The Federal Government has ordered the arrest of past and former government functionaries who are in possession of diplomatic passports. Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mr. Mohammed Babandede, who gave the order yesterday told his men at the airports and other points of entry and departure to effect the arrest with immediate effect.
The CG, who was appointed last week, gave the charge while delivering his vision and mission statements to officers in the rank of Comptroller and above at the National Headquarters of the service in Abuja. Addressing the officers on the illegal possession of diplomatic passports, Babandede said: “In view of the earlier publication for return of official/diplomatic passports by former political office holders and retired public servants, it must be noted that charges will be pressed against unauthorised holders of such documents.
This is because such persons are no longer in the eligibility list and, therefore, in contradiction of S.10 of the extant Immigration Act 2015. “I am hereby directing that unauthorised holders of such passports be arrested at the airports and other points of entry/ departure. Efforts will be made also to trace such unauthorised holders in their given addresses.”
Two former Comptroller Generals of Immigration, David Paradang and Martins Abeshi, had earlier directed the holders of such diplomatic passports, who are no longer government functionaries to return same to the Service. Such persons are former governors, ministers, legislators, special advisers to the president, permanent secretaries and directors.
According to Immigration source, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs approves the issuance of diplomatic passports to government functionaries while Immigration Service issues such passport.
Babandede said the service has so far retrieved about 158 diplomatic passports and 310 passports. Also, the CG stated that he would not accept what he tagged “blood money” from the officers.
He accused the officers of engineering the setting up of illegal checkpoints at hinterland, to bully and extort money from citizens. To curb this, he said, I am setting up an anti-corruption squad, but before this, I will hold the zonal coordinators and comptrollers responsible.
“I don’t want your blood money, as organised crime law enforcement calls ‘re turns’. All zonal coordinators and state comptrollers must put an end to this to provide a comfortable environment for operatives.”
The CG also stated that he has decentralised the issuance of passport that had been a concern to international passport seekers. On the issuance of new passports based on change of name and loss, he said: “Approval for change of name due to marriage can now be given by the Comptroller of State; approval for replacement of lost passport shall, henceforth, be given by State Comptrollers after online vetting and processing of application at the passport division in the Service Headquarters.”
The new CG promised to return the Service to the path of honour.
His words: “The NIS under my stew ardship must be returned to the path of honour, integrity, discipline and unalloyed commitment to national security it was known for. “I am aware of money being extorted from the hands of passport applicants and at various borders/ check points in the country. What is happening in the liberated territories in the North-East is most disturbing to me.”