For all discerning Nigerian observers, the history of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has remarkably changed under the guardianship of Comptroller-General Muhammad Babandede. The man, unlike typical African administrators had a blueprint for the service as soon as he assumed office. This has expectedly made it easier for him to massively reform policies and programmes of the service. That was a clear example of an officer who is better organized.
He set tongues wagging on the 15th of January 2015 when he rolled out the rebranded international e-passport with 10 years validity. What is significant is the fact that this rebranded e-passport has all the special security features obtainable in all international passports across the globe. Indeed, the new passport is recognized as compatible to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.
Beyond the digitization of the international passport, there have been beautiful reforms in the Visa section. Currently, there is a Visa variant known as Temporary Work Permit (TWP) and any qualified citizen can apply directly online and get one without hassle. This was achieved due to a massive anti-corruption war that he first mounted to sanitize the system before launching new policies and programmes.
What is unmistakable in the present day NIS under Babandede is that the era of administrative bottlenecks and protocols that made Passport or Visa application cumbersome is finally over. Historians would readily admit that this is the first time in the history of the service that this kind of positive overhaul within a short span of time has taken place.
For the first time in the history of the service, even the staff uniform has been made unique and this has added to respectability of the various offices of the NIS. There is a customized officers uniform, spread across specific days of the week. For instance, the officials of the service are now observing a form of dress code. They know which uniform to wear to work on Mondays and Tuesdays, or Wednesdays and Thursdays through Friday. Observers of the service have variously described this as innovative administration. Before now, the men and officers of NIS wear all manner of uniforms with designs seriously in need of modifications in the pattern. Training and retraining is one aspect where Babandede”s score hits the roof. He has consistently placed officers and men of the service on trainings that widened the scope of the job to conform with international best practice.
In terms of projects, each and every state of the federation is having its fair share of the Babandede infrastructural reforms. Before his emergence as Comptroller, the service was sharing Offices accomodation with the Nigeria Prisons Service in many state commands. By way of example, the Kano State Command had been sharing office accomodation with the Prisons Service for decades. Babandede’s era has brought an end to this culture by constructing ultramodern Command Office near Airforce Base in Kano. Most importantly, the NIS now has independent operations offices in each State commands. Even the NIS National Headquarters in Abuja has undergone massive facelift, to the extent that a regular visitor who has has not been there for a year risks getting lost inside the gangatuan office building.
Talk of staff welfare and you would find his new policies and programmes unbeatable in the history of the NIS. Promotions roll in smoothly and no one is left grumbling any more, as was the case before he came on board. The recent senior officers promotion buttress this fact.
Being a disciplinarian and no nonsense officer, Babandede has ensured ethical practices in the workplace and no staff would dare take discipline for granted.
One other area of his strides is the major boost the service has recorded in revenue generation, brought about by enhanced quality of services.
As for the NIS contribution to national safety and security, Babandede will go down in history as the first to close and man our boarders to curb the influx of illegal arms into the country. This became known as the Border Management Strategy billed to span from the year 2019 through 2023. The highpoint of this strategy is the application of modern equipment of surveillance. And the impact of this strategy will be long lasting because of the commissioning of Border Management Information Systems (BMIS) to fastrack the processing of travel documents for those in need. This is closely followed by stretching of coverage and installation of Migration Information Data Analysis Systems (MIDAS).
On the whole, it is difficult, if not impossible, to chronicle the sterling achievements of this NIS Comptroller-General in one piece. The man has recorded unbeatable reforms in the Service, the type that could last decades – if sustained by successors with equal measure of patriotism as Babandede’s.
Ezechukwu, a historian, writes from Owerri, Imo State
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