The Minister of Interior, retired Lt.-Gen. Abdulrahman Danbazau, on Tuesday said that the Federal Government would and could monitor all immigrants to enhance national security.
Dambazau said this while addressing State House Correspondents on the new Immigration Policy which the Nigeria Immigration Service was due to implement.
“It is possible to monitor all immigrants from the entry point up to where he is going to stay,’’ he said, while reacting to the obvious challenges inherent in the implementation.
According to him, there are immigration personnel up to the ward level; adding that the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) would partner the local communities, community and religious leaders therein to achieve the objective.
The minister noted that anyone coming into the country should be known as long as the visitor would spend more than 90 days.
He said the immigrant had to be registered and that it was important both for the efficiency of the NIS as well as for internal security.
“Quite a lot of foreign visitors come into the country without registration and nobody knows who they are, where they come from and that itself is a security risk,’’ he said.
Dambazau said the policy would not be implemented in such a way that it would inconvenience people but that it was done by using the standards of international law.
“We certainly will observe the basic standards of human rights, we are going to do what will not scare the person; but for the person to know that it is something that is done all over the world,’’ he said.
The minister said that the NIS would have challenges manning the illegal entry routes in the country with the existence of about 4,500km border lines in land and sea.
He, however, noted that the service would use surveillance helicopters to cover such extensive borders since it would be difficult to physically man them.
He noted that there existed some entry points that could be easy to man in terms of access.
He explained that the NIS had three helicopters that were grounded for some time which would be revived and used before looking for new aircraft in view of the economic challenges in the country.
He said the aircraft would be fitted with monitoring equipment and would work with the existing but abandoned eight ground stations which would also be revamped.
Dambazau said computers were already purchased for the ground stations but abandoned; adding that the ministry was re-negotiating with the contractors to fix and put them to use.
“We really need to see how we can use modern technology to monitor our borders. We require the capacity to monitor and also the capacity to respond,’’ he said.
He identified the ECOWAS protocol on free movement, which Nigeria also signed, as another challenge in the implementation of the programme.
According to him, the administration has to be responsive to that protocol but also do it in a way that the country must be concerned about its security.
“Part of what we are trying to do now is to go back and see how we can implement the ECOWAS bio-metric identity card which itself is a traveling document and at the same time an identity card.
`With that card you will be able to identify movement,’’ he said.
On how soon the programme would start, the minister said that the ministry was now relying on the budget; but added that it would collaborate with development partners to pull it through.
He hinted that Italy had shown concern on the programme because of the number of Nigerians that migrate to the country mostly through human trafficking.
“They (Italian government) are ready to assist in this project in terms of not only returnees but also in preventive measures.
“These are the things that we want to do as quickly as we can but we want to pick one stage after the other,’’ the minister noted.
The minister had on Monday unveiled a new immigration policy known as “Immigration Regulations 2017’’ to check the entry of terrorists and other trans-border crimes in the country.
While unveiling the document on Monday in Abuja, Dambazau said that the document would also fast-track the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
He explained that the “Immigration Regulations 2017’’ is a vital document that sought to operationalise the Immigration Act, 2015 and provide the legal framework for the dynamic and unfolding migratory realities.
Dambazau said that the new regulation would replace the old and outdated Immigration Act of 1963, which could not take care of modern realities such as terrorism, technology and new immigration challenges.
“The objective of this new Immigration Regulations 2007 is to provide the legal framework for the effective implementation of the Immigration Act, 2015 and consolidate existing immigration regulations.
“This new document therefore replaces the outdated Immigration Act of 1963,’’ he said.
He explained that the new document empowers the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to properly register all foreigners, protect the borders, enhance internal security and attract foreign investors using the latest technology.
Dambazau said with the policy in place, the NIS would be empowered to register and monitor the entry and movement of foreign herdsmen who come into the country.
According to him, this will also go a long way in checking the herdsmen/ farmers clashes.