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Red card for visa syndicates

Posted by By ANN CARPE on 2005/06/23 | Views: 548 |

Red card for visa syndicates

After years of uninterrupted racketeering, trouble has come for visa and passport syndicates operating in Nigeria, as the Comptroller General of Immigration, Mr. Joseph Chukwurah Udeh, rolls out stringent regulatory initiatives to stamp out the shady deals.

After years of uninterrupted racketeering, trouble has come for visa and passport syndicates operating in Nigeria, as the Comptroller General of Immigration, Mr. Joseph Chukwurah Udeh, rolls out stringent regulatory initiatives to stamp out the shady deals.

Though he is aware of the hurdles before him, Udeh says his thorough grasp of the system puts him in a good stead to actualize his mandate of repositioning the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).

"I am now at the peak of my career, and I cannot be a Comptroller General for more than once. So, my desire is to strive to leave an indelible mark by propelling a service in which officers and men will be the pride of the nation; where professionalism, patriotism and dedication to duty shall be the guiding principles, and zero tolerance for corruption will be our watchword," he told reporters of a recent parley in Abuja.

Determined to rid the service of corrupt practices which had assumed an alarming dimension, Udeh literarily rode on the tigerís back as he embarked on a major reorganisation exercise which culminated in the dismantling of the dreaded cartel of officers and men in some sections of the NIS.

Expectedly, the mass redeployment of officers and men said to be the first of its kind in the history of the Nigeria Immigration Service, initially generated protests, especially among the affected officers. But recent operational indices of the agency suggests a drastic reduction in sharp practices, illegal entries into the country, as well as human trafficking.

As part of the multi-dimensional strategies to achieve his vision, Udeh has thrown a spanner in the works of visa syndicates who had been making brisk business converting visiting aliens to residential status, with the introduction of the Subject to Regularisation (STR) Visa which bars foreigners coming into Nigeria with visitors visa from being regularized.

Against the backdrop of alleged abuse of expatriates quota by multi-national companies operating in Nigeria, and persistent complaints by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in this direction, Udeh has also initiated new regulatory measures to correct perceived anomalies.

Companies and other organizations seeking expatriate professional staff are now to provide evidence that such staff cannot be sourced locally, and the credentials of the prospective employee must be forwarded to the NIS for vetting before clearance is given to the appropriate Nigerian mission abroad for issuance of Temporary Work Permit (TWP) to the expartriate.

"This is not a punitive measure, which could stop prospective foreign investors and foreigners desirous of working in Nigeria, but it is borne out of a patriotic conviction that efforts must first be made to source labour locally, except in some purely professional cases like under water welders for oil companies," a top Immigration officer explains.

To ensure that visa racketeers do not fast-track their antics to rubbish the new initiative, the CGI dispatched some of his officers for specialist training in Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands and Belgium, among other countries, via the respective embassies in Nigeria, for proactive response in providing security at the nationís airports, sea ports, and land borders.

And with the return of the officers from training, Udeh acquired a machine, tagged Docu Box, which has been stationed at all international airports and land frontiers within the country, for the detection of forged traveling documents, just as he put in place hi-tech motorized border patrol equipment for easy communication.

Described as a man who constantly roams the mental landscape of the NIS in search of new ideas which he implements at full throttle, Udeh appears as a man who appreciates the necessity of repackaging the welfare of his officers and men for optimum productivity, through computerization of salaries, provision of adequate medical facilities, and facilitation of work on the on-going NIS headquarters project in Abuja expected to be commissioned before the end of this year.
Despite his plum job and influence, his close aides say the Immigration boss avoids gifts from individuals and corporate bodies like a plague, and keeps several poles apart from ladies who desire his companionship for favour.

"His family life is worthy of emulation because you canít trace any girlfriend or lady to him. When he is not in the office, he is at home with his wife and children," says one of his aides.
Udehís perception by his colleagues, officers and men, as a man with split image is said to be one of his greatest assets. His background as a psychologist is believed to have aided his ability to carry his officers along, even as some ACGs are said to be his seniors in terms of enlistment into the service.

Though the first service chief who opted not to stay in the CGI official quarters, his decision is, however, not surprising to his close aides. As ACG in charge of works and logistics, Udeh reportedly used a station wagon car with no official insignia, as he refused to fly the staff flag until he was appointed CGI last January.

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