Since his appointment as Nigeria’s Minister of Interior on November 11, 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari, his covert and overt dispositions to civil issues and internal security matters of Nigeria have built confidence and as well reinforced the earlier status conferred on him by the BBC as one of the shining lights in President Buhari’s cabinet.
With the way he creatively restructured and transformed the old Ministry of Interior which was merged with the disbanded Ministry of Police Affairs by President Buhari, retired Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau has proved beyond expression that he belongs to the highest breed of gems who transforms whatever thing they lay their hands on.
Hence, in his two years of operation as cabinet Minister, General Dambazau has justified the confidence and trust invested in him by Mr. President as well as the Nigerian people through results oriented, effective and efficient service delivery.
Most endearing is his sagacious and prompt response to issues and drive towards responsibility, accountability, transparency and respect for the rule of law, especially in handling matters related to paramilitary organizations under him despite being a retired General.
His capacity building initiatives, retooling and re-equipping of the Federal Fire Service (FFS), Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) are unparalleled in recent times.
For Example, the Federal Fire Service under his watch has changed from what it was to what it ought to be with the setting up of policy regulatory units in all FFS stations as well as the establishment of additional zonal and state offices for the service nationwide. This move has brought the activities of the service closer to the people!
The refurbishing of FFS structures and re-equipping it to meet modern demands as well as the training and retraining of its personnel on how to curtail and prevent fire outbreaks performed the miracle of stopping massive fire outbreaks that usually characterize the months of January and February every year in the country.
It was in recognizing the silent reforms and transformation championed by this Honorable Minister that President Muhammadu Buhari at the first Federal Executive Council Meeting for the year 2017 approved the proposal for the procurement of modern firefighting equipments as well as improving the welfare packages for personnel and the furnishing of the Fire Service Training School to standards.
In lieu of this, 15 water carrying vehicles were procured for the service so as to revamp the fire service units which has experienced dearth of equipments for a very long time. With the new equipments, the country is about overcoming some of the challenges usually associated with fire incidents. It can be recalled that the last time such equipments were procured for the service was in 1996, while the penultimate one was in 1985.
Similarly, the Minister also ensured full implementation of Nigeria’s building code so as to guarantee safety and minimize rate of destruction each time there was fire outbreak. For Instance, every building is now expected to have water sprinkler, fire extinguisher among others.
The Nigerian Immigration Service is also not left out as the Minister has enforced the use of biometric registration for passport applicants in line with his digitalization policy. Under the new regime, all the Passport Issuing Centers around the world are now connected to single database.
Nigerians no longer have to come to Abuja to process their passports because the Minister has decentralized issuance and re-issuance of the passports to them while building ultra-modern passport offices across the federation.
Still on the Nigerian Immigration, the Minister within the years under review commissioned the 5th Border Corps of the Nigeria Immigration Service as well as the Rapid Response Squad at the Immigration Training Schools across the country as part of the move to effectively secure the nation’s expansive borders.
With the refurbishment of Nigerian Immigration’s Surveillance Aircraft as directed by the Minister, the country’s security is now above average coupled also with the introduction of Immigration Air Border Patrol. This measure has helped in securing the nation’s vast borders by profiling movements of persons in and around the country as well as checking illegal migration, smuggling of small and light weapons in to the country among others.
The Minister on the 20th of March, 2017 launched the gazatted Immigration Regulations 2017. This new immigration document has replaced the outdated Immigration Act of 1963 and also empowers the NIS to properly register all foreigners, protect our borders, enhance internal security and attract foreign investors in line with the international best practices.
For efficient implementation of the new immigration policy and law, approval was given by the Minister for several workshops to train officers and men of the NIS on Immigration Regulation 2017 and Immigration Act 2015 with the aim of understanding and implementing the new rules and laws to the latter.
In the same vein, the Minister also launched the newly harmonized departure and arrival cards in Nigeria. According to the Minister, the introduction of the new cards replaces the multiplicity of cards that hitherto existed in the service. Under the new arrangement, travellers would now have to respond to only 15 questions instead of the usual 30.
Similar process is on to domesticate the production of passports locally in order to save foreign exchange, provide opportunity for employment as well as guarantee availability and issuance of the booklet while building capacity of Nigerians in addition to the transfer of technology.
The Nigerian Prisons Service is also receiving the attention of the Honourable Minister as he is working round the clock to ensure that inmates are equipped with useful skills that will make them productive to the society at the end of their jail terms. The Minister is doing this through Public Private Partnership with an eye on mass production of food on NPS farms.
To ensure that prisoners benefits much from the rehabilitation and skills acquisition programme of the service, inmates are engaged in compliance with the United Nations minimum standards for the treatments of offenders.
Because those on awaiting trial are not part of the scheme as a result of their status, the Minister is pulling all necessary triggers that will ensure quick dispensation of justice so that their fate can be known. In doing this, the Ministry has procured 320 operational vehicles to be used in conveying inmates to court in order to speed up their trials.
The Minister also adopted some homegrown strategies by co-locating courts and Prisons in the same arena so as to fast track the process of administering justice to the inmates. According to the Minister, the idea was to reduce congestions in our prison facilities since 72 percent of inmates in custody are awaiting trial.
Before now, the NPS had 16 farm centres, but none of these farm centres utilises up to 20 percent of the available land due to lack of machines, but with the new equipments procured by the Honorable Minister, the story has changed as the Minister’s move has boosted training activities and food production used in feeding the inmates.
Also, because of the growing urbanization, the Minister has embarked on relocation and rebuilding of NPS structures in cities without expansive space for modern correctional services. The Minister is doing this in collaboration with the governments of the affected states. In this regard, a Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed between the Ministry and the Akwa Ibom State Government.
While dding human face to his numerous transformations in the NPS, the Minister recently made symbolic distribution of medical drugs and equipment to Nigerian prisons to ensure that prisoners’ welfare particularly healthcare services meet the minimum standards as prescribed by the United Nations.
As a way of securing agro-allied investments in Nigeria, the Minister came up with a policy which extends to the protection of strategic assets and critical infrastructures to include agricultural investments in Nigeria. In doing this, he sought the partnership of the Ministry of Agriculture to secure the agricultural environment using new force called ‘the Agro Rangers’ which is on the platform of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, to protect agricultural investments for individuals and organization, groups or institutions. This move no doubt will encourage agricultural investments by both citizens and foreigners in support of the Federal Government economic diversification to the agricultural sector and Mining.
The Minister is also partnering with his counterpart in the Ministry of Mines and Steel to protect mining sites and prevent illegal mining activities using the Civil Defence personnel.
The Nigerian Police Force is also receiving serious attention. With the building of new barracks and refurbishments of old ones, officers of these paramilitary organization are sure to enjoying serene and conducive environments for their work.
There are more to the Minister’s great achievements within two years, but because time is not my best ally, I want to end by saying congratulations to the Honorable Minister, Nigerians are very proud of you!
•Uhara is a journalist and public affairs commentator. He writes from Abuja.