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The obnoxious illegal migrants’ registration

By Luke Onyekakeyah
23 July 2019   |   3:55 am
The rate at which President Muhammadu Buahari is churning out controversial policies and programmes is raising serious concern.

Northern NIgeria. PHOTO: ABC News

The rate at which President Muhammadu Buahari is churning out controversial policies and programmes is raising serious concern. There is concern about what exactly the president has in mind and what his ultimate objective is. Allegations about Fulanisation and Islamisation of Nigeria being leveled against Buhari’s government appear not to worry or unsettle him. The president’s actions appear to vindicate his critics.

The rising wave of discontent across the nation doesn’t seem to bother the president. It is ignored. President Buhari should, for goodness sake, save this country by rescinding his decision and let the country have peace. What does it pay the administration to be stoking disaffection among Nigerians? Does Buhari love Nigeria? Does he want this country to remain together?

The fact that the polity has been thrown into confusion with tension all over the place should bother the president. Like Shakespeare’s dirge in his epic novel Macbeth, Macbeth has murdered sleep and will sleep no more. There is, literally, no sleep for Nigerians anymore because of the fear of the unknown. There is no straight thinking by anyone anymore. Every section of the country is tensed up.

Governance appears to have been suspended. Only one thing is making the rounds– the welfare of the Fulani and their cattle. Haba! There is little talk about Boko Haram insurgency. No talk about improving the long-standing epileptic power supply. No one is talking about the decrepit roads, highways, bridges, railways and other infrastructures all over the country. No more talk about the Second Niger Bridge. The much talked about Ogoni clean-up has been put on silent mode.

There is no mention, anymore, of the welfare of the citizenry – healthcare, education, food, and others. The issues of environmental degradation, climate change, flooding, etc, have been forgotten. The only issue occupying everybody’s mind and attention now is Fulani herdsmen, cattle and Ruga. We now ask, what is Buhari out to achieve in his second term? What does the Next-Level mantra of Buhari’s second term entail? I hope it is not what we are seeing now? Fact is that Nigeria is in doldrums waiting for the final fallout of the alleged Buhari’s plan to settle, in Nigeria, Fulani reportedly from across West Africa.

While opposition to that adventure appears to have forced the president to “suspend” the game just to douse the tension in the land, the President is initiating, yet, another contentious and suspicious e-registration of illegal migrants in the country to gain automatic citizenship (if that is intended), gives credence to the allegation. How does one extricate himself from an allegation? Is it by acting in a manner that approves or disapproves it?

The questions being asked are what the purpose of the e-registration and why is it coming up now that the country is boiling over the issue of Ruga? Who are these so-called illegal immigrants and where are they coming from? Why should the registration and citizenship be free, while Nigerians are reportedly being forced to pay N45, 000 for the new international e-passport?

What informed the free immigrants’ registration policy at a time when Nigerians are being deported from Ghana, South Africa, America and indeed, all over the world? America and many European countries are up against immigrants. Anti immigration policy has so far defined the Trump administration in America. America, with its buoyant economic power and wealth, is not comfortable with immigrants and is making life unbearable for them. Why then should Nigeria, which is reeking in abject mass poverty, throw her already porous borders open to a flood of economically unproductive elements from across West Africa to register as citizens?

Chapter III of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, clearly states the procedure to follow to acquire citizenship, either by registration or naturalization, including the conditions that must be satisfied by the applicants, of which having good character, showing clear intention and desire to domicile in Nigeria, and ability to contribute to the economic development of Nigeria are included. Are these conditions satisfied in the impromptu six-month e-registration adventure? Otherwise, why is the constitution being flagrantly flouted by this administration?

The e-registration is flawed in many respects. It is unsolicited and unlawful, unconstitutional, with no payment or penalties. Whether it is called illegal or irregular immigrants, the bottom line is the same – to register elements who ordinarily should not under the constitution except by presidential fiat. This move would bolster the activities of criminals, who presently, are making life unbearable for Nigerians. Rather than strengthening border security to prevent the influx of illegal immigrants, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) failures to guard the border is being rewarded with the registration of elements they allowed to troop into the country.

The ECOWAS Protocol on the free movement of citizens in the member countries does not give automatic citizenship to migrants. ARTICLE 3 1 states inter alia: Any citizen of the Community who wishes to enter the territory of any other Member State shall be required to possess valid travel document and international health certificate. 2. A citizen of the Community visiting any Member State for a period not exceeding ninety (90) days shall enter the territory of that Member State through the official entry point free of visa requirements. Such citizen shall, however, be required to obtain permission for an extension of stay from the appropriate authority if after such entry that citizen has cause to stay for more than ninety (90) days.

The e-registration flouts all of this. Coming at the most inauspicious time when the country is in turmoil arising from the Boko Haram war in the North-East, banditry in the North-West and all manner of criminality across the country, the immigrants’ free e-registration project can only portend danger for Nigeria even if there is a hidden agenda behind it. It is like setting ones’ house on fire to make way, which is madness.

What prevents the insurgents fighting in the North-East from registering? The insurgents in the North-East are said to include ISIS in West Africa mercenaries; what prevents them from registering to become Nigerian citizens?

Last week, the Nigeria army of Operation Lafiya Dole fighting insurgents in the North-East, confirmed the killing of five soldiers – a colonel, a captain and three soldiers by Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists in Borno State. The men were reportedly ambushed on their way from Maiduguri to Damatruru in Yobe State. What prevents these terrorists from registering and becoming Nigerians under this Buhari’s immigrants’ e-registration project since there is no control over who should register?
What prevents the so-called bandits terrorizing innocent citizens in the North-West from registering? If the claim that the Fulani who are causing mayhem in Nigeria are foreigners from Niger, Mali, Chad, Senegal, etc, is true, what is the rational for rewarding millions of these people who have trooped into Nigeria with registration and citizenship?

If the immigrants’ free e-registration is allowed, it would, perhaps, be most unpatriotic disservice to Nigeria and its people, under any guise, by any government since independence. Its impact would be worse than that of the Nigeria civil war for the fact that it would be tantamount to an invasion of the entire country.

If millions of foreigners are allowed to stream from the neighbouring Sahel region countries into Nigeria to register as citizens, then, the question of having peace anymore in the country would be far-fetched. This is because the population of the country would balloon with mostly unlettered folks whose stock in trade is violence and criminality. There would be contention over land, water, grazing space and settlement. That, effectively, would tear the country apart. On that ground, President Buhari should, in the interest of Nigeria, if he still loves it, stop the e-registration project forth with before damage is done to the country.

It is ironic that Nigeria, which has failed, since independence, to conduct a reliable population census, as well as unable to implement the national ID card scheme, is now championing prompt e-registration for illegal immigrants, as if the country has, suddenly, become savvy with population enumeration issues. The 2016 national was put on-hold because the country is unable to conduct it. How come the president is pursuing the e-registration of illegal immigrants with alacrity?