Babandede and the Nigeria Immigration Service
The year 2019 can be described as a watershed in the history of border security management in Nigeria. It was the year the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), provided solutions addressing the nation’s seemingly intractable border security management problems.
In the last year, NIS, under the visionary leadership of Comptroller-General, Muhammad Babandede, MFR, pursued a vigorous transformation agenda that has re-engineered the immigration services, cut away losses and wastages, introduced quality services as well as the revenue-generating profile of NIS. It is indeed a watershed year which began with the public presentation of the new enhanced e-passport.
On January 15, 2019, Nigeria’s Number One Citizen President Muhammadu Buhari was issued with his passport with 10-year validity, signalling the official takeoff of the signature project for the Babandede-led NIS management.
It was a year the NIS doubled down to contribute more to the national treasury, enhanced capacity building to update and motivate its workforce, and invested more in infrastructural upgrades among its facilities across the country. In particular, the launch of the National Border Management Strategy 2019-2023 emerged as the game-changer as highlighted by analysts and critics who critically reviewed the annual performance of NIS during the period under review. One of the most pressing challenges of border security management faced by Immigration Services around the world is mitigating the negative consequences of migration in the age of globalization.
There is an unprecedented increase in cross border movement of people and services which has turned national borders into security frontiers. Against the backdrop of an increase in criminality, violent conflicts, and the Boko Haram insurgency, the Nigeria Immigration Service has remained resolute in deploying new technologies to enhance the easy flow of legitimate economic activities across the nation’s borders and curb organized cross-border criminality and border tensions.
In securing the national borders and turning them from frontiers of criminality to booming economic prosperity, the introduction of the National Border Management Strategy (2019-2023) by the Babandede Administration is a bold step to transform the nation’s traditional border observation methods and introduce modern e-border technologies for improved surveillance and monitoring structures in line with developments in the global community. Apart from ensuring a timely response to security emergencies at the nation’s borders, the NIS e-Border Project will address irregular migration, effective and monitored patrol of all border flanks and electronic surveillance, and data collection in real-time.
Experts who reviewed the NIS Border Management Strategy document commended it for being holistic and transformational while pointing out the immense socio-economic benefits to be derived from its commissioning. It is a well-thought-out policy document detailing how the country’s land, air, and sea borders would be “effectively and efficiently managed to enhance national security economic development, secure social harmony, ensure adherence to international practices and agreements as well as assure full respect for migrants’ rights and protection of vulnerable migrants”. Complementing the broader National Border Management Strategy is the commissioning of the Border Management Information Systems (BMIS), through which the Babandede-led NIS management is astutely securing the nation’s critical border assets.
Through this process, the nation’s international airports, land borders, and seaports have been fitted with BMIS capable of capturing biometric data and communication linkages for enhanced control and speedy-up the processing of travellers’ documents. This focal zeal ensured the expansion of coverage and installation of Migration Information Data Analysis Systems (MIDAS) at 15 locations, giving a near 100 percent coverage of the nation’s Border Control Posts. As a primary foundation for Integrated Border Management, MIDAS will supply the technological impetus for supporting linkages to other border solutions and passenger information data, ensuring that Nigeria meets ICAO guidelines and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2396.
Perhaps, the one area where immigration reforms under the leadership of Muhammad Babandede have been under-appreciated is the fight against the smuggling of migrants. Nigeria’s undesirable reputation as a source, transit, and destination country for human smuggling has been a flashpoint for national embarrassment for a long time. Stories about Nigerians, especially women and children, being trafficked to other countries, including those far less developed than Nigeria, where they are subjected to inhuman treatments and forced labor, has been a challenge to our immigration and border management for a long time. What the Babandede-led administration has done in the past one year has been to up the ante in migration management. The flag-off of the Migrant e-Registration Scheme on 12th July 2019 has further tightened internal control measures to boost migration management.
Since the inception of the project, over 120,000 migrants have been captured in the database located across the 27 National Registration Offices. A further deepening of collaboration between NIS and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) gives Nigerians hope that that this national scourge can be drastically curtailed if not eradicated. Maintaining reliable data of migrants is the right step in the right direction and Nigerians have cause to be optimistic.
As mentioned earlier, the Passport Administration, a cardinal pillar of the Babandede Administration’s Transformation Agenda benefitted from an infrastructural upgrade and further administrative reforms. Soon after President Buhari launched the scheme, the process was followed up with a meticulously measured state-by-state roll-out from early March. Over one million e-passports have since been issued from the Abuja Headquarters, Lagos and Kano offices, the other state capitals, and from Nigeria’s missions abroad. Already acclaimed as the most improved national economic asset in the past year, Nigeria’s e-Passport feature engravings of the holder’s National Identity Number (NIN), which effectively merges it into the national information database, and in the process, eliminates forgery, fakery and touting while meeting ICAO standards.
More so, through the e-Passport reforms and improvements in other NIS services, the Agency generated over N63 billion in local currency and over $42million in foreign currencies from its operations. Under its commitment to improve service delivery and motivate officers and men of the Service, the Babandede Administration. Training and capacity building were prioritized in 2019. Through collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Babandede Administration initiated and commissioned Personnel Training Centers at the Akwa Ibom and Kebbi States Command headquarters for short courses and seminars, respectively.
It also completed the construction of flag houses, Command Office complexes, and barracks accommodations in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Gusau, Zamfara State, and Jimeta-Yola, in Adamawa State. Indeed, for the Nigeria Immigration Service, 2019 has been a year loaded with achievements under Comptroller General Muhammad Babandede, a visionary leader, a man imbued with patriotic zeal and focus and who is determined to make a difference.
Dr. Sule Lectures at Mass Communication Department, Bayero University, Kano.