“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us,”
These lines from the opening sentence of Charles Dickens’ famous novel, Tales of Two Cities, may just be the apt description of taking up a top security job at the moment, under the present circumstances of our dear country. It is more so true for Mr. David S Parradang, a gentleman officer who was recently elevated to the position of Comptroller General of the very critical Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). It is a moment anybody in a structured organisation hopes and waits for. The sense of fulfillment and joy in attaining the pinnacle of one’s career is unequalled. But is this the best of times? Not really. These are times of great challenges. And the NIS, as a very important apparatus in the security structure of our country is far from being immuned to the myriad of internal and external challenges bedevilling the system, largely on account of present security challenges. Taking up the NIS top job at this time comes, therefore, with enormous challenges. This, one could say, is the worst of times for it. No. It is the best of times because it is the time when true men are figured out from the summation of all men. It is when the waves are tumultuous that a master swimmer is marked from the array of swimmers at the beach. One’s ability at problem solving in a relatively short time and within a difficult situation is a marker of one’s worth.
Therefore, in spite of the bumps on the thorny path, the coming of Mr Parradang at this critical juncture is an important episode. It could not have been better time. Besides, the aphorism, God’s time is the best is time tested. The many challenges before the NIS’s new helmsman could be broadly categorised into two. First is at the organisational level, the internal cries and disconnect. It is only when one sets one’s house in order that one can tackle the other issue; the external challenges.
In keeping with the current trends in immigration work the world over, there is the need to reposition the NIS for better efficiency and to close all avenues capable of dampening morale of officers and men. In recent past, there have been cases of gross inequality and nepotism in treating officers and men in terms of postings and promotions. The evil of nepotism is rapidly gaining ground in the public sector, unfortunately. But it could be least afforded in security formations where any trace of injustice and inequality among officers could have a devastating effect not only on the organisation, but the country at large. Fairness should therefore be the first step towards building a more dedicated, more efficient Immigration Service. In a situation whereby this is sacrificed, laxity, corruption and insurbordination will find a comfort zone.
As a service that holds the key to our nation, the Immigration has to be very disciplined, corrupt-free and in tandem with global best practice. The first point of call for any visitor to Nigeria is the Immigration Desk of our foreign embassies. Any blot of corruption or inefficiency from those manning such desks would be a huge blemish to the nation. Then comes the entry points. Extortion by men in uniform, NIS personnel inclusive, has for long been a big national embarrassment. Whether under duress or by solicitation, taking money from visitors sends a terrible signal about us as a country. But this ominous culture, like all facets of corruption tearing down the fabric of the country, is too much engrained in the system. However, stopping it would not only boost confidence and respect for the NIS, it will also lessen the severity of our perception as a corrupt country by foreign visitors. Now, there is the argument of welfare which some often use, albeit dangerously, to excuse cases of corruption by public servants. While it is not an excuse for corruption, poor welfare has a way of affecting output of workers or their conduct. It should therefore be a priority for the new Comptroller General to make sure that men and officers of the Service are well catered for. Incentives for personnel on special assignments, especially at this point in time, will go a long way in gingering them up and for the country to get the best out of them.
On the other arm of the challenges for the new NIS boss is the general threat posed by the current insurgency in the north. The role Nigerian Immigration Service could play in phasing out the insurgency is paramount. Many an analyst has pointed to the porosity of our borders as a one of the major ambers fueling the flame of insurgency in the country. It will be Mr Parradang’s major test to make our borders tighter. But this too could be easier said than done as the Service is riddled with so many challenges for efficient border security. First is the paucity of personnel, in comparison with the vastness of the border. Secondly, the Service is largely analogue in the area of border security.
However, with a man like Parradang, who has demonstrated so much competence and finesse in his illustrious career, I believe all the challenges are surmountable. As someone who knows him fairly well from his days as Comptroller in Kano, I can vouch for the man’s uprightness, dedication to duty, equity and thoroughness. What he would require primarily is the necessary support from all quarters for a more focused Immigration.
Abdulaziz is a journalist based in Abuja. Email: email@example.com