– The Nigerian Immigration Service insists former government officials in possession of diplomatic passports must surrender them

– The comptroller-general says some officials have complied

– He warned that those yet to do so may go to jail

Ministers and top officials who served under Goodluck Jonathan risk going to jail if they fail to submit their diplomatic passports. This was in line with the directive from the federal government to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to write to the federal, state and local government institutions and agencies to henceforth include the return of diplomatic passports as part of the conditions for the payment of retirement and severance benefits.

Mohammed Babandede The Punch reports that Mohammed Babandede who is the comptroller-general of the NIS in an interview on Wednesday, July 13 said that although some officials have started to return their diplomatic passports, others are still using it.

He warned that if the former ministers and other officials fail to return their diplomatic passports, they might go to jail. He said: “Following the reluctance of some former office-holders to return their diplomatic passports, I wrote to the Presidency and proposed that we could take certain measures to compel those who are not entitled to the diplomatic passports to return them.

“The NIS has received approval to write to federal, state and   local government institutions to henceforth include the return of this government document as some of the things to return before  payment of retirement benefits.

“If you are a senator or member of the House of Representatives, before you finish your tenure, there is something that is called severance benefits and before you collect the benefits, you must return your diplomatic passport.

“Also, you cannot cross the border with the diplomatic passport whether going or coming if you are not entitled to it, we will collect it. The best I can do for you is to give you photocopy of the passport or a letter that I have confiscated the passport.”

He said he once named a minister that if he failed to surrender his passport, he would go to jail for two years. “The next thing we will do is to go house-to-house to collect it. It is an offence. I told a former minister that it is an offence for you to hold a (diplomatic) passport when you don’t deserve it. It attracts two years jail term; we will soon begin to catch defaulters.

People have started returning a lot of the passports,” he said. Babandede revealed he had to deal with lobbyists on a daily basis who feel because they know someone, they deserve special treatment. He however insisted that he was embarking on reforming the service.

He revealed he plans to plans to evolve a new posting policy which would ensure that no officer stayed more than two years in a particular posting “The posting circular form will be for officers cadre. For instance, for Superintendent cadre, we can say this is your posting circular form, you spend two years in the passport office, the next posting will be the border. You must go to border. Then after the border, you go to visa and so on.”

Babandede emerged as the new immigration boss following the sack of the former NIS comptroller general, Martin Abeshi, who was appointed into the position by President Muhammadu Buhari last September. The 53-year-old is an indigene of Jigawa state.

He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in History/Islamic Studies and a Masters Degree in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria.