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Nemesis: How Gunmen Killed Senator Elisha Abbo’s Uncle, Kidnapped Stepmother

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Senator Elisha Abbo

Carma is indeed a bitch or how do you explain what has happened to Senator Elisha Abbo who is famed for beating up a nursing mother in an Abuja sex shop.

Alleged to have once threatened to kill a photo journalist and tag him a Boko Haram, he has been meted almost the same treatment.

Report reaching us revealed that gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram killed an uncle to Senator Abbo.

Also Read:  At last, Police Arraigns Senator Elisha Abbo

The lawmaker’s nursing stepmother was also kidnapped on Saturday, July 13, by the gunmen at Muchalla ward, Mubi North Local Government Area of Adamawa State.

Mr Abbo’s stepmother had just been delivered of a baby 11 days ago when the kidnap took place. His uncle was shot after raising alarm on seeing the gunmen leaving with the woman.

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Adamawa State  Police Command spokesman, Sulaiman Nguroje, confirmed the incident, adding that police officers from three units have been put together to rescue the victim and apprehend the gunmen.

According to him, the officers were drafted from the IG rapid response team, anti-kidnapping unit, and the homicide unit.

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Opinion

Development In Focus As Sanwo-Olu Inaugurates Cabinet

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Universal Health

By Gboyega Akosile

In fulfilling his electioneering promise that his cabinet would be constituted within 100 days of his government, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, recently released the first batch of 25 nominees to occupy cabinet-ranked positions in the state. The list shows an administration that is ready to serve, given the pedigrees of nominees, most of whom are tested individuals with proven records of accomplishment of performance in their various fields of endeavour.

 

Three weeks after, a new list consisting 13 names of another set of tested and trusted individuals was released making the cabinet positions 38 in all. Expectedly, the two lists generated a lot of interest in the political circle as well as the public domain. Every Lagosian at home and in the diaspora is interested in who occupies what position.  You cannot query their interest. First, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s government came into power, with an emphasis during electioneering that inclusive governance would be the core of its administration. In addition, Lagosians see the enormous challenges that have confronted the State in the recent years and they know that only a focused, dedicated and forward-looking cabinet can help to deliver Governor Sanwo-Olu’s campaign promises.

 

Lagos has grown in leaps and bounds, with its population hitting almost 23 million people and still counting. This naturally comes with its challenges; increase in tons of waste generated, rise in the number of patients at various government hospitals and primary health centres, more pressure on the existing infrastructure-roads, schools and housing among numerous social amenities being provided by government. Lagos, therefore, cannot be administered in 2019 using a 1979 template.

 

The state has undoubtedly benefitted from its population growth-more revenue generation; physical development is recorded in different sectors making it a state on the move. At the last count, Lagos is said to have hit close to N30 billion mark every month in internally generated revenue (IGR), making it the most economically viable state in Nigeria and fifth largest economy in Africa. However, the State government has argued that this feat is still a far cry from what is required to run a megacity such as Lagos. For example, the budgetary allocation of the police department in New York City is $5.6 billion, when compared to the budget of the entire Lagos state, which stands at $2.4 billion; one can safely conclude that there is more to be done by government to get the state running.

 

Being the nation’s economic nerve-centre, Lagos is a city on the move but with enormous challenges. Apart from poor state of arterial roads that complicate free flow of traffic, commuters spend productive hours in chaotic gridlocks that are caused by failed sections on roads and disorganised traffic management. Many observers have opined that planning the best campaign strategies to win the governorship election was not much of a challenge before Governor Sanwo-Olu, as his party, APC commanded large following and significant popularity in Lagos to ensure his victory. What they say will be the most testing hurdle waiting to be surmounted by him was the strategy to deploy in solving the long-standing and emerging challenges facing the state.

 

When Sanwo-Olu emerged as APC candidate, Lagos had literally become a dumpsite as heaps of municipal waste littered the streets. The state agency set up for waste disposal had been disengaged in a curious and controversial circumstance, leaving residents to resort to indiscriminate dumping of refuse, which became a daily eyesore, even to the government of the day. The aesthetics of the environment was affected. All of these brought down the pride of Lagos, despite its growing profile as a hub for commerce, technology and innovation.

