In the midst of rising insecurity in the country, the Federal Government has been urged to embark on preventive
measures against immigration-related vices which open up the nation’s borders to security threat.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court made the call in Abuja at a two-day maiden conference on Immigration Law and Policy organised by Nigerian Immigration Lawyers Association (NILA).
Justice Dimgba in his keynote address titled “Contemporary Issues in the Immigration Mileu in. Nigeria”, said the ministry of Interior, the Nigerian Immigration Service and other stakeholders, must act with a heightened sense of urgency to improve border operations and make our border resilient against internal threats and assault on the nation’s territory.
He noted that recent trends and realities facing us on a daily basis unquestionably bring immigration operations into considerations anchored on national security.
” At the height of threats to national security, and of particular interest to Nigeria, is the menace of terrorism. Statistically, Nigeria has one of the highest terrorism threat levels in the world. In a recent terrorism report in 2022, the country was ranked as the second country with the largest number of terror-related deaths in the world, next only to Afghanistan.
The report also noted that several militant groups and non-state actors were responsible for numerous attacks on both civilian and military targets, with Boko Haram and some other ethnic extremists ranking as the deadliest. Key figures in the report noted that 1,245 deaths were related to terrorism in Nigeria and 390 persons were kidnapped in terrorists attack in Nigeria.
Indeed, the fight against terrorism has long transcended into a global concern as most civilized and economically viable nations are targets of terrorist activities. International law recognizes terrorism as a first-generation crime, characterized by its systematic nature and its harm affecting a large group of victims.
Although the definition of terrorism has a long controversial history, a generally accepted element of the crime is its transnational character. In this form, terrorist groups make use of both legal and illegal migration for the easy flow of weapons and people. Legal migrants form part of terrorist networks, and this makes criminal profiling by immigration authorities more complex. In the more prevalent cases, migrants’ networks which exist beyond states’ territorial boundaries are relied upon for illegal migration and migrant smuggling of members of the group with the aim of executing planned attacks. In both cases, it is clear that the perpetration of terrorism through these means is closely tied to the role of immigration and that the first step of combat ought typically to assume a preventive character central to immigration.
The jurist said “this account seems to support many other security reports and indeed, speculations, stating that much of terrorist activities in certain regions of the country are perpetrated by non-nationals migrating into the country from neighbouring and even some far-flung countries.
According to him, “it becomes imperative to underscore a higher responsibility imposed on the immigration sector to take steps to deal with terrorist activities at their earliest stages. In dealing with migration gaps which strengthen terrorist networks, I advocate for more preventive mechanisms in preference to prohibitive measures.
“In other words, efforts should be placed on the early prevention of illegal and irregular migration by improving border management than by merely prohibiting and criminalizing them.
Effective preventive mechanisms strengthen the security structure of the country, improve immigration and border management and reduce the burden of the administration of justice in dealing with complex and undesirable criminal cases related to immigration.
Dimgba further urged the Federal Government, particularly, the Nigerian Immigration Service, to reopen the Visa-On-Arrival Scheme and E-visa scheme, and for the Visa-On-Arrival scheme, to make it available in all entry points into Nigeria.
This, he noted, would contribute positively to the Nigerian economy, the way it has done for countries such as Kenya, Turkey, and Mauritius.
The conference drew partcipants from the legal profession, the academia, policy makers, public sector employees and other stakeholders at the front line of immigration practice and policy.
Other speakers at the conference were Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN) Anthony Idigbe (SAN); Oyetola Atoyebi (SAN); Dr. Chukwudi Odoeme; Afolabi Elebiju; Mrs. Bisi Adeyemi; Akabunwa Oluwapamilerin; and Johnson Babalola.
Earlier, in his welcome address, the Chairman, Conference Organising Committee(COC), Fabian Ozoemena, explained that the conference was a great opportunity for immigration lawyers and other stakeholders to come together and discuss pertinent matters arising from the recently enacted Nigeria Immigration Act 2015 and attendant policy changes ushered in by the Immigration Regulation 2017, the New Visa Policy 2020 and varied regulatory directives connected thereto.
The Nigerian Immigration Lawyers Association is a registered national association to promote justice, advocate for efficient immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration law and practice in Nigeria and enhance the professional development of members.