NIS, security agencies monitor VIPs’ movement
Strong indications have emerged from the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, that the Federal Government will commence arrest of former governors, ministers and lawmakers who refused to returned their diplomatic passports to the service.
A highly placed security source told Nigerian Pilot at the weekend that the NIS had last week Friday issued a last warning to the affected holders of such passports that they have only 48hours left from Monday September 21 to 22, 2015 to hand in their passports or be ready to face prosecution.
According to the source, failure to comply with the directives given by the Comptroller General of Immigration Service, Mr. Martin Abeshi, the operatives of NIS, DSS and police will go after the affected personalities.
He said that most especially former governors and immediate past ministers have allegedly refused to cooperate with the directives from the service.
Barely two weeks ago, the Federal Government ordered the Nigeria Immigration Service and other security agencies to mount surveillance at all ports of entry into the country and arrest unauthorised holders of diplomatic and official passports.
The order was issued following a report on the arrest of a former lawmaker in Saudi Arabia.
According to the report, the lawmaker was believed to be holding a diplomatic passport that had been cancelled when he was arrested.
President Muhammadu Buhari had recently directed former public office holders who were still holding diplomatic passports to surrender them since they were no longer representing the government.
NIS, in a statement by its Comptroller-General, Mr. Martin Abeshi, urged 21 former governors, 42 ex-ministers and 309 former members of the National Assembly to return their diplomatic passports.
Also affected by the directive are former members of state Houses of Assembly, ex-commissioners, ex-special advisers and former local government chairmen.
It was gathered that the Federal Government had instructed the security agencies to specially scrutinise the passports presented by Very Important Persons, including former public office holders.
The agencies were also directed to arrest any former public official who presented diplomatic passports at the nation’s airports and land borders.
The Public Relations Officer, NIS, Mr. Ekpedeme King, also confirmed that the Service would confiscate diplomatic and official passports from former governors, legislators and other former public officials at all entry ports into the country.
He said any illegal holder of diplomatic passports would be handed over to the police for prosecution.
The NIS’s spokesman also warned holders of the passports, who were not entitled to them, to return same to avoid embarrassment.
King, who declined to give the number of those who had returned theirs to journalists, said many former government officials had started returning the passports, adding that compliance to the directive was high.
King said, “Many former officials have started returning their official and diplomatic passports, but I can’t give you a figure now because we have to inform the government on the progress being recorded.
“For those who have yet to return theirs, the Nigeria Immigration Service will confiscate the documents at all entry ports and borders, and this may be embarrassing to the holders, hence we want to urge everyone who is illegally holding the passports to return them forthwith.”
He urged those who had yet to surrender their passports to do so to avoid being embarrassed.
King added, “It will amount to impersonation for anyone to present the diplomatic or official passport in a foreign country in his former capacity as a government official, governor or legislator when he is no longer occupying that position.
“Such a person will be referred to the Police for investigation and prosecution for impersonation.”
He explained that the passports were issued to the holders when they were in office for use during official trips.
According to him, holding on to the passports after retiring or after leaving office is akin to impersonation, which is a criminal offence.
Abeshi, in his earlier directive, had stated that the diplomatic and official passports issued to former government officials had been revoked and should be returned immediately.
He had said, “Failure to comply with this directive will amount to an offence under the Immigration Act 2015. Such unauthorised possession will be impounded at our control posts on arrival or departure.”
The NIS said many former government officials had yet to return their diplomatic passports, hence a repeat of the directive, which was issued by the Ministry of Interior three weeks ago.