The framers of the 1999 Constitution had in the process of putting it together envisaged that the task of governing a sprawling and diverse entity called Nigeria will be very daunting for a single individual to accomplish.
To make the job simple and seamless for the President, the wise men who came together to forge the nation’s article of faith inserted some clauses into it to compel whoever is saddled with the job of leading the country to look for competent hands to assist him in the day-to-day task of managing the country.
The privileged individuals who are drawn from the 36 states making up the nation’s geo-political entity called Nigeria are to many different yet strategic sectors of the country as domiciled in the various MDAs.
Like all others, Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola was sworn in as a minister of the Federal Republic in 2019 upon the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term of office.
After the swearing formalities sequel to confirmation of the Senate, he was appointed to man the strategic Ministry of the Interior to succeed the former holder, Lt.-General Abdulrahaman Danbazzau (rtd.) who held the post in the course of Buhari’s first term of office.
The announcement came as a surprise to many as tongues wagged in some quarters regarding whether someone with no background in military or paramilitary services would function well as the head of the ministry.
Well, three years down the line, opinion held by these skeptics has somehow changed due to the laudable strides of the Ijesa-born politician who seems to have quickly learnt the ropes on how the ministry functions vis a vis the numerous problems associated with the nation’s internal security
Aregbesola has not only identified the numerous problems in the ministry as they relate to internal security, he has come up with numerous solutions to them in a manner that has continued to draw accolades to himself from those who were formerly skeptical of his ability to deliver. To ensure quality service performance, the Ministry of Interior has Introduces Quarterly Performance Reviews for Agencies and Service Providers within its purview, something that is considered a novelty.
For instance, the current leadership in the Ministry of the Interior under his supervision has ensured a lot of work is done in the area of ensuring credibility and respectability to the nation’s passport.
It has increased greater access of Nigerians to the document by issuing 2,742,207 passports to Nigerians in the last three years. A breakdown of the figures reveal geometric rise over a period of time. In 2015 the figure was 795,373; 838,298 (2016); 872,864 (2017); 1,036,682 (2018).
The figure has even risen since then to show that between December 2020 and March, 2021, 790,000 passports have been supplied and that the figures will eventually surpass the one recorded for the year before. Conversely, a total of 40,009 passports have not been collected by applicants.
This feat has been achieved via a combination of measures that have been put in place by the agency involved, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) such as opening of more front offices as well as introduction of state-of-the-art equipment for the process of passport issuance.
It is interesting to note that new passport capture and production centres have been opened across the country with platforms to link data collected in Nigeria to global databases with the aim of curbing international crime.
This upgrade has had some positive effects on the Ease of doing Business in Nigeria and has the potential to attract more Foreign Direct Investments that will in turn create direct and indirect jobs for unemployed Nigerians in the long run.
The NIS under his supervision has also ensured the credibility of the document in the international arena by bringing new measures and features into the process of issuance.
This it has done by adding some security and information generating features to it and the feat has been achieved with collaborative support of friendly international agencies and countries as well via public, private sector participation.
Perhaps, Nigerians in the Diaspora will now heave a sigh of relief with the measures the ministry through the NIS has put in place to facilitate prompt issuance of the document in their places of abode abroad.
Only recently, the enhanced e-passport was launched at the Nigerian High Commission in London, the United Kingdom to the appreciative Nigerians resident there.
Nigerians in the Diaspora who have either lost their passport or got it expired before renewal and need to travel home now have the benefit of obtaining the one-way Temporary Passport. The document is ICAO-Compliant and it is a Nigerian version of a Temporary Passport
A lot of work has been carried out on streamlining entry of foreigners into the country in a manner that would ensure that visitors wishing to come in will be genuine ones who are expected to contribute to Nigeria’s development.
The efforts made are tailored towards ensuring that the process of procurement of visa and stay are done in a more relaxed and responsible manner in line with best global practices.
In this, the NIS has fully implemented biometric visa at all entry points into the country just as it has also deployed Migration Data Analysis System (MIDAS) at all entry points in the country.
For those wishing to stay, the NIS has unveiled the Nigeria Visa Policy (NVP) 2020 in compliance with the Presidential Executive Order 1 (EO1). Added to this is the directive to the NIS to issue passports to Nigerians at the various airports in the country.
In the area of security, NIS has launched the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) fully to have full details of all incoming travelers into the country even before arrival. Also, about 14 fully equipped Border Patrol Forward Operation Bases (FOB) have been set up at various land borders across the country.
Aregbesola has also ensured that the NIS becomes a responsible organization for information gathering and sharing with sister security agencies. To this end, the NIS hasuploaded over 153,000 lost and stolen Nigerian passports after connection to its database with that of National Central Bureau (NCB) Interpol police database domiciled with the Nigeria Police.
Since coming on board, Aregbesola has ensured that numerous various reforms have been carried out in the prison sector in a manner that would give some new fillip to the work of the various facilities housing awaiting suspects as well as convicted Nigerians.
For instance, it is to the credit of the minister that President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law, the Nigerian Correctional Service Bill, which repeals the Nigerian Prisons Service Act. The move completes the steps that were taken by his immediate predecessor in office, Lt.-General Danbassau who initiated the idea.
