One Year After: What Is Aregbesola Doing At the Ministry of Interior?

One Year After: What Is Aregbesola Doing At the Ministry of Interior?

By Kikiowo Ileowo

August 21 marked exactly 12 months since President Muhammadu Buhari graciously deployed Ogbeni Aregbesola to the Ministry of Interior. If he continues these giant strides in ministry, in no distant time, the entire services and agencies under his supervision will be highly efficient and effective in service and public goods delivery.

President Muhammadu Buhari took over the leadership of a broke and nearly bankrupt country five years ago. Since then, there is no gainsaying that different sectors of the economy that were moribund at the time have now been revitalised.

When he took over power five years ago, Nigeria was in a recession. Government was borrowing to pay workers’ salaries; and industrial actions from different labour unions, particularly in the health, education and energy sectors, were a monthly occurrence. Foreign debt was humongous, and Nigeria’s mainstay and earner of foreign exchange – crude oil – was being stolen at an alarming rate.

However, President Buhari arrested the decay. He began by laying the foundation for a working and prosperous economy. This culminated in Nigerians rewarding him with a second term for a job well done. Shortly had he begun the second term that he put together a formidable team to drive his vision, which he campaigned on namely: security, economic rejuvenation, and the anticorruption war or what can be termed as enthroning transparency.

On internal security, the president, in his wisdom, created the Ministry of Police Affairs out of the erstwhile Ministry of Interior, and placed Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola in charge of other critical areas of internal security, which the Interior Ministry oversees. Ogbeni, as fondly called by many, is a man whom many have come to love and who others love to hate. He had previously served excellently well as the governor of the State of Osun, the state of the virtuous, which was adjudged one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria, whilst he held sway.

Since resuming at the Ministry of Interior 12 months ago, the minister carrying out President Buhari’s vision of SET – security, economic rejuvenation and transparency – set out to work on revamping the entire internal security architecture strategically placed under his supervision for efficient service delivery.

He started by paying inspection visits to all the agencies under his supervision. They include the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), which had just been reformed from the old Nigerian Prison Service; the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS); the Federal Fire Service (FFS); Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); and the Civil Defence, Corrections, Fire and Immigration Services Board (CDCFIB). Although some people assume that the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is under the supervision of the minister, however this is not the case. Many innocently confuse this because President Buhari entrusted the task of leading a committee on Citizens Data Management and Harmonisation in the hands of the minister of Interior. The committee has since completed its work and submitted far-reaching recommendations to the president.

So what then has Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola been doing at the Ministry of Interior?

At the Nigerian Correctional Service, for the first time ever, there has been a wholesale Custodial Centre Decongestion. No doubt, this is one of the most remarkable achievements of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration during this second term in office. Past administrations had tried to decongest the Custodial Centres but could not. In all, above 5,000 inmates (don’t forget, they are no longer called prisoners), have been released from the system. This was made possible by the pardon and amnesty graciously approved by President Buhari. The process is ongoing and many more who meet certain stringent criteria will benefit from the programme. All of these are being done in a way to avoid recidivism, whilst ensuring the lives and properties of Nigerian citizens are secured and national security not jeopardised.

Modalities are being put in place to operationalise the parole system, so that first-time minor offenders or others who have no reason to be incarcerated can serve their terms at home or other designated places. Furthermore, three units of 3,000 capacity each custodial centres are currently under construction in three geopolitical zones of the country to avoid overcrowding in some facilities. The construction of another three units of 3,000 capacity each custodial centres in the remaining three geopolitical zones should commence in the next budget circle, if all things go as planned.

Also, of note are the reforms being carried out in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). We should recall that early this year, the United States government placed restrictions on some classes of visas for Nigerians over issues that border on national security. However, in response to that, the Nigerian government has now launched the Migration Information Data Analysis System (MIDAS) in the five international airports of the country. Likewise, the information pertaining to over 136,000 stolen passports has been uploaded on the Interpol I-24/7 platform. Before now, the NIS had no ability to upload directly on the system.

Also, the agency now has eyes on the official Nigerian borders by adopting digital technology to monitor them. Fourteen Forward Operations Bases have been activated and late last year, Ogbeni Aregbesola, on behalf of the government signed a contract with a technology firm to upgrade the country’s capacity for monitoring the entire stretch of Nigeria’s borders in real time. The contractual engagement will develop a robust e-land border management system that will deal with close to half of our border surveillance and management systems.

This is not to say that there were no challenges on ground when Ogbeni took over the mantle of leadership in the Ministry. Even some of these challenges still subsist, but the administration is doing its best to surmount them. A good example is the scarcity of passports at some select immigration offices in Nigeria and outside the country. The good news is that the challenge has been taken heads-on by the administration and it will be resolved. The solution, among other things, will include the removal of human contact as much as possible in the passport process, from application to collection. Third party data capturing centres are currently being set-up and customers can opt for their passport to be delivered to their doorsteps. This is achievable and will be done.

The Federal Fire Service in five months after the minister took over, responded to 2,615 fire calls, saving 726 lives and assets worth N1.629 trillion across the country. A Fire Service is as good as the fire engines and fighters it possesses. Therefore, the administration of President Buhari graciously approved for the Service the purchase of around 100 ultramodern firefighting trucks and engines. The last time any equipment was procured was sometime in 1996. The equipment in the inventory before the advent of the administration of President Buhari were those procured between 1985 and 1996, and since then there has been no procurement until now. It will also interest you to note that 2,200 fire fighters have been employed, trained, commissioned and deployed into service. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, Federal Fire Service stations and presence now exist in every state of the federation.

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps continue to blaze the trail by providing security for critical national infrastructure. Thanks to the service of brave men and officers in the Agro Rangers Unit, food production from the North, which witnessed perennial herder/farmers clashes in the past, has improved considerably as they continue to provide security for farmers and herders.

Of interest to President Buhari is the dignity and integrity of citizens. To actualise this, a new unit called the Citizen’s Integrity Unit was established. They oversee and nip in the bud, the perennial cases of rape, extortion and dehumanising treatment that Nigerian citizens are subjected to.

At the main ministry, Ogbeni’s Midas touch can also be felt. The expatriate quota application system has been fully digitised. Furthermore, Nigerians will soon be able to access the Federal Marriage registry in all the local governments in Nigeria and also some certified private and religious organisations will be accredited, as prescribed by the Marriage Act, to conduct statutory marriages that will be acceptable by all embassies and foreign organisations.

August 21 marked exactly 12 months since President Muhammadu Buhari graciously deployed Ogbeni Aregbesola to the Ministry of Interior. If he continues these giant strides in ministry, in no distant time, the entire services and agencies under his supervision will be highly efficient and effective in service and public goods delivery.

It was President Barack Obama who said in 2009 during his visit to Ghana that “Africa doesn’t need strong men; it needs strong institutions”. However, I dare say as much as we need strong institutions, we also need strong men, men of courage, vision and vigour like Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola to continue to drive policies and agenda for strong institutions being built by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Kikiowo Ileowo is a technical assistant to the minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.

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