REMARKS BY THE MINISTER OF INTERIOR, OGBENI RAUF AREGBESOLA, AT THE JOINT WORLD PRESS CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, HELD AT RADIO HOUSE, ABUJA ON MONDAY SEPTEMBER 5, 2022
Gentlemen of the press, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to be at this press briefing and to assure Nigerians of their security as it is saddled with the Ministry of Interior.
The Ministry supervises four paramilitary agencies. These are the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Federal Fire Service (FFS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). These agencies are presided over by a board within the Ministry.
The mandate of the Ministry that cruxes on security can be outlined broadly into:
i. work with the armed forces to end insurgency in the North East, banditry in the North West and other forms of insurgency in Nigeria
ii. secure Nigeria’s territorial waters and end piracy in the Gulf of Guinea
iii. protect Nigeria’s oil installations on and offshore
iv. develop and maintain central security database between all security agencies
v. ensure full implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) in the armed forces
vi. develop an effective and functional defence industry
vii. actively collaborate with the private sector to create a large number of well-paying jobs for Nigerian youths and;
viii implement a strategy towards the realisation of Mr President’s June 12, 2020 promise to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.
The nation has faced and continues to face security challenges all over the country, whose origin mostly preceded the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
These are insurgents in the North East, bandits in parts of the North West and North Central, militants in the South South, separatists in the South East and ritual killers in the South West. All over the country, we have constant attacks on pipelines, electricity cables and other critical national infrastructure, crude and refined oil theft, kidnapping for ransom and farmers-herders clashes.
The security agencies rose to this challenge and largely degraded the groups and persons constituting the threats. What we face mostly are flashes of cowardly attacks from the rumps of groups that have been routed in one location, moving to another to give the false impression that they are still strong. Our ultimate goal is to eliminate them altogether and restore total and lasting peace over every inch of Nigerian soil.
We have been doing this and will continue to do so through the operations of the four agencies under the Ministry. These are:
THE NIGERIA SECURITY AND CIVIL DEFENCE CORPS (NSCDC)
The NSCDC whose core mandate is to protect critical national assets and infrastructure continues to distinguish itself in the areas which include but not limited to:
Safeguarding Critical National Assets and Infrastructure (CNAI).
Supervision of Private Guard Companies (PGC).
Provision of physical security to farmers, farmlands and other Agro-Allied Investments in the country.
The Corps has also commenced a reform process aimed at repositioning the private guards industry for better performance.
It is imperative to state that it has been actively involved and is indeed a component part of all the Joint Task Forces set up to address the insecurity situation in the country such as:
• Operation Hadin Kai in the Northeast
• Operation Sharan Daji in the Northwest
• Operation Whirl Stroke in the North Central
• Operation Awatse in the South West
• Operation Python Dance in the South East
• Operation Safe Haven in the Plateau State
• Operation Delta Safe in the Niger Delta Region
• Operation Crocodile Smiles in the Niger Delta Region,among others.
In the course of its operation from January 2022 till date, the NSCDC has made 501 arrests, prosecuted 452 cases, out of which 49 resulted in convictions. It has also destroyed 71 illegal refineries. Just last week, eight gunboats procured for the agency were commissioned in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to tackle the security challenges to critical national assets and infrastructure in the area.
In its bid to regulate and standardise the operations of private security companies, this year alone, it has licenced 62 new companies while 41 applications are pending. It has sealed 82 companies that did not live up to standard and unsealed 40 that complied. A total of 587 licences have been renewed within the same period.
The NSCDC continues to gather intelligence and share with the relevant agencies and institutions.
It has also established Transport Marshalls, in conjunction with the Ministry of Transportation, to provide physical security to transportation infrastructure in the Aviation Sector, Road Sector (including bus terminals), the Rail Sector and Marine Sector. It established a Special Female Squad to provide security in the school environment in response to Government’s “Safe School Initiative”
To boost its manpower, the Ministry recently carried out recruitment into the NSCDC in a very transparent manner, which won plaudits for it across the nation.
The NSCDC will continue to work with other security agencies for the security, protection and safety of the lives and property of Nigerians.
NIGERIA IMMIGRATION SERVICE (NIS)
The core mandate of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) is border security, although this also involves ancillary services like the Nigerian passport and visa issuance. The NIS has therefore continued to maintain excellent security cover across the nation’s borderlines of over 5,037 kilometres, including the Blue Borderlines.