 

Sanwo-Olu’s campaign was premised on the need to address these challenges, with the aim of proffering short and long-term solutions to them. Project T.H.E.M.E.S that became the thrust of his campaign slogan was formulated as an operational framework to solve these identified challenges and sustain the profile of Lagos as centre of excellence.

 

Upon assumption of office as the 15th Governor of Lagos on May 29, 2019, Sanwo-Olu channelled his energy towards a process of scouting for visionary individuals from various areas of human endeavour that will help him midwife his vision and deliver on his campaign promises. He said, during the electioneering that ‘‘as Lagosians, we can’t be like people who cannot solve their problems. Therefore, we must find solutions to our problems because they are created by us’’.

As one who believes in harnessing the capabilities of homegrown professionals, Sanwo-Olu assured Lagosians that his Commissioners and cabinet-ranked Special Advisers would be drawn from local pool of resources and will cut across acceptable demographics. Besides, he promised his cabinet would be constituted within 100 days to set the ball of governance rolling.

 

In keeping the promise made to Lagosians, Sanwo-Olu announced the names of members of his cabinet exactly 47 days after his swearing-in. This is a rare feat for a governor serving his first term. The Governor said he understood the challenges confronting the state, noting that the selection process was a painstaking and laborious exercise, which aimed at introducing fresh ideas to governance. He said the team of professionals and politicians would be serving Lagosians in line with his administration’s vision of delivering a smart city-state that will rank among the top most liveable cities in the world.

 

His words: “We took our time to pick the best hands for the tough job Lagosians have elected us to do. The nominees for the twenty five (now thirty eight) Commissioner and Special Adviser positions include women and men who have made their mark and at the zenith of their professional callings.” Tough job? Yes, the tasks ahead are expected to be rigorous as Gov. Sanwo-Olu posited, given the challenges the state is confronted with and the expectations of the people based on the confidence reposed in the administration.

 

Infusion of technocracy and political know-how

 

Being the centre of innovation, Lagos has raised the bar of excellence with injection of fresh ideas and energy in governance. This tradition has been sustained in the last 20 years, and the young administration of Sanwo-Olu appears to be toeing the path, if the profiles of his nominees are anything to go by.

 

Of the 38 cabinet members cleared for inauguration by the State House of Assembly are active politicians who are equally professionals in various fields. The infusion of politics and professionalism is perhaps the unique selling point of the Sanwo-Olu Cabinet.

 A careful analysis of the nominees showed there is clear departure from the tradition of putting forward only politicians or only technocrats to fill up the state’s Executive Council. A private sector professional himself and having traversed the nook and cranny of the political space in Lagos, Sanwo-Olu understood the arduous task before his government, which possibly prompted him to go for politicians, professionals in politics and technocrats to drive the key areas of the public sector for greater impact.

 

Having worked closely with the Governor, one can safely say that he is inclined to work with technocrats, because he is a man that’s given to details-someone you can describe as ‘‘prim and proper’’ but one equally knows that he values the roles of experienced politicians, who are fully integrated in the new cabinet arrangement for political balancing.

The Governor is a politician himself and he quite understands the roles of politicians in governance and development process. Despite his inclination to work with professionals, he will not be leaving out politicians, especially those who have garnered ample experience in previous administrations, to join the team of key private sector players he has nominated to his cabinet.

 

It therefore came as no surprise that the name of Mr. Tunji Bello, the immediate past Secretary to the State Government, who had served three previous administrations, featured in Sanwo-Olu’s list of cabinet members. Aside being an influential figure in Lagos politics, Bello, a trained lawyer cum journalist, possesses vast skill on environmental issues and policies to help the administration have clear direction in this area.

 

Lagos is confronting fierce challenges of climate change, flooding and municipal waste disposal among other environmental problems. With him in the cabinet, Bello’s wealth of experience in climate issues and the environment would come as a great benefit to the Sanwo-Olu administration.

