Federal Government’s Plan to Register Irregular Migrants
Nigeria, a country of 36 states is bordered by Benin Republic, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. The country also shares maritime borders with Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Sao Tome & Principe. Nigeria is almost four times the size of the UK, or slightly more than twice the size of California.
The last census conducted in 2006 puts the Nigerian population at 140 million but estimates from the United States put up the country’s population at around 200 million. 1,497 illegal routes lead into Nigeria. So, one is left to wander how many people in the country are really citizens who reside here legally.
Morning Crossfire hosts Wemimo Adewuni and Sheriff Quadri take a deep look at the issue of illegal migrants in Nigeria, together with resource persons who joined on the show to shed more light on this issue.
In a reaction to the security challenges in the country, the Presidency had made a call for a 6-month amnesty program for unregistered immigrants to be captured in the database of the Nigerian Immigration Service.
At the expiration of this time frame, unregistered migrants would be considered illegal. However, there have been several reactions from Nigerians to this new policy by the federal government. This is why the show is a conversation today on the Federal Government’s plan to register irregular migrants.
Sheriff put up a notion that the Nigerian Immigration Service does not know the number of immigrants in the country. Deputy Comptroller of Immigration Service, James Sunday says that’s not true.
“We have our official record of the regular migrants that come into the country, via land, sea, on the e-pass, which is electronic passenger registration system that we have. We also have deployment of the MIDAS; that’s Migrants Information Development Analysis System that was just deployed recently courtesy of Federal government approval.
“We also have our traditional record of how many people come into the country and when they come through the airport they have to register with their passports before they enter the country. If they come through land it is compulsory to appear before immigration officers who check the documents they have and then register these ones before they are permitted to enter the country. The same thing applies at our sea border.
“So for official records, the NIS has the record of any person that appears before it as a regular migrant but when it is irregular, it all depends on where they came in from, and it is even possible to turn a regular migrant to irregular. If a person has all the valid travel documents and such a person has been given a period of time to stay, after a period of time, the passport expires, if it is not renewed and the holder fails to legitimize his status, he or she turns from being regular migrants to irregular migrants depending on what happens during the period of arrival and during the time of stay.”
Further, James says the NIS platform has always disregarded the claim by people about illegal routes. “When you say illegal, it means someone is refusing to do his job. No government will allow illegal routes in any country,” he says. However, he says that there are some areas where regular NIS officers cannot cover. These are unmanned routes. To solve the issue, he says that the Federal Government need to assist with the right technology.
“The technology building will be the hub of information that government needs. It will hold every valid data of everyone coming into this country. The Federal Government is already on the right track to approve this technology for deployment. For now, the NIS takes several measures to identify who comes into the country.”
Another aspect of the issue of porous borders is explained by Rotimi Sankore. He mentioned that the longest border Nigeria shares with any other country is that of Cameroon. “Many people on both sides of that border don’t even know where they belong to. There are those who farm on the other side, others go to the market on the other side and some even go to school on the other side.
“The NIS does not have enough funding or capacity to hire the numbers that are required. NIS needs more technology, more personnel, and more equipment. Many of these border posts are far away from civilization. So government need to provide the resources in terms of housing, supporting infrastructure, and the best NIS can do is to come up with estimates and forward it to the appropriate authorities.”
“ECOWAS citizens can come into the country,” Rotimi continues. “But there’s a limited window within which the person should regularize. This is a big gap in the process because many of them do overstay. The same happens to Nigerians in other ECOWAS countries. Nigeria is one of the countries that have less of students who overstay. You find that mostly in the more developed countries. Nigeria also doesn’t have a large number of people coming to join their parents, their spouses or their children. It happens in many developed countries. That may be something to do with Nigerian women not able to pass citizenship to their spouses who come into the country.”
Professor Richard, also a part of the conversation shared his thoughts on Nigeria’s deportation of illegal immigrants and also the regularization of irregular migrants, using billions of naira.
Another question to ask is: How does unregulated migration affect our economy – businesses, shared resources, trade and investment, employment, etc?
Click Here to join the conversation and drop your comments
Resource Persons: James Sunday - Deputy Comptroller of Immigration Service Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Immigration Service
Richard Wokocha - Professor of Public Law
Rotimi Sankore - Journalist, Policy and Development Expert @RotimiSankore
Written by Jude Chukwuemeka