History of the Nigeria Immigration Services

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has witnessed series of changes since it was extracted from the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in 1958. The Immigration Department, as it was known then, was entrusted with the core immigration duties under the headship of the Chief Federal Immigration Officer (CFIO). The department in its emergent stage inherited the Immigration Ordinance of 1958 for its operation. At inception, the department had a narrow operational scope and maintained a low profile and simple approach in attaining the desired goals and objectives of the government. During this period, only the Visa and Business Sections were set up.

On August 1st, 1963, Immigration Department came of age when it was formally established by an Act of Parliament ( Cap 171, Laws of the Federation Nigeria ). The head of the department then was the Director of Immigration. Thus, the first set of Immigration officers were former NPF Officers. It became a  department under the control and supervision of the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs ( FMIA ) as a Civil Service outfit.

Since that time the service has come a long way in its march toward reformations and restructuring to be better positioned for the implementation of modern migration management.

The structure has been changed to accommodate added responsibilities as well as emerging regional and sub-regional political alignments. The implication was the introduction of the ECOWAS and African affairs/bilateral division. Similarly aliens control and border patrol management were added to the responsibilities of the service.

Furthermore the service was saddled with the responsibility for the issuance of all Nigerian travel documents.

The service embraced the use of ICT in its operations with the introduction of the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens card (CERPAC). Ever since the service has taken giant strides in the use of ICT in it processes and operational procedures, notably the introduction of online payment for its facilities, in other words e-revenue collections by the service popularized this mode of revenue collection, leading it to become a Federal Government policy.

Earlier on the Service created a website with the domain name www.immigration.gov.ng This was in a bid to create a platform for interaction and dissemination of information about its operations to a wide ranging clientele.

The introduction of machine readable electronic passports in 2007 was a landmark achievement by the service in that Nigeria became the first country in Africa to introduce the e-passport and among the first forty countries in the world to do so. The embrace of the e-passport has become a major tool in the fight against trans border criminality as the e-passport contains the biometric details of holders thus making it easy for detection of persons travelling under false identities or compromised travel documents especially as the service is poised to introduce the PKD at our borders which has been approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

In due recognition of Nigeria Immigration Service’s stride as exemplified above, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) the global body that regulates standards for travel documents admitted Nigeria into its board as the sole African representative.

Currently the country is cutting over Machine Readable Passports (MRP) to the electronic passport (e-passport) which initial deadline was December 2010 but now extended to April 2011.

As a result of the above development, e-passport machines have been installed in all the states of the federation and some missions abroad while efforts are still ongoing to deploy e-passport machines to all our missions abroad, the Nigeria Immigration Service has been sending its personnel for passport intervention to all regions of the world in line with the Federal Government foreign policy of citizen diplomacy. This implies taking the mobile passport issuing equipments to acquire and process passport for Nigerians in Diaspora.

Another significant achievement in the realm of ICT development is the establishment of a well equipped forensic laboratory for the examination of travel documents and monetary instruments. It is also to be noted that NIS personnel manning this laboratory are highly skilled due to the fact that they have been exposed to a lot of trainings locally and internationally on document fraud detection and techniques.

The role played by our development partners in attaining the above achievements is acknowledged with gratitude. These bodies include the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the European union (EU), the ECOWAS commission, just to mention but a few.

From the inception of service in 1963 till date, the service has had twelve Comptroller Generals.

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