The Comptroller General, CG, of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Muhammad Babandede, on Saturday disclosed that no fewer than a thousand diplomatic passports have been intercepted and seized from former political office holders who failed to handover their passport upon leaving office.
Recall that Babandede had in May ordered the arrest of former political office holders and retired public servants who are still in possession of Official/Diplomatic passports, directing officers on duty at the various airports in the country to arrest such persons and hand them over for prosecution.
But addressing select journalists at the NIS Headquarters in Abuja, the CG disclosed that since he handed the order, many former political office holders have already turned in their passports.
His words, “The strategy we have put up for those still holding diplomatic passport is to ensure they don’t cross the border. Passports are meant for travel. So anybody who crosses the border in or out; the passports are intercepted and seized. We have seized over a thousand since that time.
“But what is important is that many political office holders have returned their passports. There are cases we have prosecuted jointly with the ministry of justice, some people who have double diplomatic passports; some people who have passports they have not returned. There are a lot of cases ongoing like this.”
Babandede, who went on to declare that foreigners in the country must obey the law and ensure that they are well documented, stated that a law has been concluded upon to be sign by the Interior Minister before the end of the year which would force every Nigerian to register in their local government of residence.
According to him, “We have already concluded to sign a law. The Minister of Interior will in the next month sign Immigration Regulation. This regulation will mandate that every foreigner must register at the local government of his or her residence.
“This will change the paradigm. It means we will have a documentation of all none Nigerians residing in Nigeria. They will be forced to register in each local government of their residence; not local government where they are working. This means we can monitor them.
“It will be made also compulsory for anybody who provides accommodation for them to report if they don’t register. So there is no excuse; if you have house; if you have hotel; and there is a foreigner; you have to report and make sure the person registers,” he said.
Admitting that Nigerian visas are difficult to get and that resident’s permit takes time to deliver, the Immigrations boss pointed out that President Muhammadu Buhari has given the directive that anyone who applies for a Nigeria Immigration facility, must get it on time.
He said, “The airports are crowded, resident’s permit takes time to deliver. Services should be time bound. It’s not right for you to apply for facilities in government and wait indefinitely with no reply. If you go to Immigration office and apply for passport, we must give you that facility within a period of time; and if we cannot we must reply you and say we cannot deliver due to certain reasons.
“We want ease way of getting the visa; we have the task of doing that before the end of the year. We need to cut bureaucracy; we need to curb corruption; we need to put the right officers in the right place.
“We are reviewing the visa policy; we want to give investors who have genuine money to come and invest in Nigeria, we give them an automatic residence permit to reside in Nigeria. We want to make visa on arrival easy; certain categories of persons who do business in the country can collect their visas in the airport. But this visa on arrival is people bound; you have to come and apply in the office of the Comptroller-General and he has to approve then you give to the airline; why can’t we do it real time online. This is what we are achieving.
“We are doing a lot to ease the way people enter Nigeria. It is only when you come to Nigeria that you see long queues at the airport. We are not the only ones involved. FAAN has to do something to make sure machines work; the airport has good air conditions. But also we are expanding our arrival and departure systems by ensuring that officers clear as quickly as possible.
“We want to reduce touts at the airports. So many people who has no business in the airport are there at the airport. As a Comptroller-General, when I travel I follow the queue, we want to reduce those level of big men. I have spoken with my colleagues at FAAN that we should give opportunity for those who want to be big men to pay. In other countries, they pay as VIPs but security must not be compromised.”