With the move, the Nigerian Prisons Service is now known and addressed as the Nigerian Correctional Service. The act is to ensure that a new approach is put in place by the government for those being held at the different holding centres by not criminalizing but rather to reform them.
This means that convicts who are serving jail terms would now have to enjoy the privilege of being properly reformed via vocational training and provision of educational opportunities before being reintegrated back into the society.
As at the time of writing this report, about 465 inmates are currently running various degree programmmes at various institutions of higher learning. About 85 of them are running post – graduate degree programmes.
Four of them are undergoing doctorate degree programmes within the custodial facilities. In the same token, 560 inmates have been enrolled for WAEC/NECO Examinations, and 2300 for Adult Literacy Classes in several Custodial Centers.
Vocational training of inmates is another top priority for the NCS under the minister and this is evident in the establishment of a public-private-partnership for the establishment of 5 Billion Naira shoe and garment factories in Kano and Abia States respectively.
Added to this, the NCoS has reactivated many of the custodial farm centres for large scale agricultural production.
Upon assuming office, Aregbesola ensured the take-off of the Non-Custodial Measures Service Directorate in the service.
With the support of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) and the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior introduced the virtual counsels/courts sessions in the Nigeria Custodial Centres to ensure unhindered adjudication of justice while still adhering to the COVID-19 pandemic protocols. A move aimed at decongesting correctional facilities in the country.
To address the situation of prison congestion, the NCoS has launched 3000 modern capacity custodial centres in each of the six geopolitical zones making up the country.
Unlike ministers before him, Aregbesola’s tenure as minister has continued to witness the incidence of jailbreaks and to address such he has carried out Captured Biometric Details of all Inmates, working with INTERPOL to help curb the incidence as well as to gather needed data base for the country and for intelligence sharing.
The NCS have also captured the biometric information of all inmates in all its facilities with aid of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC). The efforts also helped in determining the ratio of male to female inmates in the custodial centres at 98:2.
Specifically, the total number of convicted female inmates is 256 while 58 of them are on death row. There are 1,019 female inmates as Awaiting Trial Persons (ATP). They form the total number of inmates put at about 69,680 out of which 50,223 are Awaiting Trial Persons and 19,457 are convicted inmates.
It must be stated that the custodial facilities did not record any case of COVID-19 since the pandemic was discovered, no thanks to the precautionary measures that were put in place by the ministry and the NCS.
In the area of homeland security, Aregbesola commissioned the Female Armed Squad Unit of the NSCDC. The objective is to provide female guards to protect schools in line with the Safe School Initiative policy directive of the minister which is aimed at keeping children safe in schools.
This will support the efforts of other security agencies in addressing the recurring cases of kidnap of school children which has been going on for years.
The NCDSC has been contributing its quota to the fight against insurgency and banditry in the country as its operatives are currently deployed alongside other security agencies in various joint operations such as Operation SHARANDAJI, Operation POLO SHIELD and Operation HADIN KAI.
Its personnel have also been deployed as component units of Agro-Rangers Squad physical security providing security to the Agro-Allied sector of the economy and have also continued to protect Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East.
Also, it is to the credit of the current management of the ministry that the high rate of vandalism of critical national assets and infrastructure has reduced with the deployment of more NSCDC officers to man these assets.
Another critical agency that has received great attention from the ministry is the Federal Fire Service (FFF) whose operations have received some boost thus fostering quality service delivery.
Between 2019 and 2020, the FFS has responded to 698 fire outbreaks and 3,555 in 2020 across the country and have saved 99 lives in 2019 and 1,100 in 2020.
In 2019, assets valued at N1.82trillion were saved while in 2020, assets valued at N1.35trillion was saved across the country. Its presence is now fully in all the 36 states of the Federation.
FFS has modern hydraulic fire-fighting trucks to Lagos to be able to respond to fire incidents in high rise buildings just as it has set up the National Fire Data Repository Centre in the 6 geopolitical zones in the country.
The service now has 20 basic life support ambulances and employed paramedics to provide first care to fire victims and has created the Fire Volunteer Force in every Local Government Area of the country as well as the Special Fire Marshals.
Within the period under review, the Civil Defence Corrections Immigration and Fire Board (CDCIFB) has recruited over 19,335 officers into the paramilitary services within its purview comprising of 2,200 for FFS, 7,745 for NCoS, 4,390 for NIS and 5,000 for NSCDC.
Also, 27,025 paramilitary personnel have been promoted since September 2019 till date. The ministry has also secured partnership with the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for Computer based tests for recruitment and promotion of personnel in all its paramilitary services. It has also recruited 19,000 officers into NIS, NCoS, FFS, NSCDC.
The Headquarters of the Ministry has introduced Quarterly Performance Review meetings for the Ministry and its agencies as well as its Service Providers. It has also updated the Expatriate Quota handbook.
Between 2019 and October 2021, over 87,000 expatriate quotas were granted while 951 business permits were granted. Also, 598 licenses were issued to public places of worship for the conduct of statutory marriages while a ministerial Task Force was set up to monitor the use of Expatriate Quota.
From 2019 to date 174,000 direct jobs have been created through the understudy program while five new Federal Marriage Registries have been established in Benin, Kano, Jos, Owerri and Port Harcourt.
The ministry is in the process of establishing at least 20 more across the country and for greater service delivery, the ministry has developed a 5-year strategic plan for its operations.