 

Gbolahan Lawal is another experienced administrator and politician that will be in the Executive Council. A seasoned development expert and social entrepreneur from the security background, Lawal has deep understanding of political economy for integrated development especially in low and medium-income economies. He has proven his mettle in previous administrations as Commissioner for Housing and in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

 

Same can be said of Wale Ahmed, a medical doctor turned politician. Ahmed is well grounded in the politics of Lagos State having traversed the different political tendencies in the state. He is no doubt a good pick by Mr. Sanwo-Olu to help create the political balancing that is required in today’s democratic governance. There are few other experienced politicians in the list of the new cabinet members.

 

Fair representation of women

 

Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic, Lagos has been setting the pace for gender balance and women involvement in political process. The state became the first that elevated the status of women in the realms of leadership and politics, producing the first woman Deputy Governor.

The state had sustained the tradition of reserving one of the two topmost leadership positions for women. However, the political horse-trading that trailed the emergence of Dr. Obafemi Hamzat as Sanwo-Olu’s running mate in the build up to the general elections raised concern among womenfolk, giving rise to insinuation that Sanwo-Olu may be nursing an agenda to upset the progress made in the State in the area of women representation in governance.

 

In his response, Sanwo-Olu allayed the fear of relegation of women, explaining that the choice of his running mate was to display the dynamism of Lagos politics and present a formidable team for the tough job of governing a State with big economy as Lagos. He promised to complement the work of his administration with an improved involvement of women in decision-making positions. True to his words, the Governor, after being sworn in, surprised the womenfolk with his first appointment, picking Mrs. Folashade Jaji, as the Secretary to the State Government.

 

This was followed by nominations of thirteen women in the cabinet list, signifying the Governor’s conviction of getting women involved in leadership and decision-making. The number showed women make up 32 per cent of cabinet members in the State. This is 3% less of the 35% affirmative action for women in politics and governance. Again, Lagos remains the first and till date the only State that has moved closer to the number advocated.

 

Sanwo-Olu did not just pick any woman out of gender consideration, the Governor gunned for greater service delivery with the selection of seasoned and highly resourceful women, among who are engineers, lawyers, experienced politicians and development-driven individuals such as first-rate engineering project manager, Mrs Aramide Monsurat Adeyoye.

 

Mrs. Adeyoye, a University of Lagos (UNILAG)-trained Civil Engineer, cut her professional teeth at Julius Berger Nigeria Plc in 1988 and rose through the ranks to become the multinational engineering firm’s Project Coordinator in Nigeria’s West region.

 

The list also parades Mrs Adetoke Benson-Awoyinka, a public-spirited legal practitioner with 30 years post call experience in Nigeria and United States. Benson-Adeyinka was among the highly skilled team of the Governor’s transition committee.

 

Ms Ajibola Ponnle, another nominee, is an accomplished consultant, accountant and entrepreneur, with experience in transformational and result-oriented leadership in start-ups, volunteer/member-led organisations and multinational firms. Mrs. Lola Akande and Mrs Yetunde Arobieke are seasoned politicians who will bring their individual wealth of experience to the new drive to deliver a greater Lagos.

 

Other women in the list, with enviable track records in public and private sector, include Mrs. Uzamat Akinbile-Yusuf, Ms Ruth Bisola Olusanya, Princess Aderemi Adebowale, Ms. Adekemi Ajayi, Mrs. Bolaji Dada and Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, Mrs Shulamite Olufunke Adebolu and Mrs. Sholape Hammond.

 

Key roles for the millennial

 

Having joined public service as Special Adviser on Economic and Investment at his youthful age, Sanwo-Olu seemed inclined towards engaging the youth with the aim of harnessing their energy to deliver his programmes and vision.

 

This may have influenced the decision of the Governor to nominate four young people under the age of 37 years for cabinet-ranked positions in his government. By the time the cabinet is constituted, these four millennials will be among those that would be driving the Governor’s policies in key public sector, creating a generational shift in governance. 

 

Olatunbosun Alake, a 35-year-old Product Development and Data Management Executive and three other young administrators will be in the cabinet to infuse youthful vigour into governance by bringing to bear his cognate experience in local and international telecommunications and innovative solutions.

