7 people including 5 women and two men died on Saturday during a stampede at the National Stadium in Abuja.
The tragic incident occurred during the recruitment exercise organised by the Nigerian Immigration service which was carried out in all 36 states in Nigeria simultaneously. It is reported that about 56, 000 candidates turned out for the assessment in Abuja alone, resulting in a loss of control by the security forces.
Eye witnesses say only one exit was open during the exercise and the stampede began when impatient candidates, some of whom had arrived the stadium since 7am began to push as there was no room.
There have also been reports that a number of people died in some of the other centers in the country. Four people were feared dead in Port- Harcourt, three in Minna, Niger State and 1 person in Benin City. Several others are being treated for injuries sustained during the stampede across the country..
The job hopefuls who turned out for the widely advertised nationwide exercise included nursing mothers, pregnant women and even persons with disability.
It is not clear exactly, what kind of arrangement the NIS had in place to accommodate the number of applicants as thousands had registered for the event, so they must have been aware of the potential number of candidates turning up on the day.
This is not the first time the Nigeria immigration service is holding such a mass recruitment exercise. Last year, a similar event resulted in a stampede where job seekers were injured and some lost their lives. One would have hoped that this time, the authorities would have come better prepared to prevent a similar outcome.
The NIS is currently facing accusations that the recruitment exercise was a sham as each applicant paid N1,000, giving the Nigeria immigration service potential revenue of millions of Naira.
In Port Harcourt, about 23, 000 people were thought to have attended the test, however, the Liberation Stadium can only accommodate 16, 000.
According to eyewitness reports by the Vanguard Nigeria, “Some applicants who were finding it difficult to get into the stadium suddenly started pushing their way through. Some persons reportedly stepped on those who fell on the ground,” an eye-witness said.
Some of the applicant lost the original copies of their certificates in the stampede. One of the victims is thought to be a pregnant woman who died from exhaustion.
In Minna, the authorities had a hard time controlling the 11, 000 strong crowd packed into the Women’s Day Secondary School, the venue of the test.
According to the Vanguard, “In an effort to bring orderliness, officers of the NIS stationed at the Women’s Day Secondary School, venue of the test, fired canisters of teargas into the crowd. This led to several of the applicants falling down and being trampled upon.Three of them were reportedly confirmed dead.”
Youth unemployment in Nigeria is rife with an estimated 37.5% of people aged under 25 out of work.