Rebranding NIS by Babandede
By Dr. Sule Ya’u Sule
The year 2019 can be described as a watershed in the history of border security management in Nigeria. It was the year the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) provided solutions towards addressing the nation’s seemingly intractable border security management problems.
In the year under review, the outfit, under the visionary leadership of Comptroller-General Muhammad Babandede, MFR, had pursued vigorous transformation agenda, thus turning the immigration services around, cutting away losses and wastages and introducing quality services as well as enhancing revenue generation profile of the organisation.
It is indeed a watershed year which began with the public presentation of the new enhanced e-passport.
It could be recalled that on January 15 of the same year, President Muhammadu Buhari was issued with his passport with 10-year validity, signaling the official takeoff of the signature project for the Babandede-led NIS management.
That was the year when the immigration outfit doubled down to contribute more to the national treasury, enhance capacity building to update and motivate its workforce, and investe more in infrastructural upgrades among its facilities across the country.
In particular, the launch of the National Border Management Strategy 2019-2023 emerged as the game-changer as highlighted by analysts and critics who critically reviewed the annual performance of the service during the review period.
In fact, one of the most pressing challenges of border security management faced by immigration services around the world is mitigating the negative consequences of migration in the age of globalization.
There is an unprecedented increase in cross border movement of people and services which has turned national borders into security frontiers. Against the backdrop of an increase in criminality, violent conflicts, and the Boko Haram insurgency, NIS has remained resolute in deploying new technologies to enhance the easy flow of legitimate economic activities across the nation’s borders and curb organized cross-border criminality and border tensions.
In securing the national borders and turning them from frontiers of criminality to booming economic prosperity, the introduction of the 2019-2023 strategy by the Babandede administration is a bold step to transform the nation’s traditional border observation methods and introduce modern e-border technologies for improved surveillance and monitoring structures in line with developments in the global community.
Apart from ensuring a timely response to security emergencies at the nation’s borders, the NIS e-Border Project will address irregular migration, effective and monitored patrol of all border flanks and electronic surveillance, and data collection in real-time.
Experts who reviewed the above strategy document commended it for being holistic and transformational while pointing out the immense socio-economic benefits to be derived from its commissioning.
It is a well-thought-out policy document detailing how the country’s land, air, and sea borders would be “effectively and efficiently managed to enhance national security economic development, secure social harmony, ensure adherence to international practices and agreements as well as assure full respect for migrants’ rights and protection of vulnerable migrants.”
Complementin it, is the commissioning of the Border Management Information Systems (BMIS), through which the Babandede-led management of the outfit is astutely securing the nation’s critical border assets. Through this process, the nation’s international airports, land borders and seaports have been fitted with BMIS capable of capturing biometric data and communication linkages for enhanced control and speedy-up the processing of travelers’ documents.
This focal zeal ensured the expansion of coverage and installation of Migration Information Data Analysis Systems (MIDAS) at 15 locations, giving a near 100 per cent coverage of the nation’s Border Control Posts.
As a primary foundation for integrated border management, MIDAS will supply the technological impetus for supporting linkages to other border solutions and passenger information data, ensuring that the country meets ICAO guidelines and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2396.
Perhaps, the one area where immigration reforms under the leadership of Babandede have been under-appreciated is the fight against the smuggling of migrants.
The nation’s undesirable reputation as a source, transit and destination for human smuggling has been a flashpoint for national embarrassment for a long time.
Stories about the people of the country, especially women and children, being trafficked to other countries, including those far less-developed than Nigeria, where they are subjected to inhuman treatments and forced labor, has been a challenge to our immigration and border management for a long time.
What the Babandede-led administration has done in the past one year has been to up the ante in migration management. The flag-off of the Migrant e-Registration Scheme on July 12, 2019 has further tightened internal control measures to boost migration management.
Since the inception of the project, over 120,000 migrants have been captured in the database located across the 27 National Registration Offices.
A further deepening of collaboration between NIS and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) gives Nigerians hope that that this national scourge can be drastically curtailed if not eradicated. Maintaining reliable data of migrants is the right step in the right direction and Nigerians have cause to be optimistic.
As mentioned earlier, the passport administration, a cardinal pillar of the NIS’s boss transformation agenda, benefitted from an infrastructural upgrade and further administrative reforms.
Soon after President Buhari launched the scheme, the process was followed up with a meticulously measured state-by-state roll-out from early March. Over one million e-passports have since been issued from the Abuja headquarters, Lagos and Kano offices, the other state capitals, and from Nigeria’s missions abroad.
Already acclaimed as the most improved national economic asset in the past year, Nigeria’s e-Passport feature engravings of the holder’s National Identity Number (NIN), which effectively merges it into the national information database, and in the process, eliminates forgery, fakery and touting while meeting ICAO standards.
More so, through the e-passport reforms and improvements in other NIS services, the agency generated over N63 billion in local currency and over $42 million in foreign currencies from its operations.
Under its commitment to improve service delivery and motivate officers and men of the service, the agency, during the review period prioritized training and capacity building.
Through collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), it initiated and commissioned Personnel Training Centers at the Akwa Ibom and Kebbi States Command headquarters for short courses and seminars, respectively. It also completed the construction of flag houses, Command Office complexes, and barracks accommodations in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Gusau, Zamfara State, and Jimeta-Yola, in Adamawa State.
Indeed, for the agency, the period under reviewed has been one loaded with achievements under Babandede, a visionary leader, a man imbued with patriotic zeal and focus and who is determined to make a difference.
Dr. Sule lectures at Mass Communication Department, Bayero University, Kano.