 

Ethnic diversity

 

Lagos continues to blaze the trail in ethno-religious diversity. The State in 1999 under former Governor Asiwaju Bola Tinubu appointed non-Yoruba professionals into the Executive Council. This great feat has been sustained and almost becoming a norm. Govenor Sanwo-Olu, during the electioneering, unequivocally promised to reflect ethnic representation in his cabinet. In keeping to his word, erstwhile spokesperson for the APC in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe and a strong grassroots politician Architect Kabiru Ahmed made it into the cabinet of Lagos State.

 

Following their legislative ratification by the Lagos State House of Assembly, the 38 cabinet members will be sworn in on Tuesday. With this, residents of the state will begin to witness dynamic governance being driven by fresh, energetic and passionate team of professionals drafted to the Executive Council by equally adroit game changers – Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat.

 

Gboyega Akosile is Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu

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Opinion

Teenage Crime Rising With Emergence Of ‘Awawa,’ ‘No Salary Boys’

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 Lukmon Akintola

Lagos

*Police Arrested 341 Suspected Teenage Cultists From Different Locations

* Over 64 Million Youths Unemployed, 1.6 Million Under-Employed – Researcher

*Crime Rate Has Reduced In Lagos State-PPRO

“They asked me why I wasn’t with my Automatic Teller Machine card (ATM), beat me and hit my chest hard. I had to do an X-ray to see if my chest bone was not broken because I was feeling pains there for days. I was only comforted when the X-ray result came out and it was nothing serious.”

This was part of the ordeal narrated by a female banker, who was victim of an attack orchestrated by some teenagers in Igando during the week.

Narrating her ordeal, Adesola told Saturday INDEPENDENT how she was attacked by boys who took her phone and the little cash she had on her after hitting her with an object on her chest.

If you think that Adesola’s case is pitiable, the case of a graphic artist attacked along Agidingbi road on his way home early this month would shock you.

“I had just finished from work on Friday night and was going home. I boarded a tricycle with two other passengers inside. On getting to Anchor Event Center, the rider turned to a secluded part of the road, and before I could say anything, two of the passengers started attacking me when I tried to resist, they brought out a dagger threatening to kill me. I had to think fast and let them have their way. On the night, they collected my phones and the cash I had just withdrawn from the ATM. It was a night I would want to forget in a haste,” he said.

There is no arguing the fact that the youths of any nation are its future. Given the opportunity to develop into bright prospects, they become the crop that makes the country a dreamland. If not, the disaster that awaits is better imagined.

Devoid of opportunities to make the best out of life and based on the above analogy, it won’t be far from the truth to say a disaster seems to await Nigeria.

In recent years, very few Nigerian youths can boast of an enviable or laudable achievement with some of those who have achieved subsequently finding themselves drowned by the worsening economic situation.

A cause of concern is the way Nigerian talents continue to leave the country in their droves and in their prime.

However, of more concern is the bulk of unemployed Nigerian youths turning into undesirable elements, as the average youth has been involved in almost every crime imaginable including kidnapping, armed robbery, murder to mention a few.

Nigerian Youths, A Disaster In Waiting?

There appears an increase in youth-related crimes in recent times, as criminalities such as ‘One Chance’ have been orchestrated mostly by young boys. There have also been cases of murders, armed robbery and other heinous crimes committed by young boys.

The Lagos Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), Bala Elikana while speaking with Saturday INDEPENDENT revealed that undercover patrolmen and stop and search strategies are being used to battle ‘one chance’ via tricycle, adding that policemen are now strategically located at different points and 12 of the criminals had been arrested in the last two weeks.

Despite the intervention by the police, there are still, countless tales of teenage boys unceremoniously robbing victims in Lagos State.

The case of the notoriously famous ‘Awawa Boys’ who have ravaged the Agege part of Lagos with unpalatable exploits are legendary.

Described as marauders, they move in pretty large numbers of between 50 and 100 wielding small but deadly arms such as razor blades and stitching awl.

Small axes, handguns, and machete are used for settling scores with rival groups. They are also known for their abuse of drugs, as an average Awawa Boy takes a cocktail of drugs ranging from Skunk to Indian Hemp, Codeine, Rohypnol, and Tramadol. Tagged Awawa Boys, the group which many consider a male cult sect also have female members.

Their crimes range from rapping, forcefully obtaining personal belongings of unsuspecting road users, bugling of shops among others.

