Immigration to Prosecute, Deport Unaccredited Foreign Election Observers

Minister of Interior, Lt Gen. (rtd) Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau
  • Dambazau says govt can’t stop herders, farmers’ clashes

Kuni Tyessi in Abuja

Ahead of the forthcoming general election, the Nigeria Immigration Service ( NIS) has threatened to prosecute and deport foreigners who might disguise as tourists to monitor the elections without being accredited.

This is coming as the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdurahman Dambazau (rtd), has blamed farmers, politicians, population explosion, and non-adherence to trans-border laws for the incessant clashes between herders and farmers crises across the country, adding that it cannot be resolved by the state or federal government.

The Comptroller General of NIS, Muhammad Babandele, who said this, disclosed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the accreditation of the election monitors, adding that only genuine monitors would be allowed access to the election venues.

Speaking at the NIS’ first quarterly forum on its preparation for the polls with Command Comptrollers and Zonal Coordinators, in Abuja, Babandede said, “If you are a monitor participating in election, you should declare it right from the beginning. We don’t want people to do counter-sign operation in the name of election.”

He disclosed that NIS had identified some hot spots in connection with the forthcoming elections, adding: “We don’t want anybody who will come and create tension and crisis in our community; so, any non-Nigerian coming in, we must know the purpose of coming.”

Babandede, however hinted that prior to the general election, entry points into the country would be closed, especially land borders, as a strategy to halt foreign participation.

He said, “If you get a visa to come to Nigeria to do business, to do tourism, or to participate in something else other than monitoring elections and we found you monitoring election, we will charge you and deport you because that is not what you asked for.”

According to him, “It is not allowed in our country. If you come into the country for a purpose, you must remain for that purpose. If you are coming to work, work. If you are coming as a tourist, then don’t use the opportunity to participate in election in any way.”

The NIS Comptroller General also promised judicious utilisation of the N2.6 billion allocated to the Service for election monitoring and participation, and challenged Nigerians to hold them accountable if they feel otherwise.

He said the Service will among other strategies, train its officers daily on new trends that will enable them compliment the Nigeria Police

Babandede promised to provide strong rapid response team as well as ensure maximum patrol of all land borders.

“As for the N2.6 billion allocated for immigration, I promise that every officer will be paid his /her allowance. We will fuel our vehicles, we will patrol, provide identity for election so that any officer who decides to participate in election and doesn’t have the identity he/she will be in trouble.

“We will provide food for officers so that they don’t have to leave their duty posts and all these things will be made available,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdurahman Dambazau (rtd), has blamed farmers, politicians, population explosion, and non-adherence to trans-border laws for the incessant herders- farmers’ crises across the country.

He said the problem was embedded in certain conventions, which cannot be resolved by the state or federal governments, adding that it has a regional underpinning and possibilities of being continental.

The minister spoke during a ministerial press briefing marking the achievements of the ministry between November 2015 and November 2018.

He disclosed that there had been cattle routes over the years but because of population growth and climate change, even farmers are moving from their ancestral communities and now occupying the routes created for cattle.

“Now, population growth has made it possible for people to also build homes along those routes. So, when those herders are moving, they now have to look for alternative routes. In the event, they destroy farms. So, this is what is happening.

“And Nigeria is a signatory to ECOWAS protocol and free movement. What is happening is that we cannot stop the free movements. About 60-65 per cent of ECOWAS is here and we also move to ECOWAS countries. We move our goods to ECOWAS countries. This is why I said it is a complex issue and it is a regional issue, which must be tackled accordingly.

“The second issue is that certain politicians also use the issue of the herders and farmers’ clash for their personal benefits. So, they politicise it. We have told the government and the politicians that it is of no benefit to anyone rather it endangers lives, “ he added.