Current And Past Leaders Of The Nigeria-Immigration Services (NIS)
Current And Past Leaders Of The Nigeria-Immigration Services (NIS)

Current And Past Leaders Of The Nigeria-Immigration Services (NIS)

The Nigeria Immigration Service has undergone various reforms and reorganizations from the colonial era to the present day. The leadership of the service has also evolved, with officers coming from different backgrounds and influences.

This article provides an overview of the key leaders who have headed the Immigration Department and subsequently the Nigeria Immigration Service since colonial times. It tracks the changes in designation from Chief Federal Immigration Officer to Director of Immigration and finally to Comptroller-General of Immigration.

Their tenures represented critical junctures in the development of the agency as Nigeria’s primary border control and immigration authority. The leaders navigated challenges from technological modernization to national security threats.

 

List of 17 past and present leaders NIS Leadership

  • Adepoju Carol Wura-Ola: Comptroller-General (May 2023 – Present)
  • Muhammed Babandede: Comptroller-General (2016–2021)
  • Martin Kure Abeshi: Comptroller-General (2015–2016)
  • David Shikfu Parradang:Comptroller-General (2013–2015)
  • Rilwan Bala Musa: Acting Comptroller-General (2013)
  • Rose Chinyere Uzoma: Comptroller-General (2010–2013)
  • Chukwurah Joseph Udeh:Comptroller-General (2005–2010)
  • Lady U. C. Nwizu: Comptroller-General (2000–2004)
  • U. K. Umar: Comptroller-General (1999–2000)
  • Sahabi Abubakar Dange:Comptroller-General (1995–1999)
  • Garba Abbas: First Comptroller-General (1990-1995)
  • Muhammed Damulak: Director of Immigration (1985-1990)
  • Lawal Sambo:Director of Immigration (1979-1985)
  • Aliyu Mohammed: Director of Immigration (1977-1979)
  • Alayedeino Esq: Chief Federal Immigration Officer (1967-1976)
  • JE Onubogu: Chief Federal Immigration Officer (1966-1967)
  • EH Harrison: Chief Federal Immigration Officer (1962-1966)
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Current Leadership

The current Acting Comptroller-General of Immigration is Deputy Comptroller-General Adepoju Carol Wura-Ola, appointed in May 2023 after the expiration of CGI Isah Jere’s extended tenure.

President Bola Tinubu has appointed Wura-Ola Adepoju as the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).

 

Leadership History

The Colonial Era

The Immigration Department was first established by the colonial authorities in 1958 with E.H. Harrison serving as the first Chief Federal Immigration Officer (CFIO) from 1962 to 1966. He was succeeded by J.E Onubogu from 1966 to 1967.

Post-Independence

After Nigeria’s independence in 1960, Alayedeino Esq took over as CFIO from 1967 to 1976 overseeing the nascent Immigration Department in the newly independent country.

The Military Era

During the military regimes that dominated Nigerian governance from the 1960s to the late 1990s, the Immigration Department continued operations under military-appointed leadership.

Alh. Aliyu Mohammed served as Director of Immigration from 1977 to 1979. He was succeeded by Lawal Sambo who led the service from 1979 to 1985 during the early years of the Second Republic.

Muhammed Damulak subsequently took over from 1985 to 1990 covering the latter part of the Buhari military regime and the Babangida transition program.

 

Post-Military Era

With the return to democracy in 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed the first Comptroller-General of Immigration, Alh. Garba Abbas, in 1990. Abbas had previously served as the last Director of Immigration before the transition.

Alh. Sahabi Abubakar Dange succeeded Abbas as CGI from 1995 to 1999 overseeing Immigration operations during the Abacha regime.

After the transition to the Fourth Republic, Alh. U.K. Umar was appointed as CGI from 1999 to 2000 during the early years of the Obasanjo civilian administration. He was followed by Lady U.C. Nwizu from 2000 to 2004.

Chukwurah Joseph Udeh held the position from 2005 to 2010 during the later part of Obasanjo’s tenure and the Yar’Adua administration.

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Rose Chinyere Uzoma became the first female CGI from 2010 to 2013 under Jonathan.

