Babandede: Re-imagining and remaking Immigration -GCFRNG
Nigeria’s public sector is not a hopeless case, as we are all sometimes led to believe. It may not be effective and efficient, and this is reflected in the quality of services, whether you need a permit to operate your business, take a hit for COVID-19, get a new e-passport, process a driver’s license, or Even paying your taxes, you are likely to encounter unfriendly, carefree, and inept public servants operating in an uninspiring and disorderly manner.
Yet amidst these, there has been a gradual emergence of a new generation of forward-thinking and reform-minded public servants raising the level of optimism that Africa, and especially Nigeria, can be an effective and efficient institutional model. . The Dora Akunyilis, Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealas, Ifueko Omogui-Okaraus, Oby Ezekwesilis, are shining examples of leaders who demonstrated that it is possible to reform public institutions to deliver services effectively and efficiently.
The cacophony of noise emanating from the jarring cries of insecurity, poverty and unemployment has overshadowed some of the shining examples of nascent visionary leaders now making big waves in public sector transformation or reforms.
We have not done very well to celebrate these brilliant examples of leadership to encourage new leaders to follow the line of public sector reforms. I will plead that we change this paradigm immediately and pay attention to these exuberant and exemplary leaders who make a significant difference in the areas of their mandate. We need to replicate these models and gather a critical mass of reform-minded public sector leaders for our country to achieve its full development aspirations.
Among the many reasons for doing this are the truisms of the ancient Igbo or Ijaw wisdom translated “If you thank a woman who cooked good beans, she will cook even more” and “a child watches the sheep as it chews the grass to learn how to chew grass ”. Simply put, the more we publicly highlight and encourage these great leaders, the more innovative and incredible things they do for the country. And the potential for young leaders to learn from and emulate them is high, with a positive net effect on efficiency and productivity, especially in the public sector.
After careful research and analysis by some of the leaders in this category, I singled out the former Tsar of the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, Mr. Muhammad Babandede. A quintessential reformer, a cerebral administrator, and an innovative and visionary leader who led NIS reform efforts in the six years he was influential as comptroller general. I can boldly affirm, without equivocation, that he led a shocking transformation.
Certainly, this article is not to praise this humble but astute administrator; instead, I will allow the facts to speak for themselves as the cliché goes. I must also confess that although this my brother and friend inspires the greatest respect in me, my judgments are objective and due to my conviction of the impact of his contributions in the reform of the Nigerian Immigration Service. And especially having had first-hand experience of the difficulties and challenges of carrying out positive reforms in a public sector, in my case NIMASA.
Mr. Babandede, popularly called by immigration officials as “the digital CGI”, led the massive transformation of immigration in Nigeria as an institution and its services. He used innovative strategies, partnering with local and international experts to achieve a 360 degree radical change of the organization in all aspects; Operational, procedural, structural, cultural, performance and human capital management. Even his critics can’t help but notice the construction of the technology building, a physical statement of his belief in using technology to improve service delivery, and the various forward operating bases, FOB, strategically located in the border formations.
He also created the electronic migrant registration centers, the model Passport Application Processing Center, PAPC, the new conference center at the Service headquarters and beautified the Service headquarters and its surroundings. Aside from cultural and human capital reforms, which are his flagship projects, he led the creation of numerous infrastructure projects that dot Nigeria’s immigration space. He was able to begin construction of 20 new command complex offices, commissioned 12, while eight were in various stages of completion within the six years that he had influence. This feat is not only impressive, but rare in any government establishment in Nigeria. Without a doubt, all immigration personnel, active or retired, will enjoy this experience with pride.
Babandede had a unique, inclusive and modern management style. Always interested in evidence-based consideration of proposed policy reforms, he would form committees, conduct workshops and management retreats to ensure that his management team contributed to the process and gain buy-in from all stakeholders.
At the annual conferences that were regular, he invited previous CGIs to share experiences and contribute to the process; This is a testament to his management team’s approach to far-reaching consultation and full idea and test processing. As he led the implementation of presidential executive order number one on the ease of doing business, he engaged MDAs and stakeholders at various levels and other international partners. He excelled in his commitment and in producing his work, which made him want for the nominating authority.
Babandede turned NIS into a modern organization with an excellent customer interface and public presence. Not only has the organization been more visible in the media, but the records show that the media attention to NIS is due to the impact of the services the organization is providing. NIS’s online presence is one of the most professional and well-functioning among MDAs, with excellent information for all interested parties. This use of ICT has provided stakeholders using immigration services with a different and positive experience.
