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The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) is a vital institution in the Nigeria superstructure. For an organisation that provides essential services to the public, very little is known about their operations, problems and challenges especially with the enthronement of democratic governance since 29 May, 1999. This quest for information led the reporting team of NigeriaBusinessInfo.com to track down the Zone "A" NIS Zonal Public Relations Officer (PRO), Chief Superintendent of Immigration, Ekpedeme S. King.
Get a peep into the NIS.
Can you please introduce your self sir?
KING: My name is Ekpedeme S. King, Chief Superintendent of Immigration and Zonal Public Relations Officer for the Nigerian Immigration Service Zone "A" Lagos.
Can you please state a brief history of the organisation, year of establishment, enabling law or decree?
KING: Hitherto, immigration duties was the responsibility of the Nigerian Police Force until 1958 when that function was excised from the Police and a distinct department created under the headship of the Chief Federal Immigration Officer. Today that department is known as the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and the enabling law is the Immigration Act of 1st August 1963.
What are the basic aims, objectives and goals of the NIS?
KING: It is hoped that the NIS will be able to set effective change in the Federal Government policy regarding immigration and emigration of persons arriving and departing Nigeria to give it a more civil face. Therefore the function of the NIS to this end includes specifically the issuance and administration of Nigeria travel documents - passports and other documents -, endorsement of all categories of travel documents of persons arriving and departing Nigeria, Visa issuance and interpretation of such Visas and issuance of residence permit to foreign investors and other expatriates who wish to reside in Nigeria. I must add here that although issuance of Visa is a certain function of the Immigration, for now Visas in our mission abroad are being issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry while we do the re-issuance of the Visas in Nigeria.
What functions and roles do you play in the emerging Nigerian economy?
KING: A comparative analysis of the immigration activity of the Lagos Zone between February June 2001 and the same period in the year 2000 indicates an increase in investments and this is how we know it. The number of persons that come in, we classify the number of persons into visitors and those that come for employment and therefore we are able to tell those that come in for employment and those that are coming in as visitors, tourists, short visits and we have noticed that the number of persons that come in for employment have increased tremendously in the year 2001 compared to the year 2000 and then the number of those that have been issued resident Visas have also increased tremendously therefore we could say the economic activity in Nigeria has increased tremendously in the year 2001 compared to the year 2000 and then the role of the Immigration Service cannot be over-emphasised because the immigration officers are the first government officials investors come in contact with on arrival. Therefore the NIS has to play the role of the nation's public relation officers, we have to receive them, welcome them very well so that they will be happy to come in.
Please, explain the operations outline of the NIS, that is, hierarchy, departments and their functions.
KING: So that I will not create any problem I should limit myself to the zone. Well, we have the Comptroller General in Abuja who is in charge of the Immigration service. We have the 5 directorates headed by Deputy Comptroller Generals and they are being assisted by Assistant Comptroller Generals and then we have the Comptrollers. Then we have 36 States, first we have 8 zones headed by Assistant Comptroller Generals and then we have 36 State Commands, all 36 State Commands are headed by Comptrollers. Now in Lagos zone, Lagos in headed by an Assistant Comptroller of Immigration, Dr. Babajide Brown and because of the peculiarity of Lagos which is a State and a Zone. We have 10 other Comptrollers heading the various Commands in Lagos and then this Command includes: Seme border Command, Murtala Mohammed International Airport Command, Passport offices - Ikeja and Festac - Commands, Lagos Sea Ports command, we have the Investigation Command, ECOWAS and African Affairs Command, Aliens Registration Command and then we have the Lagos State Command and then we also have the Zonal Office Command, they are all headed by Comptrollers and they have various functions.
What is the name of the Comptroller General?
KING: That is Lady (Mrs.) Uzoamaka Comfort Nwizu
She is the overall head?
KING: Yes, that is the Comptroller General
And the 5 directorates, what are their names?
KING: We have the Finance and Administration Directorate, Investigation and Aliens Control Directorate, Operations Directorate, Passport Administration and Control Directorate, Border Patrol and Surveillance Directorate and then we also have Projects and Logistics Directorate, so that makes it 6 directorates.
What is the estimated staff strength of the NIS?
KING: I cannot give you that but I can tell you that of my Lagos zone.
Lagos zone has about...
KING: We have about 1,950 personnel.
How many border outposts exist?
KING: The border post as it is in Zone A, we have the Seme border, Muritala Muhammad Airport, Lagos Sea Ports have a border post, the Sea ports include Tin Can and Apapa Port.
What significant changes have occurred since May 1999?
KING: Well a lot of changes have taken place because of the new dispensation. We have been training and re-training our officers very often now, we have the assistance from other countries like the German embassy here, who trained our officers in detecting fraudulent travel documents and we have the British Deputy High Commission here, they also assisted in training our officers in detecting fraudulent documents too. And then we also have the United States Immigration and Naturalisation Service who sent in their instructors here to train our officers in border patrol technique, investigation technique, human dignity, relations to the public and detection of fraudulent documents as well as tactics to reduce human trafficking to the various post. We also have our in-house training, there is a lot of training going on in Abuja, our training schools, staff college in Sokoto, immigration training school in Kano, Owerri and Akhoda, Rivers State. So we have been going for regular courses, but then we also have Seminars like the Nigeria Stake-holders Seminar we had at the Golden Gate Restaurant in November, 2001 and then in addition to that we have been able to reshuffle officers in very sensitive areas like the Muritala Mohammed Airport (MMA), where we have reduced the number of officers at the Airport for effective control.
