In a swift move yesterday 4th May, 2015 to complete the work started by the House of Representatives in 2014, the Senate received the report of its Committee on Interior laid by the Chairman of the Committee, Distinguished Senator Bagudu, now Governor – elect of Kebbi State.
The report concurs with the version of the Immigration Bill as earlier passed by the Green Chambers. The Report makes several innovative provisions aimed at modernizing the Immigration Service and repositioning it to be able to cope with migration challenges of the 21st Century.
Many observers believe that the 1963 Immigration Act under CAP I1 LFN (2004) is outdated and long overdue for overhauling. Having taken the bull by the horn, the Senate seems determined to give the country a modern Immigration Act before the winding down of the current National Assembly.
All eyes are therefore on the Senate as it considers the report of its Interior Committee this week.
The Immigration Bill when passed will strengthen the capacity of the Immigration Service to be able to man and police the country’s porous, expansive and extensive borders and tackle migration related problems including smuggling of migrants under the Palermo Protocol.
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Below is the moved motion
A MOTION MOVED BY THE SENATE LEADER, DISTINGUISHED SEN. VICTOR NDOMA-EGBA ,OFR,CON,SAN URGING THE SENATE TO PASS THE IMMIGRATION ACT AMENDMENT BILL
Migration is a trans-national phenomenon that presents policy and management challenges as well as opportunities for Governments and other stakeholders in all the regions of the world. States have come to realize that nearly all States, including Nigeria, are simultaneously countries of origin, transit and destination and in order to effectively manage migration to the benefit of all, they need to shift from an isolated and uni-sectoral focus to more comprehensive approaches.
Limitations of the Immigration Act 1963
* The Nigeria Immigration Service was established pursuant to the Immigration Act of 1st August, 1963 (now Cap I1 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004) and assumed a full fledged status of a Para-Military Service in 1992, with changes in nomenclature; and the functions of the Service over the years had expanded to cover a wide spectrum of activities beyond the effective coverage of the enabling legislation.
* The 1963 Act has become obsolete and therefore, unable to meet the demands of modern migration management.
* In a nutshell, the 1963 Act does not contemplate certain immigration activities and offences as we have in modern times.
* The Act accorded Commonwealth citizens and citizens of Eire (unlike their “Alien” counterparts) exemption from Residence Permit requirements but the introduction of the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC) changed the nomenclature as the CERPAC regime require all foreigners (except ECOWAS citizens who are given certain concessions pursuant to the ECOWAS Protocols on Free Movement, Residence and Establishment) to comply with all requirements for Residence Permit.
* That legislation made obviously limited provisions for the statutory role of the Service in the security matrix of Nigeria, which had much earlier led to the passage of the Passports (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1985, thereby seeking to regulate some of the circumstances relating to the issuance of passports, and creating certain passports related offences.
* The 1963 Immigration Act also failed to establish a veritable tool for attracting foreign direct investment into the country.
Highlights of the Provisions of the Immigration Bill to address the above anomalies
* The Bill seeks to put in place an appropriate legal framework that reflects existing realities in modern migration management in line with international best practice. The Bill make elaborate provisions with respect to modern immigration related activities/functions and offences, together with appropriate penalties, so as to forestall the present frustrating experience of people violating our Immigration Laws with impunity, either because their actions are not covered by the 1963 obsolete law or the penalties stipulated are so negligible. Under that Act, the highest penalty prescribed is Two Hundred Naira (#200) fine or Six (6) months imprisonment. This provision will certainly not constitute any deterrent to offenders and potential offenders. Consequently, there is need for a new legislation, particularly as most migration offences actually endanger Nigeria’s security, and they require effective border management as well as internal monitoring and control by the Immigration Service to contain same. (See Passports related offences – Sections 10-13; Immigration offences Sections 56-60).
* Another key element of the Bill is the inclusion of the aspects of the Nigeria’s New Visa Policy, particularly Visa on Arrival and other incentives in favour of frequent travel business persons of international repute such as Directors of multinational companies, aimed at attracting foreign direct investment, skilled migrant workers, innovators and entrepreneurs, with the attendant benefits of creation of wealth and employment opportunities while also boosting tourism.
* The Bill seeks to domesticate (through the incorporation of its provisions) the United Nations Protocol Against Smuggling of Migrants, Supplementing the United Nations Convention on Organized Crime (Otherwise known as the Palermo Convention), which Nigeria has ratified, to enable the NIS effectively combat the menace of illegal migration, along with other attendant trans-border crimes. The Bill prohibits the smuggling of migrants by whatever means, for purposes of financial or any other material benefit. Recognizing the definitional and practical distinction between the willing compliance of a smuggled person and the victimization of a trafficked person (the latter being within the purview of NAPTIP), the Bill provides for the establishment of a Migration Directorate within the NIS which shall be specifically dedicated to investigating and prosecuting cases of smuggling of migrants.
* As widely reported in the media, many young Africans, including Nigerians have been undertaking the often deadly journey of trying to reach Europe (particularly Italy and Spain) by crossing the Sahara desert or embarking on uncertain journey in flimsy boats on the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea. More rigorous policies in destination countries have had unintended consequences, as they have made the market for smuggling of migrants more lucrative thereby attracting the attention of organized criminal groups who use their networks to perfect their