The faith in technology is touching. Not that they shouldn’t try, not that there are not bad people abusing the absence of technology. But without understanding why people want to get out of Nigeria, why they want to go abroad to work, and send money back, and see the world and be able to come back and then leave again, this technology will be a very partial solution. And that’s after they get it all working correctly; anyone stuck in a rich country’s border-control queue when a new machine fails knows about that. As quickly as the state installs clever new machinery for detecting fraud, fraudulent-document producers come up with a way around it. Which is what migrants look for in entrepreneurs (here called middlemen) who will smuggle them out of one country and into another.
However, let’s say these machines do present significant obstacles to people wanting to get on airplanes. In that case, arrangements to leave via the wide-open other borders will become more popular, getting rides to other places, other airports. To prevent that, Nigeria is going to build fences with check-points: just like in the olden days, just like on the US and Israeli and Melillan borders, where surveillance would have to be 100% efficient (and 100% non-corrupt) to prevent everyone who wants to make a hole in or dig under the fence or wall. Not to mention Nigeria’s sea border.
28 February 2011, Vanguard
Abuja -The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has installed Document Fraud Readers, scanners and other passenger registration equipment at the various international airports to check human trafficking. NIS Comptroller-General, Mrs Rose Uzoma, on Sunday in Abuja, said that the equipment would also check movement of people in and out of the country.
At the international airports, we have taken necessary steps to install IT equipment, the Document Fraud Readers and the Scanners. We have installed the Passenger Registration Equipment that enables us take stock of whoever is leaving or coming into this country. I could tell when last and if you have ever travelled through our international airports in the recent times, I will tell you the time and hour and the immigration officer that cleared you. The facilities we have had enabled us to a very great extent to be able to ensure that people don’t travel with forged documents.
Uzoma said that the era when people used their relatives’ passports to travel was over as the immigration service had installed machines that could identify every individual and detect look-alike photographs on passports. She noted that officers had been trained and sensitised to be able to tackle the challenges of human trafficking to help to reduce the bad image it had given the country. Uzoma said that the service had been collaborating with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to tackle the menace of human trafficking. She said that the NIS had also established human trafficking units at its areas of operations in the states and at its headquarters in Abuja as a complement to the efforts of NAPTIP.
If anyone has travelled and sees the peril under which our sisters operate, nobody will wish it on his or her worst enemy. So our officers are living up to their responsibilities.
The immigration service boss said that the absence of notable physical structures on Nigeria’s borders in many places was a challenge as it was difficult to identify the border route in many instances.
If you have had the opportunity of travelling through any of the borders in the northern part of the country, you can see how extensive and expansive they are and many of them don’t even have what could pass as international border control structure.
Uzoma said that the service would soon put in place passport control plazas and necessary structures to enable officers to effectively patrol all the border areas. She added that trans-border criminality also remained an ongoing battle between the law enforcement agencies and criminals. She added also that the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has issued about three million electronic passports to Nigerians between 2007, when the new passport was introduced, and February 2011.
I know we have issued a little less than three million electronic passports from 2007 to date. As we speak we are also giving permits to foreigners. Recently we have started registration of Africans and ECOWAS nationals. We didn’t have their data, but they are also foreigners. We had to borrow the equipment from INEC that they used in the previous voter registration; re-programmed them and we gave them to all our local government area officers for them to take biometric data of all those Africans in our midst. At the last count we had about 400,000 non-Africans residing legally in Nigeria.
The NIS Comptroller-General said that one of the major challenges confronting the service was the attitude of some Nigerians as regards the processing of the passports. She said that the challenge derived from the fact that most Nigerians didn’t like to fill forms either for their passports, or for other necessary documents. Many prefer to use middlemen to do something as simple as filling a form and in a lot of cases the middlemen fill the forms incorrectly, missing out some details. Uzoma added that Nigerians also didn’t like to take responsibility for processing their travel documents and preferred to use middlemen, which often times, led to the problem of visa refusals at embassies. She advised that Nigerians should be sensitised to understand that they had to conform with international best practices, especially when they planned to be travel to other parts of the world.
Uzoma also said that the NIS had acquired the best technology to detect falsified age declaration and some other details, including the change of names when a dishonest applicant applied for a passport while claiming that he or she never took one in the past. She said that when the immigration service took fingerprints in its machines, the computer would bring out the name of the original owner of those fingerprints and when they matched those of the applicant, such person would be revealed as having once obtained a passport.