‘Awawa Boys’ are however not the only group in Lagos State known for this criminal act, as another sect known as the ‘No Salary Boys’ have also taken over the Ijegun and Aberonje axis of Lagos State.

Ajayi Moses (not real name) who once encountered the ‘No Salary Boys’ recounted the experience. Describing their modus operandi, he told Saturday INDEPENDENT that they often line up on the road accosting innocent passers-by. Numbering between 60 and 100, they rob passers-by of their valuables such as bags, purse, and phones.

Further, he said that the ‘No Salary Boys’ often operate in the morning and go to the extent of seriously injuring their victim who resists them, adding that their operations are usually on and off.

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According to him, they might operate for a while; disappear for months only to resurface again.

“The ‘No Salary Boys’ are mostly made up of young boys of between 15 and 25 years, and they commit serious havocs,” he said.

But how did we get here, when did the average Nigerian youth turn to a life of crime?

The Theory

A research paper written by Anthony Abayomi Adebayo and titled ‘Youths’ Unemployment And Crime In Nigeria: A Nexus And Implications For National Development’ blamed the swing of Nigerian youths from a positive path to negativity on unemployment.

According to Adebayo, “Unemployment has become a major problem tormenting the lives of Nigerian youths and this poses a serious risk to society. The phenomenon of youth unemployment is devastating to both the individual and the society as a whole both psychologically and economically.”

The interplay between unemployment, youth-related crimes and the magnitude of the danger which it poses to the society is indeed shocking.

According to available statistics, over 64 million youths were unemployed and over 1.6 million under-employed as of 2010, causing frustration, dejection, and desperation. Today, the statistics has definitely increased.

Nigerian Youths Are Lazy

This is typified in the words of the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, when he was quoted as saying that Nigerian youths are lazy while delivering a keynote address at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London in 2018.

While the President’s position attracted a lot of criticisms from youths across the country who maintained that they were not lazy and that the government had created little or no opportunity for them, there were those who agree with the President’s position.

A former Minister of Information and chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh defended the president in the heat of the criticisms he suffered after making the comment.

Stating that the President was indeed right that some Nigerian youths are lazy, Momoh said a lot of them are sitting at home doing nothing.

While it is indeed difficult to hastily generalise that Nigerian youths are indeed lazy, there is a crop of them who are indeed not only lazy but have turned a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

Who Is To Blame?

Poor parenting has also been identified as a cause of the increase in youth-related crimes.

Ibilola Noibi, a resident of Ajah, Lagos State who described himself as a Life Coach told Saturday INDEPENDENT that since charity begins at home, parents should take responsibility for what their children become.

“Parents train their children personally before they are exposed to the world, so anything that they become is their handwork. Larry Winget’s book titled ‘Your Kids Are Your Own Fault’ tells it all.”

There are, however, those who believe that religious organisations such as mosques and churches should also share some blames in the high rate of crimes by young boys.

Their position is hinged on the fact that churches today are more concerned about preaching prosperity than preaching salvation, while mosques are more interested in preaching hate against other religions; hence youths are more concerned in living the life painted by their religious leaders.

However, Pastor Ruth Akinfiro, Resident Pastor of New Covenant Assembly Power Pentecostal Church, Egan in Alimosho local government area, Lagos State has a different opinion.

Asked if the church should be blamed for the crisis at hand, she said: “It is a yes and no answer. We cannot absolutely blame the church when youths derail but to a large extent a lot of things the church counts as irrelevant affects the decisions of the youths. For example, we allow the culture of indecent dressing, a lifestyle of drinking; we celebrate all types of dances. The youths troop into churches and they are never corrected for the additional lifestyles like smoking and immorality added to the permitted one like. All of those kinds of messages have left the church because the churches want to be populated so they encourage youths to come in raw.

“Godliness is no longer core, modesty has left, and strange cultures are imbibed. Internet fraudsters are celebrated in churches today. However we won’t rule out parental factor, charity, they say begins at home. Parents have become children to their children. Since the children take care of their welfare at a tender age, no one cares how they make money. Such children corrupt other children with their bad training. At 14 or 15 years, youngsters are carrying family responsibilities. No one cares how they go out of their way to achieve this. The church has a role, the home has a role. However, some religious institutions and some families have failed in their roles, hence the rise in derailing youths.”

