For a country like Nigeria generally regarded as the most populous black nation on earth with a population of over 167 million people, over 250 ethnic nationalities and a sprawling land area, the task of preventing or curbing disorder is definitely not an easy one. The challenge is further complicated by a seeming conspiracy of other factors such as the porosity of our borders, poor logistics and infrastructure, difficult terrain in some places, low workers’ motivation, suspicion and discontent among the various ethnic nationalities and burgeoning youth unemployment. This is the stark reality of the operating environment of the Federal Ministry of Interior.
To achieve its mandate, it has under its supervision, the following services – Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, Nigerian Prisons Service, Federal Fire Service and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.
While the NIS operates 84 regular or legal routes into the country which may not be particularly well equipped, it has to contend with about 1,500 other unofficial/or illegal routes through which illegal aliens are daily strolling in, so to say, from neighbouring countries – Niger, Cameroon and Benin Republic that share borders with the Northern, Eastern and Western Nigeria respectively. This influx of illegal immigrants has been fingered as providing tinder for the raging fire of insurgency and terrorism that is currently threatening to consume the North-eastern region. Unfortunately, the NIS has not been able to conduct a successful, controversy-free recruitment exercise to shore up its personnel count which is sorely inadequate as it stands now. If the recruitment exercises are not tainted by corruption or cash-for-job scams, they end up being marred by confusion, injury and deaths. For many Nigerians, the recent saga of the death of 16 persons on March 15, 2014 is one blunder too many. However, the soft-spoken Comrade Abba Moro, Minister in charge of the ministry, explains that the method chosen was based on the need to break away with the past where the recruitments had always provoked dissatisfaction due to the corruption associated with it by providing a level playing field for all interested candidates. He admits with the benefit of hindsight that the method was not foolproof else it would not have ended the way it did. His plea however is that he shares the pain of the injured and bereaved, but pledges to make it up to Nigerians by conducting an excellent exercise if opportunity would permit. Thankfully, the Federal Government has announced some palliative measures to soothe frayed nerves.
In the prisons, congestion still remains a sore point but this is being aggressively addressed by a combination of facility expansion and alternative non-custodial punishment for criminals. The slow adjudication system of courts that makes prison facilities to be filled substantially with awaiting trial inmates is the major reason for the congestion and needs to be corrected. The inmates in some prisons are being taken through skills acquisition and academic programmes that have led to drastic reduction in recidivism, a tendency to commit crime after discharge in order to go back to the prison. In 2013 alone, 2,764 were trained while 347 were rehabilitated and are currently self-employed.
The ministry has no doubt done well in many other areas such as passport and visa issuance. They have been able to reduce the time taken for such issuance to 24 hours even lower than the target 36 hours set by the Federal Government. They are building prisons, rehabilitating others. Office accommodation projects are being commissioned for the various services. Between 2012 and early this year, 10,401 Beninese, Nigeriens and Cameroonians were refused entry while 8,337 Nigeriens were repatriated.
On the whole, observers agree that the ministry under the leadership of Comrade Moro has performed creditably within the confines of available resources and can do much better with improved funding save for the blotch of the recruitment saga. This is hoping they will get the recruitment processes right next time.