The deployment of ICTs had a radical net positive effect on waiting days for the provision of services, such as the issuance or renewal of passports, visas and residence permits. Clients are engaged and provided with all the information they need to make informed decisions based on current realities. This is rare in Nigerian public service culture.
Recognizing that immigration reforms are always a complex issue and political, economic, and security issues often get in the way of reforms, it is pertinent to ask at this point: what specific impact has your leadership had on immigration? core areas of NIS service delivery? ? I will focus on four key areas: First, Babandede’s efforts on border management reforms are noteworthy.
Its establishment of forward operating bases to enhance border security in various regions has contributed significantly to the much-needed control of movement in and out of Nigeria’s borders. For the control of international air borders, Babandede and his team established electronic gates connected to the MIDAS facilities at the international airports of Kano, Lagos and Abuja, respectively.
MIDAS facilities were also installed at 22 land borders across the country to facilitate and improve migration management effectively and efficiently. Under his leadership, the head of mission of the UN migration agency, IOM said that “Nigeria has the largest, most robust and complicated IBM MIDAS in the world.” These achievements align with the overall NIS border management strategy that he designed to guide his reform of border management systems and operations in Nigeria.
The second is visa reforms. In 2020, Babandede developed and unveiled the Nigerian Visa Policy, NPV2020, launched by Mr. President, which aims to radically improve the visa issuance experience and services within the NIS.
This policy created an innovative visa regime in line with international standards and can compete with visa regimes in the developed countries of the world. He implemented a robust visa-on-arrival platform with the migration from manual processing to email-based and currently web-based processes.
In addition, he disclosed the administration of biometric visas. This new visa regime has improved the aesthetics of our visa and improved its security features. Nigeria’s visa application and issuance process, delivery time and efficiency are on par with most developed countries in the world.
The impact of this is that it has made entry into the country smooth and international travelers who until now had visa problems can now come to Nigeria to do business or invest. The doors of Nigeria are open to all foreigners who have a positive contribution to make to our economy.
The third is the reform of passport administration. Following the process and document review in 2017, the team led by Babandede released the enhanced ePassport starting with the Abuja and Ikoyi centers. The enhanced ePassport is made of polycarbonate and has additional security features and is valid for five and ten years. Babandede also created a one-stop-shop passport application center in Abuja to improve the delivery of the passport service.
This reform allowed for a self-processing environment for passport applicants. The impact of this is that you can start and finish your passport application these days within 24 hours. Even when it is not possible to collect your ePassport on the same day, NIS staff will contact you to collect your passport when it is ready. This is a remarkable change from the past, when it took months to obtain a new passport.
Lately, there was a backlog due to COVID 19. NIS quickly cleared a backlog of more than 230,500 applications and engaged with more than 43,350 applicants who had not collected their passports to do so. There is an integration of NIN with the electronic passport to serve as a complete identification document.
The fourth is the reform of migration management. This great reformer set out to put in place a real system and infrastructure to manage migration. Babandede and his team established MIDAS facilities for a reliable migrant information management system and enhanced security data.
He unveiled the Migration Training Centers in Abuja and Akwa Ibom, and established the Migration Training Academy in Tuga. He created the electronic registry of migrant projects, implemented I / 24-7 technology for border control, and created an INTERPOL integration platform.
These innovative provisions have made it possible for Nigeria to control its migration, at least with accurate records of those who passed through its international gateways. As a country, we can efficiently and effectively collaborate with international partners to monitor the global movement of people across borders.
The last is the reform of public participation. Babandede ensured that, in line with the Federal Government’s emphasis on transparency of government activities, the NIS website and social media platforms were modernized.
All services and facilities offered are on the website, and the various fees, processes and procedures for purchasing facilities are also clearly indicated. All NIS social media identifiers are active and robust. Today, NIS maintains one of the most powerful social media identifiers among MDAs.
This is part of the general reforms of the digital strategy that he defended. The official quarterly public information magazine has remained stable, and the annual activity report and audited accounts were produced annually under Babandede. These actions have created a degree of transparency that is uniquely NIS.
After considering the actions and impact of the Babandede administration on NIS, I am sure that all patriotic Nigerians know that they deserve all the accolades and accolades that are received on a daily basis by those who marvel at their leadership prowess and organizational skills. transformers.
Perhaps the conclusion of the Babandede years at NIS is that reforms of public sector institutions are possible with determined, innovative and visionary leadership.
The journey from an immigration service driven by manual methods, unmotivated staff, mediocrity to one driven by innovation, the spirit of excellence, technology, highly motivated staff and satisfied citizens should serve as a vital lesson to be replicated in others. places of our national life.