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Nigerian Police Force

Elkana, who does not agree that there has been an increase in crime rates in Lagos State concurs that the state has witnessed some cases of youth-related crimes in recent times.

He explains the efforts of the force to curb crimes in Lagos State thus: “most of the crimes we are witnessing have a link to the youthful population when you talk of cultism, robbery, and kidnapping. Kidnapping has even gone down in Lagos State and those we had in the past had to do with the youths. The cases we now see every day that has to do with the youths is violence resulting from cultism and gangsterism.

“Cultists form themselves into gangs and you see them attacking each other, injuring each other and even killing each other. While attacking each other, innocent people become victims of their attack,” he said.

Explaining why youth-related crimes have been consistent, he explained that most of these gangs engage in drug abuse, and to sustain the drug lifestyle they go into robbery, and housebreaking to get things like money and phones that they can use to sustain their life. Elkana also revealed that they also make use of tricycles to rob people all in a bid to get money to sustain their drug life.

“We have launched quite a number of programmes and operations, one of such is ‘Operation Crush’ which the Commissioner of Police launched. ‘Operation Crush’ is about taking the battle to the doorstep of the cultists, identifying them using intelligence leg approach, apprehend, investigate them and charge them to the court,” Elkana stated while explaining the moves by the Police to curb the menace of youth crimes.

The Lagos PPRO further explained that ‘Operation Crush’ is aimed at uprooting cultists and gangster activities wherever they operate in Lagos State, adding that the operation has already succeeded in arresting massively those involved in cultism and gangsterism in Lagos.

“In the first operation, we got 202 suspects from an operation. They were all arrested in different locations. Another operation got 100 suspects and we got 39 in another operation, so the operation is constantly identifying them where they operate and their membership, targeting them. We don’t just operate until we have enough information about them, where they operate, how they meet and where they meet, and then we strike and get them with precision. That has set the tide down.”

Confirming that traffic light robbery is another concern, Elkana, said that “the force had launched an operation using mostly undercover operatives, they don’t wear uniforms, they go on surveillance in mufti because traffic light robbers take advantage of the traffic build-up. They go in as if they are selling and within seconds they are robbing people. The operation has also helped and we have gotten over 70 of those traffic light robbers, and we have recovered over 20 arms from them over a period of time.”

Asked the nature of arms recovered from the robbers, Elkana said they were mostly pistols some of which are locally made and others foreign, adding that the force had also traced the source and arrested some of the blacksmiths producing the local guns.

 

Probable Solution To Increase In Teenage Crime

The researcher, Adebayo however, proffers solutions to the problem of youth-related crimes. According to him, the youths are the foundation of any society and contribute immensely to its development. The expert was of the view that the government should embark on huge investment in agriculture as well as encouraging youths to take advantage of the investment. He also charged the government to make Agric-business to be exciting, creative and innovative enough to stir and spur youth interest. He advocated for farm settlements for youths so that they could contribute their quota to national development.

“Many of the youths who migrate to urban centers in search of the elusive greener pastures end up being jobless in the city. Many of them eventually become criminals in order to survive. Consequently, rural-urban migration should be checked through the provision of essential social amenities that make life in the rural area attractive to the youths.”

Other strategic solutions for curbing this excess as proffered by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crimes includes the use of sport to keep youths busy, while the creation of youth employment programs have also been encouraged. In the cities of New York, Boston and Chicago, the summer employment did help reduce the rate of crime arrangement among youths.

However, with Nigeria being a peculiar country, the possibility of the effectiveness of these solutions will have to be measured after they have been implemented.

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Opinion

An Account of the Corruption and Anomalies in the Nigerian Immigration Service

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One of the primary responsibilities of government is to provide – or regulate the provision of – efficient service to the populace. Successive Nigerian government has failed in this regard. It has become a convention to get inefficient service, despite paying high. Both private and public institutions are culpable, but the latter errs more. Public officials are more of exploiters than service providers. The uniformed ones are worse. You are bound to pay extra before being attended to. Such is the case of the Nigerian Immigration Service. This piece brings you a firsthand account of the anomalies and corruption going on at the passport offices.

