The facts on suspension of Immigration CG

pandaraTHE recent suspension of Mr. David Shikfu Parradang as the Comptroller-General (CG) of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) with effect from August 21, 2015, is a matter that has been generating interest in the information space. But before anybody takes the Service to the guillotine, I consider it a duty to set the record straight.

The NIS as an entity is under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior through an organ known as Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Board (CDFIPB). The relationship between the NIS and the mentioned supervisory organ has not been rosy. And this can be traceable to the disgraceful manner successive Comptrollers-General have left office. Over the years, the major source of conflict is the issue bordering on recruitment, promotion and posting in the Service. The NIS has a legal instrument (Immigration Act 1963, reviewed in 2015) that regulates its functions. Whereas the Immigration Act and Immigration manual regulate the daily operational activities of the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Board’s Act takes care of policy matters of all the agencies in the Board such as Prisons, Civil Defence and the Fire Service.

With regards to appointment, promotion and discipline, Section 4(2), CAP 12 Immigration and Prisons Board Act, LFN of 1986, empowers the Board to appoint, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over persons including the CGs of Immigration and Prisons. That the recent letter of suspension of the Comptroller General reference CDFIPB/IMM/348/Vol.I/54 dated August 21, 2015 and signed by one A.A. Ibrahim, Director/Secretary is at variance with the letters and intention of the provisions of Section 4(3) of the Board’s Act is not contestable. In the letter, the signatory claimed to be directed to issue the letter by a supposedly superior authority which normally should be the Presidency but signed the said letter for and on behalf of himself. This is not only curious but quite unusual of Federal Civil Service practice. The whole exercise borders on someone usurping the power he never had to issue such a letter especially to a chief executive who was appointed by the President and Commander-in-Chief.

That the relationship between the NIS and the Board has not been cordial is simply stating the obvious. In the recent past, especially during the tenure of CJ Udeh, OFR, (2005 – 2010), the struggle for the control of the soul of the NIS by the Ministry/Board had been so tense to the extent that successive Comptrollers-General virtually struggled to run their offices due to the overbearing interferences of the officials of the Ministry/Board in the day to day running of the Service. It got to a ridiculous extent that Comptrollers-General of the NIS were requested to submit staff posting order to the Ministry/Board for vetting or reasons best known to them. Any staff deployment exercise especially foreign posting that does not accommodate at least 70% of the powerful members of the Board/Ministry would not be accepted.

Any Comptroller General, who does otherwise, would be charged with insubordination and improper behaviour to constituted authority even when it is obvious that the candidates of these powerful Board members are not in any way qualified for such vital deployments. CJ Udeh’s tenure can be described as the brightest chapter in the annals of NIS relationship with the Board. And this can be attributed to two reasons: the then President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR understood the peculiar dynamics associated with the administration of the military and paramilitary institutions such as the NIS. He gave the Comptroller-General a clear mandate to restructure and reposition the Service and went further to complement same with the appointment of Gen. Godwin Abbe (rtd) as Honourable Minister of Interior/Chairman of the Board. The truth is that CJ Udeh wouldn’t have succeeded if he were to be subjected to unnecessary administrative bottlenecks inherent in the Board.

That a Comptroller-General of the NIS will be expected to get approval from the Board/Ministry to deploy staff literally means that he/she is just a figurehead. That a CGI cannot even effect urgent operational changes and grant media interview without clearance from the Ministry/Board in 21st century Nigeria is not only laughable, but also at variance with the provision of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.

The Board is in a hurry to make Nigerians forget the genesis and the roles they played in the recruitment debacle of March 15, 2014. However, Nigerians know the story. They know that some persons who are still walking free on the streets of this country collected N1000 from each of the over 700,000 Nigerian job seekers in the botched exercise of March 15, 2014 during which 15 young Nigerians died, and tens of others got various degrees of injuries. The Senate of the 7th Assembly waded into the matter but because those who swindled the young Nigerians and even killed some in the most shameful recruitment exercise were so powerful, the Senate report never saw the light of the day even up till date. Even the presidential directives on them to refund the blood money of N1000:00 collected from young job seekers remained ignored.

The Federal Government led by the former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan set up the Presidential Committee. CGI Parradang was neither the chairman of the Committee nor the Secretary but just an ordinary member whose central concern was to make any useful contributions that would remove the NIS which he headed from public ridicule occasioned by the botched March 15, 2014 recruitment fraud organised and supervised by the Board/Ministry.

The current fight that led to the suspension of the CGI began when the Board called on him to cancel the entire recruitment exercise done by the presidential committee. He told them clearly that he had no such unilateral power to annul the outcome of an exercise of that magnitude because other members of the committee need to be consulted. The real truth about the Board’s position is not unconnected with the fact that the exercise did not allow members of the Board to impose their candidates on the CGI to recruit thereby short-changing qualified Nigerians.
• Gabriel Eze wrote from Abuja.

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