By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA—The Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service NIS, Mohammed Babandede, has announced the retrieval of diplomatic passports and other official travel documents from immediate past government officials.
Babandede had on assumption of office about two months ago, threatened to arrest former ministers, governors and others who served under the last administration of President Goodluck Jonathan but refused to return such diplomatic documents since they left office over a year ago.
The CG, who spoke during an interaction with journalists in Abuja, maintained that the strategy to collect the passports from their holders at the borders would be sustained.
“Some of them have started returning the passports. The response has been very impressive, but I cannot immediately give you the number of those that have returned theirs,” he said.
Babandede said additional measures, including prosecution of defaulters, might also be considered.
According to him, the NIS has received approval to write to federal, state, local government institutions to, henceforth, include the return of the government documents as some of the things to return before payment of severance or retirement benefits.
“Also you cannot cross the border with the diplomatic passport whether going or coming if you are not entitled to it, we will collect it.
“The next thing we will do is to go house to house to collect it. It is an offence. I told a former minister that it is an offence for you to hold a passport when you do not deserve it.
‘’It attracts a two-year jail term. We will soon begin to catch defaulters. People have started returning a lot of the passports,” he said.
I was appointed on merit
He also responded to critics who queried his appointment, insisting that his ascension as CGI was purely on merit.
He revealed that contrary to insinuations and widespread propaganda at the time, he was, indeed, subjected to rigorous security checks and intense interviews before the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Services Board (CDFIPB) recommended him.
I’m dealing with great lobbyists
The immigration boss also lamented the preponderance of “great lobbyists” in the service, saying he had had to confront them on a daily basis.
Consequently, he said in order to ensure fairness and justice in the service, he has embarked on several reforms, including plans to evolve a new posting policy which would ensure that no officer stayed more than two years in a particular posting
“The posting circular form will be for officers cadre. For instance, for Superintendent cadre, we can say this is your posting circular form, you spend two years in the passport office, the next posting will be the border. You must go to border. Then after the border, you go to visa and so on,’’ he said.