Determined to ensure enhanced migration management and border security, the NIS enabled a modern border management tool, the Migration Information and Data Analysis System (MIDAS) across the nation’s major airports, sea and land borders. This has enabled the Service to maintain robust demographic and psychographic data of all entries into or exits from the country at any given point in time. This has remained very helpful in migration trends analysis and national security monitoring and planning. With its linkage to the INTERPOL database and i-24/7 radar, NIS is now able to upload reported lost and stolen passports and trace and track cross border criminals and their activities. It has continued to deploy this asset to aid other sister security agencies such as the DSS, EFCC, ICPC among others, in fighting crimes.
Currently, the NIS is actively involved in the National Border Drill exercise. Furthermore, the Service is currently deploying the eBorder facility across formations. It has a robust Command and Control Centre equipped with modern IT facility with which its eBorder assets are deployed to remote locations such as Illela for online and real time Border surveillance.
Last year 2021, total passenger movement was 1,579,667. This is made up of arrival by land, 163,091, air 993,508 and sea 195,219. Departure by land was 177,352, by air 1,093,518 and sea 88,459.
Within the same period, 148,711 applications for Nigerian visas were received, out of which 147,030 were approved while 1,681 applications were rejected.
As part of efforts to improve Foreign Direct Investments, the NIS introduced the National Visa Policy document (NVP 2020). The policy has, among other interesting features, enabled the it to develop the biometric visa with some peculiar elements for enhanced data collection from holders.
Same last year, the NIS issued 1,041,537 standard Nigerian passports to Nigerians at home and abroad that applied for them. It also issued 2,811 official and 895 diplomatic passports, 14,214 Emergency Travel Certificates (ETC) and 150 refugee passports.
Working with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) on Passport administration and issuance, the NIS has greatly assisted with identity management. Today the details of holders of the enhanced ePassport have been harmonized with their details in NIMC in line with government’s single data policy. This development has been so helpful in the fight against identity theft and clumsy documentation. We can now track and trace the travel history of any traveller that have made use of any of our crossing points.
The Nigeria Immigration Service has therefore lived up to its billing in border security and management, deploying the needed personnel and latest technology to speed up the entry of the desirable people that will do us good and keep away persons that are likely to cause us any harm.
THE NIGERIAN CORRECTIONAL SERVICE (NCOS)
The core mandate of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) is safe custody of those legally interned; the reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of convicts serving terms. This makes the NCoS the end point in criminal justice administration. The custodial centres are meant to administer penal treatment to offenders in the bid to reduce crime in the society and keep people and their property safe.
The NCoS has been able to keep the inmates in safe custody and prevented any jailbreak from inside.
Although a few of the custodial centres of recent have suffered a spate of unprovoked but cowardly attacks, thankfully, that is clearly behind us now. We have been able to strengthen the custodial facilities with very tough measures. They are now strong, well-fortified and impregnable. If anyone or group dares to test our will now, they may not live to regret it.
There are a total of 75,601 inmates, including 1,271 military detainees, in all the nation’s custodial centres. These are made of 74,044 males and 1,557 females. Of this figure, only 19,064 (representing 25 per cent) are convicts. The rest are awaiting trial persons. Of the convicts, 3,150 are on death row waiting for execution because state governors have not assented their execution warrants.
From the above figures, one of the biggest challenges we have in the custodial facilities therefore is the awaiting trial persons constituting a whopping 75 per cent of the inmates population and disproportionately usurping resources and space. Once again, I will like to appeal to state governments to speedy up the justice delivery system so that justice will be quickly delivered for them.
Many of them have been in detention for periods longer than the maximum jail terms prescribed for the offences they were alleged to have committed. Justice delayed for these detainees is justice denied.
Prosecution and defence counsels also deliberately ask for long adjournments (as delay tactics meant to wear each other out) and obtain advantage for their sides. This should be discouraged. There should be a judicial reform that will bring all criminal cases to an end within a specific period once trial begins, as obtains in some other countries. This will clearly eliminate the unsavoury state of long and seemingly indeterminate detention periods for awaiting trial persons.
At the outbreak of COVID-19, the government initiated a programme of amnesty and pardon, leading to the release of some inmates, whose crimes were not serious, and on compassionate ground. The government paid the fine for some while others were released based on old age or sickness. I am happy to say that not a single case of infection was recorded in any of our facilities, even as the disease raged worldwide and wreaked untold havoc across the globe.
