*NIS to launch electronic management in 84 borders
* Arrests three illegal Sudanese in Nigeria
By Evelyn Usman
Acting Comptroller General of Immigration ,CGI, Idris Isah Jere, has appealed to the Federal Government to increase the service’s budgetary allocations as well as give approval for recruitments, in order to reinforce its workforce for effective border management and security.
This is just as he has disclosed that the NIS would soon domesticate passport production , as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari , with a view to addressing complaints of non availability of passport booklets.
In a chat with the acting CGI, he noted that the major responsibility of the NIS was border security, revealing that “Nigeria’s borders are very massive covering 5,330 kilometres and with a total of an estimated 1,490 illegal entry points into the country. And the entire workforce of NIS is not more than 25,000.
“So, it is increasingly difficult for us to adequately man the border lines. That is why we have continued to appeal to the government to increase our budgetary allocations and also grant us approval for recruitments to reinforce the workforce. We appreciate the President and his team for the approval and the recruitment we carried out in 2021 but the reality is that we need more personnel to achieve effective border management and control”, he said.
Inspite of the challenge , he disclosed that measures had been put in place to improve border security in country , to address the influx of illegal migrants into the country. These measures according to him, included: improved technology , increased border patrol and regular raids of illegal migrants.
He said, “ The best way to man the vast border points in Nigeria is the deployment of technology. Efforts have reached an advanced stage to launch electronic border management systems across 84 border locations. It is through this technology that we can monitor our borders real time.
“ Border patrol is also being enhanced to ensure close and improved monitoring with the available personnel.
“We carry out raids and most times we don’t announce this for some diplomatic reasons. But I can assure Nigerians that we are doing our best to ensure that only legal migrants live and work in Nigeria. Just two days ago, three illegal Sudanese residents in Nigeria were picked up. So we are not resting. It takes experts like our men to determine if a non-Nigerian is an illegal resident or not. Some of them have their papers that permit them to stay for a certain period based on the protocols we are committed to, as a nation” .
As part of efforts to improve the process of issuance and collection of passports, the NIS, according to him, introduced a passport tracking system. He said with this system, “applicants can now trace the status of their passports from the comfort of their homes. What applicants just need to do is to log on to www.trackimmigration.gov.ng and upload their details. This system is already in place and Nigerians should take advantage of it”.
While explaining that the newly introduced appointment system for passport issuance
was aimed at reducing physical interface with personnel, overcrowding and arbitrariness, he lamented however, that most Nigerians were seeking to override the initiative, by offering money for their appointment dates to be moved forward.
He said “ rather than wait for the appointment date for capturing, some Nigerians would seek to jump the process by turning in myriads of requests for waiver for all conceivable reasons”.
But he assured that based on the directive of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the NIS, would ensure the sacrosanctity of the three-week duration for passport renewal and six-week duration for new applications.
However, he stated that exemption would be given to those with genuine medical reasons and other exceptional emergencies, for expedite passport issuance.
The ACGI attributed complaints of delay in the processing of passport applications to integration of data between the NIS , the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC and the BVN data of applicants.
He explained that the single data integration policy of the government was aimed at enhancing the nation’s security architecture to protect the identity of Nigerians.
According to him, “Passports confer on holders the integrity of a nation, therefore, the integrity of producing such documents should also not be compromised. So we must verify the addresses of the applicants and there is a company that does that for us. We must confirm the authenticity of the claims before we proceed for production.
“Most delays are usually caused by the NIN validation problems and what we want to do now will allow individual applicants to first of all verify and validate their NIN and only upload validated NIN before they can pay for passports. By doing that, we would have successfully tackled the issue of delay from other partners which we don’t have control over,” he said.
Also, to address the rowdiness at passport offices in Lagos and other states, he disclosed that more passport offices would be opened across cities like Ilesa in Osun State, Oyo town in Oyo State, Daura in Katsina State and Zaria in Kaduna State, among others.
In addition, he announced plans by the NIS to introduce an alert system that would notify Nigerians whose passports had six months to the expiration date.
Nigerians in Diaspora
Reacting to complaints of non availability of booklets , the acting CGI attributed access to forex by the company handling the passport production project, as the cause.
He explained that that the company only sourced for forex from markets like other businesses and that the process had been cumbersome and discouraging.
As a move to address this, he disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the NIS to domesticate passport production, a move he said would provide additional job opportunities for Nigerians as well as improve the country’s economy.
He said, “ efforts have reached an advanced stage to achieve that. But you know we cannot wait until we complete the domestication process before we commence passport issuance. So we have to continue with the existing system until we are completely through with the local production system. But booklets are currently being shared both locally and to the embassies of Nigeria globally so that the Nigerians in Diaspora can also be attended to”.