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HOME > GOVT & AGENCIES > The Nigerian Immigration Service
The Nigerian Immigration Service - A Profile
23rd July, 2003) Tell
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The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has come a long way since is was extracted from the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) in 1958, as a separate entity entrusted with core Immigration duties under the headship of the Chief Federal Immigration Officer. The new department inherited the Immigration Ordinance of 1958 for its operation. This early period saw the immigration department maintaining a low profile and very simple approach in achieving the desired goal of the government whereby only the visa section and the business section were set-up. In line with the reciprocal nature of immigration laws world wide, the Federal Minister of Internal Affairs under whose responsibility immigration matters fell continued to make amendments to existing laws, and make new laws as and when appropriate.
By August 1, 1963, the NIS really came of age when it was formally established by an act of Parliament (section 5 Of Immigration Act L.N. Cap. 171). Thus, the first set of Immigration officers were former NPF officers and they were constituted into a department under the control and supervision of the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs (FMIA) as a purely Civil Service outfit. In 1966, an upsurge in immigration activities led to the opening of area offices in Ibadan, Ilesha, Akure, Benin-city, Warri, Sapele, Calabar, Enugu, Port-Harcourt, Sokoto, Kaduna, Jos, Mubi and Maiduguri. In this period, location of area headquarters was not based on State capitals but on the level of immigration activities in a town.
Another significant event was the creation of Immigration out-posts in foreign countries in 1976 by General Olusegun Obasanjo, then Head of State. The first set of countries to which Immigration Officers were posted include Britain, U.S.A, U.S.S.R., West Germany, Italy and India. Later, Immigration Officers were also posted to Nigeria's missions in New York, San Francisco and Atlanta in the United States, Hamburg in Germany, the Philippines, Japan, Egypt, Brazil, Switzerland and Hong Kong.
Ever since, a number of changes has occurred in the institutional and structural contingency of the NIS. In 1986, the Federal Government established the Customs, Immigration and Prisons Services Board (CIPB) (L.N. Cap. 89). This was a major milestone in the tortuous journey to the restoration of its former para-military status and more autonomy. Hence, the CIPB took over the functions of the Civil Service Commissions as regard recruitment, promotion and discipline of officers and men of the Service. By April, 1992 the Federal Government approved the complete removal of the Nigerian Customs, Immigration and Prisons Services from the Civil Service structure. This implies that their ranks will be aligned to the structure obtainable at the NPF with parity in salary and conditions of service between the three para-military services.
Roll Call of Past and Current Heads of The Nigerian Immigration Services
The NIS is headed at the apex by a Comptroller General of Immigration Service. This is followed by heads of the six operational directorates which are called Deputy Comptroller Generals and they are assisted by Assistant Comptroller Generals.
The 6 directorates are:
Also, there are 8 zones headed by Assistant comptroller Generals. The 8 zones are:
There are a further 36 State Commands which is headed by Comptrollers. The Lagos Zone is quite peculiar with 10 Commands headed by Comptrollers. The Commands are:
Comptroller General of Immigration Services - Lady (Mrs.) Uzoamaka Comfort Nwizu.
The Zonal heads for the 8 zones are:
A roll call of the Lagos 'A' zone shows:
For the Lagos Zone 'A', the 10 Commands are headed by:
Please Note: Officers are frequently re-deployed so these officers are at these posts as at August 2001.
The functions of the NIS include:
1. The issuance and administration of Nigeria travel documents - passports and other documents,
2. Endorsement of all categories of travel documents of persons arriving and departing Nigeria,
3. Visa issuance and interpretation of such visas,
4. Issuance of residence permit to foreign investors and other expatriates who wish to reside in Nigeria. (It must be emphasised 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 the NIS CARRIES the reissuance of the visas in country.)
5. Examination of all persons leaving and entering Nigeria at any designated port and also the right to examine those in Nigeria before the commencement of this act with a view to determining their rights of residence in Nigeria.
6. Also 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 relations officer.
Statistics that shows a comparative analysis of immigration activities in the Lagos zone between January and June 2001 and the corresponding period in the 2000 indicate an increase in investment and tourism. The figures below shows the number of persons that arrived and departed Nigeria between January and June through the Murtala Mohammed Airport and the Seme Border both in Lagos in the 2000 and 2001:
Sources of Revenue
This is determined by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. But mainly the NIS derives the bulk of it's revenue from the Nigerian traveling passport. The issuance of residential permit comes close behind and alien registration, entry visas and so on.
A comparative analysis of immigration activities in Lagos zone between January and June 2001 and the same period in year 2000, being revenue accrued on alien registration, issuance of Residence Permits, Re-entry Visas and Travel documents are shown below:
In preparing for 21st century challenges the NIS realised the need to improve their public relations role in terms of interacting with prospective foreign investors as they are the first Nigerian officials they encounter upon arrival. Bearing in mind the negative impression that has been created by successive military administration in the area of corruption, advance free fraud (419) and crimes. Faced with this enormous national responsibility the NIS embarked on training and re-training their officers very often, with the assistance from other countries like the German embassy, the British Deputy High Commission and the United States Immigration and Naturalisation Service, NIS officers have been trained in detecting fraudulent travel documents, border patrol techniques, investigation techniques, human dignity, how to relate to the public and tactics to reduce human trafficking.
There have also been a number of in-house training sessions in Abuja, the different training schools, staff college in Sokoto, immigration training schools in Kano, Owerri and Akhoda, Rivers State. Another angle was explored by the organising of the first NIS Nigeria Stake-holders Seminar at the Golden Gate Restaurant in November, 2001.
Realising the sensitive nature of some border areas the NIS has seen the need to reshuffle officers at the Muritala Mohammed Airport (MMA), where number of officers have been reduced for effective control. Presently, at the MMA are the best crop of officers in Lagos, they are neat, disciplined, experienced and they have good human relationship skills. The same method has been employed at the Seme Border post, but rather than reduce the number drastically, the topography has necessitated the NIS to modify their operation for more effective control of the border. This also applies to the Sea ports and the passport offices where fewer number of officers is now the rule. In order to curb the activity of touts at passport offices the NIS has set up a monitoring group to make sure that touts are driven away from the passport area.
Another area in which the NIS are reorganising is computerisation. As a first step, they are trying to computerise the operation of the zonal office by creating data bases of staff payroll, profile and revenue base. To this end officers are also encouraged to acquire computer skills and knowledge.
The NIS also has in the pipeline the creation of a website to ease information retrieval by information seekers. This desire to provide information has led to a NIS magazine called The Migrant Magazine, the magazine comes with a lot of information on immigration activities and procedures. It has been sent to foreign missions in Nigeria and also sent to Nigerian missions abroad.
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
Sources: Excepts from August 2000 and 2001 issues of The Migrant, a quarterly magazine of the NIS, Zone 'A', Lagos and NigeriaBusinessInfo.com field work.
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