BY BRIGHT JACOB
Protests rocked the headquarters of the Nigeria Immigration Service on Friday against the continuous stay in office of the Comptroller-General of the Service, Isa Idris Jere.
The protesters demanded that the Comptroller-General stepped down immediately.
The protesters who arrived at the headquarters of the Service in the morning, said they would proceed to the Ministry of Interior and the Presidential Villa to press home their call for the Comptroller-General to hand over the leadership of the Service to the most senior officer, a Deputy Comptroller-General, pending the appointment of substantive Comptroller-General by the President.
They carried placards and banners with various inscriptions and condemned the sit-tight posture of the Comptroller-General.
They alleged that his posture amounted to corruption and illegality, having had his tenure extended for him once by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read: ‘Enough is enough,’ ‘Corruption has no place in NIS,’ ‘Tenure elongation is Corruption,’ ‘Tenure extension breeds insecurity.’
Acting under the auspices of the Centre for Public Accountability and Immigration Stakeholders, the Executive Director of the group, Olufemi Lawson, said the protests would continue for the next three days until the Comptroller General stepped down.
He said President Buhari was not known to condone acts of corruption and illegality, stressing that attempts by the Comptroller-General to stay beyond April 24, 2023 in the office pointed to illegality and corruption.
Lawson said his group would mobilise other stakeholders and youths against the scheming and shenanigans of the Comptroller-General to stay beyond the approved date in office as the protests would hold for three days in the headquarters, the Ministry, and the Villa.
Lawson made references to the letter signed by the Civil Defence, Correctional, Fire and Immigration Services Board, asking the Comptroller-General to handover to the Deputy Comptroller-General before or on April 24, 2023.
“Consequently, you are directed to hand over to the most senior Deputy Comptroller-General on or before Monday, April 24, 2023, pending Mr. President’s appointment of a substantive Comptroller-General of the Service”
He said the letter dated April 17, 2023 was signed by the Acting Secretary of the Board, Obasi Edozie Edmund, with notification of the expiration of the one-year extension of tenure which ended on April 24, 2023.
The protest came hours after it was revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari had granted Idris a one-month extension of tenure, to end on May 29, 2023. It also came 10 days after the governing board of the NIS served a retirement notice on the Acting CGI effective on or before April 24, 2023.
The spokesperson for the NIS, Tony Akuneme, revealed that a letter signed by the President’s Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, extended Idris’ tenure until the end of the Buhari regime.
While reacting to the latest extension, Lawson said, “We call on the attention of Nigerians, particularly Mr. President, to the illegal occupation of the office of the CG by somebody who is supposed to be home by now enjoying his retirement.”
An anonymous source said, “We don’t even know what is going on. Everyone hopes for a smooth transition in leadership while keeping their heads low to stay out of trouble. There is annoyance in the air. In fact, some of the favourites of the CGI fear that any new person who takes over might sweep them away.”
The CGI was due to have proceeded on retirement from service last year but was asked to continue in service for one year, which elapsed on April 24.
The stakeholders led by Akinwale Ayomipo Dennis had petitioned President Mohammadu Buhari, decrying the impeding plot they said had stifled development and weakened the morale of personnel of the service.
Akinwale, in a position he canvased on behalf of Concerned Nigeria Immigration stakeholders, said their outcry was motivated not due to any personal interest but geared to protect the integrity and sanctity of the foremost paramilitary agency.
The petition reads in part.
“We are a group of patriotic Nigerians writing under the aegis of Concerned Nigeria Immigration Stakeholders who are worried about recent developments in the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).
“Our worry is not about personal interest but about protecting the integrity and sanctity of the Nigeria paramilitary structure particularly the Nigeria Immigration Service and more importantly is the preservation of your legacy as a rare nationalist and principled retired military officer who understands and imbibe the fundamental concept of morale in military and paramilitary system.
“We are compelled to write this letter to you, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and father of all including all the officers (rank and file) of the Nigeria Immigration Service.
“Sir, permit us to draw your attention to the planned further extension of tenure of the current Acting Comptroller General of the NIS, Idris Isah Jere, who officially retired from the service on April 24, 2022, after acting for seven months following the retirement of Mohammed Babandede in September 2021.
“But after his retirement in April last year, he was asked to continue as CG in acting capacity for another one year which will elapse on April 24 this year”.
The stakeholders lamented that CGI Jere’s tenure as Acting CGI of service had been most uneventful, noting that the NIS had retrogressed wondering what will become of the service after another year of the Immigration boss.
They pointed out that the hallmark of the NIS under Jere was the excruciating pains Nigerians go through acquiring the international passport.
“We cannot begin to recount the damage that has been done to the image of the NIS in the last one year. But more importantly, and of more concern to us is the plan by the acting CG to seek another extension in clear contravention of service rule.