I flew into Nigeria for some engagements and noticed my passport would expire in six months. This qualifies it for renewal. I had two options: renew it in Nigeria or abroad. I opt for the former to avoid the stress I faced to procure the expiring passport. Besides, it is more expensive to renew the passport abroad and I stay far from the embassy. Renewing a Nigerian passport abroad is an uphill task many try to avoid. The unethical conducts of the embassy officials would make you want to renounce Nigeria. But patronizing the embassy is better. You won’t realize this till you visit the passport offices in Nigeria.

“You can’t just walk in and get a passport”, my friends warned. They vowed I won’t get it quickly unless an immigration officer ‘assist’ me. ‘Assist’ means paying an officer to monitor and hasten the passport application process. Rejecting the suggestion made them recount the tales of people who failed to subscribe for assistance. They narrated how such person’s application hit the rocks with “no record found”. How their image gets captured wrongly – rendering the passport unusable – was also recounted.

Other persons I chatted also stressed the importance of ‘assistance’. They disclosed that applying without being ‘assisted’ can take you up to 5 months, while you’d get your passport between 1-14 days when assisted. I remained adamant, but succumbed when a contact said “I know someone (an immigration officer) who’ll do it fast for 30k. Pay the standard 18, I’ll add the remaining 12”. That silenced me. I couldn’t dissent. To overegg the pudding was unnecessary. I agreed, on a condition that I would pay all.

We were welcomed by touts advertising ‘assistance’ when we visited the passport office. Most of them are agents of the immigration officers. Some officers were at the gate that day, and every other day. They were positioned as security, but seen scouting for new applicants; identifying them by their demeanor. The ideal thing is to direct applicants to a guideline or office, but they never did. They were asking them “do you know your way?” Answering “no” or making inquiries makes you prey. You would be connected to their partnering tout or officer to ‘assist’ you. Answering “yes” means you’ve already established contact with an officer inside.

We met an officer who charged me N35,000 for the 32 page passport, but we slashed the price to N30,000. The officer reluctantly agreed; persuading us to pay more. I paid N30,000. The original cost of the 32 page passport I applied for – lately before the issuance of the enhanced e-passport commenced – is about 18,000. Paying N30,000 made me unhappy till I eavesdropped that some people paid N45,000 for the same 32 page passport. That made me feel N30,000 was a good deal. I was somewhat glad. You would too.

My money did some work. The officer ‘assisting’ me fast-tracked the application. I did the face and fingerprint capturing within three hours. Don’t say I waited long! Capturing within such a timeframe isn’t possible without ‘assistance’; the applicants were over hundred. Nonetheless, the assistance wouldn’t have been necessary if the system is efficient, but those profiting from the inefficiency would not let it be.

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The officer ‘assisting’ me collected my file after capturing. Like every other colleague, the officer has a client’s record book. My data was added to several others contained therein. I was told to come for the passport in two weeks. Efforts to secure a faster date failed. I left and couldn’t return till after a month due to an interstate engagement.

I got back and need to return abroad. Having performed the bribe ritual, I wasn’t worried about the passport, but the cost of flight ticket. I searched for ticket and was lucky to get a good offer from a reputable airline. This got me excited. My eyes stared at the ticket as I reminisced my last experience with the airline, hoping to have a good time again. I was tempted to book the flight, but held back. Being confident the passport is ready isn’t enough, lay your hands on it, I counseled myself. That turned out to be my best decision in the year.

“Your passport is not ready, we don’t have booklet”. The immigration officer ‘assisting’ me uttered the next morning. I smiled thinking it was a joke, only to discover it isn’t. I became worried about my scheduled activities abroad. How do I explain to a foreign organization that I won’t return at the agreed time due to passport renewal delay, when such doesn’t happen in their country? Efforts to get the passport quickly exposed me to several other wrongs in the passport office.

There’s no orderliness and feedback mechanism. You must always be present, even for minor things. The officers are used to earning extra from ‘assistance’ daily. This affects their commitment to you. They no longer give you much attention after the first day, their attention is always on the new clients. They have so many clients that they struggle to remember their name and situation when they dial. This made me resolve to always visit the passport office to monitor progress.

