The Federal Government has directed the Nigeria Immigration Service to write to the federal, state and local government institutions and agencies to henceforth include the return of diplomatic passports as part of the conditions for the payment of retirement and severance benefits.
The Federal Government’s directive was in response to a proposal to President Muhammadu Buhari on the refusal of some former governors, ministers and senators to submit their diplomatic passports to the NIS.
This was said on Wednesday in Abuja by the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mohammed Babandede, during an interview.
The CG stated that sterner measures might also be considered, including prosecution of recalcitrant former public office-holders, noting however, that some past officials had submitted their diplomatic passports to the immigration service.
He said, “Following the reluctance of some former office-holders to return their diplomatic passports, I wrote to the Presidency and proposed that we could take certain measures to compel those who are not entitled to the diplomatic passports to return them.
“The NIS has received approval to write to federal, state and local government institutions to henceforth include the return of this government document as some of the things to return before payment of retirement benefits.
“If you are a senator or member of the House of Representatives, before you finish your tenure, there is something that is called severance benefits and before you collect the benefits, you must return your diplomatic passport.
“Also, you cannot cross the border with the diplomatic passport whether going or coming if you are not entitled to it, we will collect it. The best I can do for you is to give you photocopy of the passport or a letter that I have confiscated the passport.”
The NIS boss said he once warned a former minister whose name he did not mention, that he could get two years jail term for refusing to surrender his diplomatic passport.
“The next thing we will do is to go house-to-house to collect it. It is an offence. I told a former minister that it is an offence for you to hold a (diplomatic) passport when you don’t deserve it . It attracts two years jail term; we will soon begin to catch defaulters. People have started returning a lot of the passports,” he said.
The CG stated that he had begun the reform of the service, which he said was yielding fruit, noting that officers would no longer spend more than two years at a duty post.
He revealed that a committee was working on a posting circular for different officer cadre as a way of tackling lobbyists who he said spared no expenses to remain at a formation for pecuniary gains.
Babandede said, “We are reorganising issues that have to do with staff promotion and posting. Posting is a major issue; I have officers who have spent nine years in what they call ‘lucrative posts,’ people who have spent nine years in training school.
“It is not justice, it is not fair; just because you think you know people or you can bribe your way to stay in a place that is ‘juicy’ while others stay in places that are considered as punishment.”