By James Sunday
From handwriting to digital passport, the Department of Immigration, thereafter renamed Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) carved out of the Nigeria Police Force in August 1963.
By same month this year, the NIS as an institution of government established by the act of parliament will be 57 years in August, 2020.
Having gone through 15 leadership styles and administration, and now we have the 16th Comptroller General in the person of Muhammad Babandede MFR.
One can see reasons for the mega transformations from one stage to another from handwritten passport to the machine readable passport and now poly carbonate enhanced e-passport, from rubber stamp visas to electronic bio-metric Visa, from cash payment to online payments, and online applications for VISAS, Passport etc
For the first time in 57 years immigration agencies in the sub-Region and international bodies are visiting the NIS Headquarters to study how the leadership has turned around the system.
The service has received in audience the Economic Community for West African States ( ECOWAS) heads of immigration in strategic meeting in Abuja Nigeria. Gambian Immigration Department came on study tour.
many international police and border security agencies have visited to deliberate on international collaboration on how to align with international best practices in giving Nigerians a dignified travel to those countries and staying to work or do legitimate businesses with dignity.
The NIS has championed the safe return program for Nigerians with a lot of countries and development partners, which has further boosted Nigerian image abroad.
The passport to safe migration campaign began with a script conceptualized by Babandede many years before becoming the Comptroller General and it became a documentary that gained the support of international development partners including International Organization for Migration (IOM).
And the national campaign engaged in the 36 states and the Federal Capital City with the document “passport to safe migration ” further exposed the dangers of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants as written in the document copies each was shared at all the passport control centres to applicants during the sensitization campaign.
This yielded positive results in the discouragement and frustration of the activities of human traffickers and smuggling of Migrants, with relative drop recorded and several attempted travels and syndicates arrested at the Airports and Land border control posts.
The evolution from handwritten passports to, machine readable passport, and e-passport to the present Bicarbonate, enhanced passport is a thing of celebration if one understands how passport ratings and standard dictates the treatment meted on citizens when traveling across international boundaries, one will give kudos to the NIS for the passport reforms.
It attracted CNN documentary and commendation for Nigeria and Nigerians as the most widely traveled, the best, gifted and highly skilled in the world in almost every field of endeavour but had to travel with the green passport first, before they will have the privilege of another as dual citizens as the case may be.
The Nigerian green passport has been a tool for the molding of the destiny of many Nigerians abroad, we must celebrate Nigeria and the green passport with which they travel out.
The various generation of passport was part of the history of our transformation both as a nation and organization, the NIS has been transformed to a modern service with digital pull over in mitts operations and with the technology building.
Many advance services will be unfolded to serve the citizens better and foreign entities alike, the NIS transformation within four years is mind blowing and a product of transformation.
Look forward to our virtual exhibition of NIS at 57 on our website come August, 2020 for the take-aways on NIS transformations.
Deputy Comptroller of Immigration, James Sunday pcc, is the Public Relations Officer of NIS. He writes from Abuja.