NIS Begins Biometric Registration of Foreigners
From Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja, 01.06.2010
In a bid to build a database of foreigners in Nigeria for reference purposes, the Nigerian Immigra-tion Service (NIS) said yesterday it would soon begin the bio-metric registration of expatriates in Nigeria beginning with Africans.
The organisation also disclosed that between the rollout of e-passport in August, 2007 and December 2009, it issued 1.7 million e-passports and hinged the review of the Nigerian Immigration Act of 1963 on the need to update the terms, nomenclature and punitive measures for breach of Immigration laws.
A statement reviewing its activities in 2009 and projections for 2010 made available to newsmen in Abuja said that in the area of internal security, ?the NIS shall commence the biometric registration of non-Nigerians in the country beginning with Africans, in the first quarter of 2010. The purpose of starting with Africans is because the NIS already has a data base for Non-Africans. The equipments have been configured and a test-run, conducted, while operational vehicles have been purchased.
?The objective of the registration is to have a data base of all foreigners resident in Nigeria for reference purpose. It will not be an exercise to remove illegal aliens, but a programme that will be of immense benefit for aliens as there will be official records to prove that they are resident in Nigeria and therefore entitled to Federal Governments protection and other benefits that accrue to them in line with international practices.
?On the other hand, the demographic number of foreigners and their residency status will enhance monitoring and control as provided by the Aliens Act and ECOWAS Protocol. For the ECOWAS citizens that are residing irregularly, the NIS shall encourage them to regularise their stay according to the provisions of the ECOWAS Protocol on Right of Residence,? it said.
In the year under review, it said the NIS began the process of the reviewing Nigeria?s visa policy to align with the strategic goals of Federal government?s vision 20:2020 agenda.
The objective of the visa review also includes placing Nigeria in a position to benefit from the global upswing in tourism, divest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to create more job opportunities for Nigerians and reinforce professionalism and work ethics by transforming the entire visa issuance process to be technologically driven, simple and convenient without compromising national security.
According to the statement, the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Mr. Chukwurah Udeh, promised to consolidate on the success of the e-passport amongst other programmes. ?The e-passport will be issued in more Nigerian missions abroad. Very importantly, with effect from December 31, 2010, the Machine Readable Passport (MRP) will cease to be a valid travel document. Consequently, from the January 1, 2011, only holders of the e-passport will be allowed to travel out of Nigeria?.
On the review of the Immigration Act, the NIS said it ?completed the review of the Immigration Act of 1963 and submitted same to the Federal Executive Council through the appropriate channel. The Bill for the Amendment of the Act is before the National Assembly for deliberation and passage into law.
?The review of the Act is intended to update the terms, nomenclature and punitive measures for breach of Immigration laws. It will bring the various statutes governing immigration functions under the immigration Act, migrate from the key colonial interests of that era which has hampered Nigeria?s investment and tourism long term competitiveness as well as align with modern migration management practices?, it said.