium will be filled above its capavity. All were seated for about 5 hours before the exercise commenced at 3pm. By 2pm, applicants were already tired of waiting and they started protesting for their N1,000 if the test was not holding. They ran the whole field holdin a N1,000 banner and singing. The officers ignored them. Many were hungry as most did not eat breakfast upon leaving home, so they began looking for something to drink or eat. At this point was another exploitation. Sachet water of N10 suddenly became N50 inside the stadium and N20 outside; Nestle bottled water 60cl became N100, Eva and bottled drinks were sold for N150. Everyone wanted  to eat for survival, what a pity, and the sellers took advantage of the situation as did commercial drivers.

At 3pm when the test started, everyone was hustling to get the question paper. The test was a 30 question paper, all IQ questions. Some wrote their test while standing. Some missed the test. Everyone hurried to finish and submit and all were trooping out again. But this time, there was no stampede as everyone that wrote the test already had their minds at rest.

Outside the stadium, there was no means of transport. Most treked from the stadium to Area 1 roundabout to get commercial buses and taxis. It was a long walk. For me, the NIS test was just a bandwagon technique. They need to justify the N1,000 application fee, so they invited all that applied for the test unfortunately, 7 people in Abuja lost their lives in the process and 25 all over Nigeria with a large number lying in hospitals wounded. The NIS lacked organization. Security was very low and thank God there was no insurgence, only God knows how many more would have lost their lives. This is an eye opener for the Nigerian government, that millions of youths are jobless and desperate to find jobs. All they ask for is a legal means of livelihood. They didn’t resort to looting and armed robbery. What more does a nation require of its youths?

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