Nigerian Home Secretary, Rauf AregbesolaIt has initiated a process to incorporate private agents for the application processes for relevant immigration documents such as citizenship and residence permits, business permits and formation of legal marriages, among others.

This is contained in a new advertorial published on page three of the Tenders Journal on January 23 and signed by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Shuaibu Belgore.

The new process, once approved, would empower private agents to impose service charges on applicants, and personal applications will no longer be able to be processed.

But this new measure by the Minister goes against the law that establishes the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) that puts the responsibility of the processes of issuance of international passports, residence permits and visas, among others, in the hands of the NIS and its general comptroller as an accountant.

It also goes against the Minister’s stated commitment to root out middlemen in the processing of relevant documents such as international passports. Mr. Aregbesola has never insisted on the introduction of technology to limit the human interface in the application and acquisition of relevant agencies under his supervision.

But an aide to the minister, Sola Fasure, defended the policy, describing it as part of the ministry’s efforts to ensure better coordination, accountability and efficiency.

Meanwhile, NIS spokesman Tony Akuneme denied any knowledge of the development, saying he had not yet been briefed on the matter by management.

However, a member of the ministry, who does not want to be cited for fear of sanctions, has described the new initiative as “fraudulent” and a channel “to find food for children”.

New process

In the advertorial, which was titled: “Selection of Licensed Agents for the Processing of Applications Related to the Granting of Business Permits, Expatriate Quota, Formation of Statutory Marriages, Citizenship/Residence Permit and Licensing of Public Places of Worship Expression Request of Interest (Eoi)”, interested bidders are expected to submit their applications before Tuesday, February 7.

The notice further states that the application documents will also be opened on February 7 at the expiration of the deadline for submission.

According to the notice, the tasks of successful agents will be to “facilitate and seek approvals on behalf of their clients for matters related to expatriate quota, citizenship applications, licenses for public places of worship, as well as applications for the formation of legal marriages.” . .”

“Agents will have the responsibility of verifying the information provided and ensuring that all requirements are met while ensuring that their clients comply with the conditions of their permits. They would also have reporting obligations to the Ministry,” he added.

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Similar failed previous attempt

It is not the first time that Mr. Aregbesola has attempted to market the services provided by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).

In 2021, the former governor of Osun State introduced intermediaries into passport processing processes by launching what he called “Express Passport Centers”.

At the opening of the pioneer express center office in the Maitama area of ​​Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in 2021, it was announced that applicants requiring international passports within 24 hours would pay a service charge of N30 ,000 while those who need the documents within 48 hours would pay N20,000.

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However, following criticism of the process by many Nigerians, who called the measure exploitative, President Muhammdu Buhari ordered its cancellation and that the NIS should be solely responsible for the issuance processes.

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The president had cited the security implications of exposing the nation’s travel documents to too many intermediaries and the need to protect their sanctity and integrity.

what does the law say

The Immigration Act 2015, which repealed the Immigration Act, Cap. I1, LFN, 2004, and the Passports (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, Cap. P1, LFN, 2004], “lays down the provisions on matters related to immigration, passports, visas, residence permits, work permits and the prohibition of migrant smuggling to and from Nigeria, and for the protection and provision of resources and assistance to objects of migrant smuggling offenses in Nigeria.”

While the minister serves as the chairman of the Civil Defense, Correction, Fire and Immigration Services Board (CDCFIB), which is charged with directing the agency’s policy, the Act establishing NIS in Part 1, Section 2 empowers the Comptroller General of Immigration to oversee the day-to-day operations of the organization.

The Law states in part: “The Comptroller General shall be subject to the directives of the Minister on matters of policy, shall be charged with the responsibility for the day-to-day administration of this Law or any other enactment conferring on him immigration duties, including the performance of the duties specified in Article 2 of this Law.”

But PREMIUM TIMES investigations revealed that the Minister is running this without bringing the NIS leadership with him.

Minister defends action

In a telephone interview with the minister’s press assistant, Mr. Fasure, he said that there is a Citizenship department in the ministry that is responsible for these matters and that it is within the purview of the minister to make decisions that can improve the services provided. .

He said: “As I have said, the new process is to help applicants refine their applications. That’s all.”

When asked about the cost of the new agent services, Fasure said details are not yet available and he could not comment on “those aspects for now.”

When Mr. Fasure was also asked about the timing of the new policy, he said that it is just a coincidence with the period when President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is coming to an end.

“I think it is only the maturation that is now seen, but many processes must have passed. So it could only be a coincidence,” she said.

“NIS unconscious”

In a telephone interview with NIS Public Relations Officer Tony Akuneme, he was unaware of the development and could not comment on the matter.

He urged the reporter to send him a copy of the advertorial for later delivery to agency management for a proper response.

However, since the document was sent to Mr. Akuneme as informed, he had not yet responded at the time of filing this report.

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