My regular visits made me a familiar face to some of the officers. A narration of my engagements abroad and the implication of not travelling immediately only earned me pity, not solution. I discovered the officers have factions and an unofficial policy. The officer you pay is responsible for you; no officer will assist you even if they can, no matter how terrible your situation is. This immensely affected me.

The officer ‘assisting’ me, a senior one at that, no longer have strong links in the production room due to recent reordering of duties. Clients of those who have strong networks in the room were collecting passports. Then, I discovered my officer was greedy. Officers in the production room charge colleagues for speedy processing because they know they’ve been paid too. The officer just submitted my file without tipping. As the days passed, I got more disturbed as I receive emails to explain my absence abroad.

An officer advised I should explain my situation to the head of Service Compact (SERVICOM) – the complaint and efficient service delivery section. I met the head of SERVICOM after a long wait. “Who is assisting you?” he asked. My eyes popped. The SERVICOM head knows about ‘assistance’. Great! I answered and was told to summon the officer over immediately. I felt uncomfortable, thinking the officer may be reprimanded, but nothing happened. They both checked my application status and detected no problem.

The SERVICOM head therefore instructed the officer to regenerate my file. He promised to indorse and send it to the production room, but I must do something before that happens. I must have a flight ticket and get a letter from the organization am with abroad, stating why I have to return urgently. That got me infuriated. Booking has not helped most of the applicants I’ve seen around. Moreover, I can only show proof that I’m affiliated with a foreign organization and why my trip is urgent, but can’t get a letter from abroad.

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I contend that it is unreasonable for Nigerian immigration to be directing Nigerians to get a letter from foreign institutions before they can be issued a passport. The noisy room suddenly went silent. Unbothered, I stated that the passport is my inalienable right and no foreign institution would persuade Nigeria before I get it. The room was still silent, an indication that I’ve either misfired or scored a hat-trick. It was the latter. I was told to only explain my situation in writing and provide evidence that I must travel soon. No foreign letter needed.

I returned the next day with my letter and supporting evidence. To my utter dismay, the passport office had no network to check my status. I was amazed, but the officers weren’t. They experience such regularly. No one could do a thing that day. The entire office was practically shut down.

We were all waiting for network when I overheard the officers discussing about a just released promotion list. They’re annoyed that many of the officers who participated in the promotion exercise and passed, without any query, were not promoted, because they’re Southerners. The Northerners, particularly the Hausa-Fulani were massively promoted and posted to promising places. They also complained about the lack of proper documentation in the Nigerian Immigration Service. Many retired and deceased officers name came out as promoted. The officers lastly discussed the new enhanced e-passport and how much they should be charging for ‘assistance’. No amount was agreed. I went home happy. The revelations made my coming worthwhile.

The next day, my officer advised I shouldn’t regenerate my file for one reason: the officers assigned to search files often declare them unfound without conducting any search. The officer collected extra N3,000 from me to tip a new contact in the production room. I was glad I didn’t ask the foreign body for letter and my predicament was earning me uncommon findings.

I later visited the passport office with Dr Akin, an erudite scholar and researcher who just landed in Nigeria. I briefed him of my past findings and tasked him for more. Dr Akin gathered facts from the applicants through informal discussions. His respondents revealed they’re being ‘assisted’ by different officers who charged them between N30,000 to N45,000, instead of N18,000. He briefed me of a septuagenarian who vowed it’s impossible for anyone to procure a passport at the official fee. The old woman shared her desire to see a working Nigeria, but regrets that can’t happen during her lifetime. I got my passport that day, about three months after applying.

The Comptroller General, Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede have to step up his game. He needs to inject more transparency, efficiency, accountability and discipline into the service. More passport offices need to be established and the existing ones should be provided with enough amenities. More seats are needed. Many applicants stood under the sun to collect their passport and the public address system was inaudible. Those in front have to repeat the names being called before others could hear. People were charged N50 for using the lavatory, why?

This piece is an advocacy for efficiency, not vilification. The passport office and persons were deliberately not mentioned. An encounter with me shouldn’t make them the fall guy. What is needed is a holistic reform, not punishing few persons for the wrongs being committed by virtually everyone in the service.

By Omoshola Deji

 

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