Source: Orient Daily (Abuja)
By Jibrin Lumba, Abuja
The Citizenship and Business Department of the Federal Ministry of Interior was charged with the responsibility of managing expatriate quota issues and other matters relating to the grant of Nigerian citizenship to foreigners.
Early this year, the department was upgraded with modern web portals to ease the problems experienced by foreigners seeking entry and work permits or official approvals for expatriate quota as well as residency documents and naturalization approvals in the country.
Minister of Interior, Comrade Patrick Abba Moro, said after the installation of the Citizenship and Business Automation e-citibiz web portal and the accompanying Tier 3+data Centre that companies with approved expatriate quota operating in the country must migrate to the e-citibiz web portal before April 30, 2013.
The e-citibiz web portal and Tier 3+data Centre were designed to electronically capture and pivot operations and ease the work flow of the Citizenship and Business Department of the Ministry of Interior.
When it was launched early in the year, ICT experts in the area of data collation and analysis described the facility as a highly adaptable and industry friendly organisational system. The experts and other end users celebrated with the ministry, which came under severe criticism and verbal attacks from Nigerians and foreigners doing business in the country, over the long delays in approving requests for documents when manual processes were used.
Taking advantage of the improvements and visible changes at the Citizenship and Business Department, many foreigners have applied for business permits and several other types of services rendered by the department and are getting quick responses especially for expatriate quota requests and applications to become Nigerian citizens.
Before the installation of the e-system, long queues of applicants wearing disappointment and frustration on their faces and heaps of untreated files can be seen any day at the Citizenship and Business Department.
This has however changed and the improvements enabled the Ministry of Interior to celebrate recently the success it achieved and the control it gained when it migrated from manual processes to the use of electronic systems in transacting business.
The ministry marked the success by presenting certificates of citizenship to more than 200 foreign nationals as part of its constitutional duties. The event, which was held at the National Women Development Centre, Central Area in Abuja, aroused thought provoking feelings and patriotism in many observers as the foreign nationals, seeking to become Nigerians by naturalization, filed out obediently, one after the other, to collect their approval documents to remain in a country rejected by many indigenous Nigerians who are desperately struggling to obtain foreign visas and are risking their lives in the deserts in an attempt to illegally migrate to America and other European countries.
On the fateful day, Nigeria’s population increased by 217 as the foreigners from Africa, Asia, America and different European countries joined the fold as naturalized citizens after undergoing strenuous, pain-staking scrutiny and background screening to establish their past records and determine their fitness to become citizens.
For the elated foreigners, who gathered at the National Women Development Centre, venue of the event, from every part of the country as early as 7am for the event which started by 10am, the joy and the expectation of becoming Nigerians were visible in their bearing and body language. It was obvious that the beneficiaries would not forget Monday, 9th December, 2013, the date when they became Nigerians, in a hurry.
Out of 217 persons present, 129 of the citizenship beneficiaries were granted full naturalisation status while 88 were given certificates of registration. The approval papers of about twenty applicants, who were also present at the venue, were misplaced or lost in transit and could not be found.
Observers remarked that the high number of applicants was a boost to the Federal Government’s campaign against insurgency as it showed increasing interest in Nigeria by foreigners despite the security challenges in the country.
The majority of the naturalized citizens came from Africa and Asia. Many European countries were, however, represented but six Americans were also lucky winners of the citizenship and about twenty-five recipients were foreign women married to Nigerians and resident in different states of the federation.
It was a very colourful ceremony mixed with Nigerian dances capped with some tutorials to the new citizens about the different cultures in Nigeria. When the Minister of Interior presented the certificates to each of the recipients, Comrade Patrick Abba Moro paused occasionally to ask questions and joke with the recipients.
But it was not all fun and jokes as the minister changed the tone of his delivery when he warned those honoured with the nation’s citizenship that they have not been given the license to misbehave in disregard of the nation’s laws.
Abba Moro was firm when he remarked that “As new citizens, you are admonished to abide by the ideals and respect the institutions of Nigeria including respect for its national anthem, pledge and constituted authority because the law will not spare anyone who engages in unlawful activities in the country.”
Moro warned the recipients to strictly obey the nation’s laws especially its national ethics and codes of conduct and not to do anything that would pitch them against the laws, stressing that any breach of the nation’s laws would not be over-looked or ignored even for naturalised citizens since ignorance is not a defence in law.
The minister reminded the recipients of the long process involved in processing their applications for citizenship, which included attending meetings with the Advisory Committee on Nigerian Citizenship (ACNC) before their list was sent to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval in keeping with the provisions of the constitution.
He stressed that Nigeria will do everything within its powers to move with development trends and the assimilation process currently blowing through the globe.
The minister assured the recipients that Nigeria will always remember and respect “its commitment to the strategic roles it plays in the committee of nations for peace and the world’s unwavering quest for greater human integration for development and prosperity.”
Continuing, he said: “Nigeria will always seize the opportunity as a nation to inject credible people with capacity, value and resources who are friends of our dear country into the system,” even as he urged the new citizens to make useful and positive contributions to the advancement, progress and well-being of the country especially the communities where they reside.
The minister also urged them to make useful suggestions and contributions in resolving the security challenges in the country rather than compounding them with actions that may be seen as supporting insurgents saying, “now is the time when all hands must be on deck as we seek to build on the nation’s current successes by ensuring that peace and stability are guaranteed in our country.”
While apologising profusely to the twenty people whose papers were misplaced, Moro appealed to them to check back at the Interior ministry to sort out the problems, which he blamed on administrative mix-up by personnel at the Citizenship and Business Section of the ministry.
The 217 foreigners were later adorned with shoulder bands printed in the national colours of green, white and green before the oath of allegiance was administered on them by the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Interior, Barrister Oluwagbemisola Ajibade after which they were given copies of the national flag, the constitution and other national memorabilia.
Dignitaries who received the new Nigerians included the House of Representatives leader, Alhaji Mulikat Adeola, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information, who represented the Minister of Information Mr. Labara Maku, directors of the Ministry, the Commandant General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) Dr. Ade Abolurin, Comptroller General, Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS), Mr. David Paradang, Comptroller General, Nigerian Prison Services (NPS) Mr. Sarkari Ibrahim and Controller General Federal Fire Service (FFS), Engineer Olusegun Okebiorun among others.