David Shikfu Parradang was appointed in 2013 by President Jonathan and served till 2015.

 

The Buhari Administration

With the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, Martin Kure Abeshi was appointed CGI from 2015 to 2016.

Muhammed Babandede was subsequently appointed in September 2016 and served two terms till 2021. Babandede pushed technology modernization and digital reforms during his tenure.

After Babandede’s retirement, Deputy CGI Isah Jere was appointed in an acting capacity in 2021 until the expiration of his extended tenure in May 2023.

 

Notable Developments Under Different Leaders

The policies and programs implemented under different Immigration heads responded to the specific challenges and priorities during their respective tenures.

Improved Border Security

With rising national security threats from terrorism, militancy, and smuggling, CGIs like Uzoma, Parradang, and Babandede prioritized tightening border security and enhancing surveillance capabilities.

Technology Modernization

Leaders like Babandede championed technology reforms to transition from a manual, paper-based system to digital platforms and biometric systems for immigration operations.

Tackling Irregular Migration

CGIs such as Uzoma and Abeshi focused on addressing the challenge of irregular migration into Nigeria amid regional instability.

Increased Transparency

Heads like Babandede, Abbas, and Nwizu implemented reforms to reduce corruption and boost transparency in the NIS.

Expanded Passport Operations

Successive leaders from Nwizu to Uzoma and Babandede oversaw the exponential growth in Nigerian passport administration across the country and overseas.

 

Organizational Structure

The NIS organizational structure has evolved from the early years as the Immigration Department to encompass more Directorates, Divisions, and Units responding to expanded operations.

Some key structural changes include:

  • Creation of the CGI Office along with Deputy CGI roles
  • Establishment of Directorates for Finance, ICT, Visa
  • & Residency, Internal Affairs, etc.
  • Expansion of passport, border control and anti-trafficking divisions
  • Setting up of SERVICOM, Anti-Corruption, and Press & PR units
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Leadership Selection Process

The process for appointing the Immigration leadership has transitioned along with Nigeria’s political evolution.

  • During the colonial era, British officials occupied the CFIO position
  • Military heads of state directly appointed Directors of Immigration in the post-independence decades
  • Introduction of CGI role by President Babangida in the 1980s
  • Presidency appoints CGIs in the democratic period subject to confirmation by the Interior Ministry
  • Tenure is limited to four years with the possibility of renewal (e.g. Babandede’s double tenure)

 

Challenges Confronting NIS Leadership

Navigating a complex bureaucratic structure: The CGI manages relations with the Ministry of Interior, the Presidency, and other agencies.

Maintaining integrity and transparency: Preventing corruption within NIS while managing public perceptions.

Securing inadequate resources: Lobbying for budgetary resources amid competing priorities.

Reforming legacy processes: Overhauling bureaucratic systems, upgrading technology, enhancing efficiency.

Coordinating border management: Collaboration with Customs, Police, and military agencies.

Curbing irregular migration: Combating trafficking syndicates amid regional conflicts and displacements.

 

Assessment of Leadership Impacts

  • Effective leaders like Parradang, Uzoma, and Babandede implemented reforms that enhanced NIS capabilities and public trust.
  • Long-serving leaders were able to provide stability and continuity to pursue strategic objectives.
  • Politicization and instability in NIS leadership during transitional periods led to uncertainty and inertia.
  • The autonomy of the Directors-General to pursue their agenda varied under different political administrations.
  • Increased digitization and anti-corruption efforts resulted from sustained initiatives by reform-focused leaders.

 

Conclusion

The NIS Comptrollers-General and Directors of Immigration have guided the service through various phases spanning colonial times, military rule, and democratic governance. Their leadership significantly shaped the organization’s evolution from a fledgling department to a major security agency. They confronted multifaceted challenges from weak governance institutions to resource constraints.

While the tenures of some leaders witnessed improved accountability and effectiveness, other periods experienced instability. The commitment and competence of individuals in the leadership role were crucial in determining the NIS’ capacity to fulfill its extensive mandate. The service’s importance for Nigerian border security underlines the need for stability and empowered leadership.

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