“We are aware that the acting CG has been lobbying to ensure he gets another one year in office. We have proof of this, and the latest is a letter he wrote to all directorates of the NIS dated April 12.
“In the letter titled “Official Assignment,” he informed the directorates that he would be traveling for assignment to come back on April 25. This is a date beyond the one-year extension he was given. The implication of this is obvious: the acting CG is already looking forward to another extension.
“Dear Mr. President, it will be a disservice to Nigeria and a tragedy for the NIS if Idris Jere succeeds in getting another extension when there is a pool of more competent officers to occupy the CG position.
“We are therefore appealing to Mr. President not to entertain any argument to extend the tenure of the acting CG as this may irreparably damage officers’ morale with the consequent effect on service delivery.
“We are even more concerned that aggrieved personnel of the NIS may embark on an embarrassing protest against further tenure elongation for the acting CG which may negatively affect the image of the service.”
The Governing Board of the Nigeria Immigration Service, had on April 18, 2023, served a retirement notice to Idris, effective on or before April 24, 2023.
In a secret memo, the board had cited the expiration of the one-year extension of service granted by President Muhammadu Buhari, directing the CGI to hand over to the most senior Deputy Comptroller General.
The memo, dated April 17, 2023 with code number CDCFIB/APPT.CG&DCG/61/VOL.IV/74, was signed by the Civil Defence, Correctional, Fire and Immigration Services Board Secretary, Obasi Edmond, on the orders of the Board chairman and Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola.
It is titled “Notification of expiration of one-year extension in office as acting Comptroller-General, Nigeria Immigration Service.”
It read, “I write to draw your attention to the end of one-year extension in office granted to you by Mr President via letter no. SH/COS/42/3/3/A128 dated April 22, 2022, and which would be expiring on April 24, 2023.
“Consequently, you are directed to hand over to the most senior Deputy Comptroller-General on or before Monday, April 24, 2023, pending Mr. President’s appointment of a substantive Comptroller-General of the Service.
“The board is grateful to you for your immense contributions to the Nigeria Immigration Service and to the country and wishes you success in your future endeavours.”
Idris, who was Deputy Comptroller-General (Accounting), assumed duty as acting head of the service in September 2021 after the retirement of the former CGI, Muhammed Babandede.
The acting CGI was due for retirement when he turned 60 on April 24, 2022, under the civil service rules, until Buhari extended his tenure by one year.
In a letter dated April 22, 2022, and addressed to the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, the President’s Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, announced that the tenure extension was with immediate effect.
Idris’ name was first on a list dated December 6, 2021, which contained the names of 804 immigration officers due for retirement between January 1 and December 31, 2022.
However, The Point gathered at the weekend that the succession crisis in the NIS may not end soon as a total of 110 officers are due for retirement between April and May, 2023.
Among them are three Deputy Controllers of Immigration, eight Assistant Controllers General, 37 CIS and 59 DCI.
Twenty seven of them are female officers while the remaining 83 are males.
They are among those who may succeed Jere, but are also due for retirement between April and May this year.
The first is Mr. Haliru Abdul Mumini Ishaka (Zamfara State), who was due to retire on May 6, 2023, while his second in rank, Mrs. Adepoju Carol Wura-Ola (Ondo State), would be proceeding for retirement on May 31, 2023.
In the same vein, the third in rank among the Deputy Controllers of Immigration, Mr. Muhammed Aminu Muhammed (Bauchi State) was due for retirement on April 20, 2023.
There are eight Assistant Controllers General (ACGs) who are also due for retirement or have retired this year and these include: Mr. Asogwa Dominic Obeta (Enugu State), June 28, 2023; Mrs. Esekhaigbe Angela Obehiaghe (Edo State), May 10, 2023; Mrs. Inok Elizabeth Inyang (Cross River), who was due for retirement on March 1, 2023; Mr. Osisanya Olakunle Gabriel (Ogun State), who was due on January 4, 2023; Mrs. Ejiogu Evangeline Chinyere (Rivers State), who was due on January 27, 2023; Mrs. Hassan Sadat (Kwara State), who would be due on December 12, 2023; Mr. Aliyu Ismaila Abba (Kaduna State), who was due January 13, 2023 and Mr. Abdullahi Usman Musa (Nasarawa State), who was due on March 30, 2023.
NIS officials that spoke on conditions of anonymity requested that the Federal Government should appoint an officer that has about two years or more to stay in service in order to avert a crisis in the agency.
They emphasized that there could be internal strife, scheming and scrambling by officers if anyone that would succeed Jere has a few weeks to be in service. They also noted that such scrambling could have adverse effects on the job of those involved and the overall delivery of the Nigeria Immigration Service. They also called on the Federal Government to appoint an officer who would sanitise the agency, disclosing that in the last few years a lot of corrupt practices have been taking place in the agency.
Akuneme did not respond to telephone calls and WhatsApp messages sent to him on the confusion going on in the NIS.