In August 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Nigerian Correctional Services Act to repeal the Prisons Act with the prime aim of refocusing the mandate from its retributive and punitive thrust to correction and reformation. This has realigned the orientation and functions of the NCoS to include:
(a) Taking custody of all persons legally interned;
(b) Providing safe, secure and humane custody for inmates;
(c) Conveying remand persons to and from courts in motorised formations;
(d) Identifying the existence and causes of anti-social behaviours of inmates;
(e) Conducting risk and needs assessment aimed at developing appropriate correctional treatment methods for reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration;
(f) Implementing reformation and rehabilitation programmes to enhance the reintegration of inmates back into the society;
(g) Initiating behaviour modification in inmates through the provision of medical, psychological, spiritual and counselling services for all offenders, including violent extremists;
(h) Empowering inmates through the deployment of educational and vocational skills training programmes, and facilitating incentives and income generation through Custodial Centres farms and industries;
(i) Administering Borstal and related institutions;
(j) Providing support to facilitate the speedy disposal of cases of persons awaiting trial; and
(k) Performing other functions as may be required to further the general goals of the Service.
The NCoS has been able to keep the inmates in safe custody through the implementation of reformation and rehabilitation programmes to enhance the reintegration of inmates back into the society.
As we speak, there are 1,082 registered students in our various custodial centres studying for Ordinary Level GCE, degree and postgraduate degree courses. Five of them are studying for Ph.D. We have also recorded 74 degree courses graduates.
The NCoS has thus contributed significantly to national security by taking offenders into lawful custody and preparing them to be better citizens.
THE FEDERAL FIRE SERVICE (FFS)
The Federal Fire Service (FFS) has the mandate for the safety and protection of lives and property. It had a fitful presence in Lagos and its services were extended to Abuja when the Federal Capital was moved here. But happily since the advent of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, its presence has been extended to all the states of the federation. The FFS personnel and equipment are ubiquitous presence in all the states of the federation, complementing state governments.
This has seen the FFS expand its human and material infrastructure with the establishment of six additional training schools, all totalling eight; one in each of the geo-political zones i.e. Maiduguri, Kankia, Ilorin, Umuahia, Ilesha and Calabar.
It has also procured 106 modern firefighting trucks which were distributed across the country. Others are 44 state-of-the-art firefighting trucks, 15 water tankers, 15 Rapid Intervention Fire Engines, 20 basic life support ambulances, an hydraulic platform and two Firefighting motorbikes.
These were commissioned and deployed across the six geopolitical zones in the country to complement the State Fire Services operations.
In March 2021, we commissioned an aerial firefighting equipment designed for skyscrapers in Lagos. It was the first of its kind in Nigeria. We selected Lagos because it has the largest concentration of skyscrapers and consequently the most demand.
The deployment of these infrastructure has reduced damages and loss from fire incidents and other emergencies between 2019 and 2022 and also reduce the response time to emergencies from 15 to 10 minutes.
The FFS is also constructing 13 metropolitan fire stations in all the geopolitical zones, including Abuja, and are at different stages of completion.
Eight National Fire Alert Data Repository Centres (NFADRC) were established across the six geo-political zones of the country to enhance speedy response to emergency calls.
As a result of these innovations and development, the FFS has been able to respond to 1,761 fire emergency call in the first and second quarters of 2022. It saved 185 lives, rescued 83 people and salvaged property worth N273.7 billion.
Our challenges at firefighting include obtrusive and unhelpful onlookers at fire incident scenes who sometimes make access to fire scenes difficult. Our other challenge is from touts and undesirable elements that attack firemen and damage their trucks and equipment at fire scenes. We are therefore putting together armed escorts to accompany firefighting trucks to fire scenes to deter these elements.
Without doubt, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has done more for the Federal Fire Service than what all the previous governments had done for it since inception its creation in 1901.
The Citizenship and Business Department in the Ministry, from 2019 till date, has processed and granted 1,219 business permits, 2,706 expatriate quotas, renewed 7,424 expatriate quotas and received 83,263 marriage applications.
The Ministry of Interior has fulfilled its mandate of maintaining internal security through its four agencies and has also contributed to economic development by facilitating the entry, operations and establishment of foreigners and foreign firms to do business in Nigeria.
The security challenges we are facing were exacerbated by the restrictions and deprivations of COVID-19, in spite of government’s ameliorative measures. But we shall continue to protect the lives and property of Nigerians and foreigners in our midst. We shall continue to work for the peace of the nation and deter elements that constitute threats to the people. We shall bear the full powers of the government to secure every inch of our land. We shall not rest until peace is fully restored in Nigeria.
I thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his presence of mind and the charge he constantly gives us on restoring peace and security to every inch of the land; and for the unprecedented resources he has made available to our Ministry and its agencies.
I thank also all the sister security agencies for their cooperation and assistance at all times.
I thank you all for your kind attention.