Therefore what we have at the MMA are the best crop of officers in Lagos, they are neat, disciplined, experienced and they have good human relations. We have done the same thing at the Seme border, but at the border we have not reduced the number like that drastically because of the topography of that area we need to send our officers to certain places, but we have like modified our operation there for more effective control of the border. And then in all the Sea ports we have few officers there too and then the passports offices too, we have had to re-train our officers and we have set up a monitoring group to make sure that touts are driven away from the passport area. If you go to any of the passport office premises now, I can assure that you will not see touts, though people will talk about touts outside the territory of the passports area and that is no longer the function of the Immigration, it is another security agency has the duty of eradicating touts outside the passport premises.
What and who determines your tariffs, the amount that is charged at the airports, for passport issuance, for residence permit and so on?
KING: That is determined by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the parent ministry.
What factors have favoured your high revenue generation drive?
KING: Yeah, a lot of Nigerians are now tourism conscious and to that effect we have more and more Nigerians coming forward for the Nigerian travel passport and because of the thoroughness of the operation we found out that a lot of people leave other zones to Lagos for their passports, also we have an increase in investment activities by other nationals in Nigeria. So we have people paying more for issuance of residential permits, aliens registration, entry visas and so on. That is how we generate our revenue.
What problems have you been facing?
KING: Recently, we have been having certain problems and we are looking for ways to go round it. Some of these problems include the implementation of this ECOWAS Protocol in which check points have been removed along the route in that case it is exacting more pressure on the officers for border patrol. Because if you do not have a stationary, you have a checking point, that means you need a stronger border patrol to be able to apprehend those that are entering your country illegally. Because we can only station our officers at Federal Government recognised routes, those illegal routes we cannot post officers there because it is not recognised by Government.
So what we do instead is to patrol the area and therefore we need a lot of vehicles to do that, we probably need helicopters to carry out aerial surveillance, we need a lot of walkie-talkies to be able to communicate with each other, we need operational vehicles like if you need to visit companies to check their returns, visit hotels to find out who have checked in and if there is any expatriates and when they are leaving and things like that to take their records which is part of the operations of Immigration Service. And we need utility vehicles to carry out other duties and we also need to centralise the network for the issuance of passports so that a passport issued in Lagos for a particular applicant could be taken to any State in the country and that same person cannot be issued a Nigerian standard passport. We need to network the Nigerian passport operations.
What are the plans of the NIS for the future especially in relation to the information and communication technology revolution, computerisation, Internet? You know the world is fast becoming a global village.
KING: Yes, yes the NIS is aware of that and as a first step we are trying to computerise the operation of the zonal office. So, like we have a database now that can tell you those who have been posted to the zone, how long he has stayed in the zone, the areas he has served. In the computer you don't have to go through files. We are also trying to computerise our returns from the various commands so we are moving fast towards that. And we are making efforts to train our officers in the use of computers. In fact we have encouraged those that want to do that on their own to go ahead and acquire the skills. So that is how far we've gone.
This is an off-shoot of the last question. Being in a global village there is need for an organisation to have a data base where individuals could easily get information about such an organisation, for instance a foreigner that wants to come into Nigeria, the first place he is going to check for the NIS is probably on the internet, so what is the plan of the Immigration in having a website where data could be assessed and harnessed?
KING: I know because I am part of it that we are entertaining certain suggestions towards that end, but to start with, we have not been able to reach there yet, but we are going to reach there I can assure. But, however we intend to assist expatriates, we have been holding seminars like the Nigerian Stake-holders seminar we had in November 2001. We invited those resident in Nigeria and those that are visiting to come and listen to us and share our experience and also make their own suggestions, we have been doing that. And than again in addition to that we have also published The Migrant Magazine, the magazine comes with a lot of immigration activities and procedures. We have sent them to foreign missions in Nigeria and we have also requested that this magazine be sent to our missions abroad, that is, how far we have gone for now.
Presently, is the NIS in any collaboration with any of the other governmental agencies like NIPC, NTDC etc?
KING: Yes I wouldn't want to speak on the national level but we have a cooperation at the zonal level. Like the stake-holders seminar, we invited the NTDC, we also invited other governmental bodies. In fact at the inception when Dr. Brown resumed in Lagos, he took as a first step to visit the AIG in Alagbon Police, ACT of Customs in Harvey Road, Director of SSS at Kingsway Road, ACT Prisons here in Ikoyi. We visited major media houses as well; we visited the Oba of Lagos. We try as much as we can to maintain good relationships with all organisations. And it may please you to know that Dr. Brown has received an award presented to him by the Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ms Boma Bromillow-Jack.
CONTACT OFFICER: Ekpedeme S. King, Chief Superintendent of Immigration DESIGNATION: Zonal Public Relations Officer for the Nigerian Immigration Service Zone "A" Lagos. ZONAL ADDRESS: Zone 'A' HQTRS, Alagbon Close, Ikoyi, Lagos PHONE: +2341-2673775
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