OGBENI Rauf Aregbesola was sworn in as the Minister of Interior in August 2019. During this 20-month, he has manned the leadership position, far reaching reforms have taken place in the Ministry and its Paramilitary Agencies. Since his assumption in office, the ministry of Interior has witnessed progress, transformation and a solid foundation is being laid for the future which would position the ministry as a critical pillar in the nation’s security architecture.
Admittedly, many may have seen this coming considering Aregbesola’s giant strides, indelible marks and transformation he left in the State of Osun, where he was Governor for eight years and met huge development challenges including huge infrastructure deficit when he assumed office. Aregbesola administered the State masterfully, deploying leadership skills and boldness that were only in the interest and to the benefit of the masses.
Aregbesola has always demonstrated a style of leadership which often captures the hearts and minds of the people around him. Since getting to Ministry of Interior, Ogbeni emphasised teamwork across board and has worked perfectly with the bureaucrats which has made him to remain focused on what is in the best interest of the people and Nigeria, while the bureaucracy continues to support him in achieving his policy directives.
As we mark Aregbesola’s 64th birthday, it is pertinent that we bring to the attention of Nigerians some of his achievements within the almost 20 months he has been in charge as Ministry of Interior.
- The Ministry of Interior, through Nigeria Immigration Service, launched the New Visa Policy which reclassifies Nigeria’s visa categories from 6 to 79 in order to enhance the Ease of Doing Business, boost tourism, address current migration related challenges, and expand opportunities regarding bilateral and multilateral relations. The launch was done by no other person than President Muhammadu Buhari, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces. It is expected that this would translate into job creation for Nigerians.
- As a people focused leader, committed to equal opportunities for everyone no matter your social or political standing, the Ministry of Interior, through the Civil Defence, Corrections, Fire, Immigration Board introduced the first ever computer-based test powered by JAMB for the recruitment of officers into the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. The implication of this people focused initiative is that Nigerians who did not know any big man or politician or government official but trust in their aptitude sat for the test, passed and got recruited without any external influence. The Computer Based Test in all aspects conformed with global best practices in recruitment.
- To address the perennial issue of unemployment and understanding that thousands of jobs can be created by companies enjoying the Expatriate Quota Administration of Nigeria, Aregbesola as Minister of Interior set up a Ministerial Task Force on Expatriate Quota Administration to ensure that companies enjoying the quota comply with all the conditions of approval which include employing two Nigerians to understudy each expatriate occupying any position. Undoubtedly, this will create more job opportunities if the condition is enforced to the letter. Independent observers have projected that this could open as many as 200,000 jobs for qualified Nigerian.
- Aregbesola met congested and over-crowded Custodial Facilities upon assumption of office. He knew this was contributed to by the Criminal Justice System in Nigeria. The situation worsened with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the consequent lockdown of societies. With the support of the Nigerian Correctional Service and of course, Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior introduced the virtual counsels/courts sessions in the Nigeria Custodial Centres to ensure unhindered adjudication of justice while still adhering to the COVID-19 pandemic protocols.
- Within the 20 months of Aregbesola as Minister of Interior, Nigeria Immigration Service upgraded from manual to electronic processing of Temporary Work Permit in line with the digitization process of the entire workflow process going on in the NIS. This upgrade would have positive effect on the Ease of doing Business in Nigeria and has the potential to create direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians.
- Just recently, Aregbesola commissioned the Female Armed Squad Unit of the NSCDC. The objective is to provide female guards to protect schools in line with the Safe School Initiative policy directive of the Minister which is aimed at keeping children safe in schools. This will support the efforts of other security agencies in addressing the recurring cases of kidnap of school children which has been going on for years.
- To ensure that Nigeria’s borders are better managed and secured, the Nigeria Immigration Service deployed biometric visas at all entry points, land borders, diplomatic missions, and consular offices. In addition, 14 fully equipped Forward Operation Border Patrol Bases have been deployed, Visa-On-Arrival process has been fully automated, and there are efforts to reform the Passport Application process to make it seamless for Nigerians with NIS being directed by the Minister to be more customer service oriented.
- Nigerians who have either lost their passport or got it expired before renewal and need to travel home now have the benefit of obtaining the one-way Temporary Passport. The NIS introduced the one-way Temporary Passport to replace the Emergency Travel Certificate. This will undoubtedly make travelling back home easier for many Nigerians who may have lost their international passport during a journey.
- The Federal Fire Service is a major success story during Aregbesola’s 20 months and one to be proud of. Between August 2019 and December 2020, the Federal Fire Service responded to over 1500 fire calls, saved hundreds of lives that could have been lost and assets worth trillions of naira were saved. This was achieved with the procurement and deployment of newly fire engines across the country to boost emergency response. The Federal Fire Service is now present in all the states of the federation and has become the most responsive, saving lives and preventing humanitarian and economic disasters.
- There is a commitment on the part of Aregbesola to make the Custodial Centres enterprise centres where inmates will acquire trade skills before they return to the civil society. Towards this vision, well-equipped vocational workshops have been created to expose the inmates to the following trades: welding, weaving, masonry, furniture, farming, tailoring, barbing, and bakery in Custodial Centres.
- The establishment of a N5 billion shoe and garment factories in Kano and Abia State through Public Private Partnership in line with this vision and to actualize the presidential mandate on job creation is also in the works. This initiative is projected to create 1290 direct jobs and over 3000 indirect jobs. The shoe and garment factory will aid capacity budling and rehabilitation of inmates by driving skill acquisition and making them productive upon release from the custody of Nigeria Correctional Service.
Aregbesola has consistently proven to be committed to transformation. He does not just want to be remembered as a Minister, his motivation is to be a Minister that will bring positive change to the Ministry and the country and, most importantly, leave a legacy. Ogbeni is clear about his vision for the Ministry of Interior and that vision is to ensure Nigeria’s citizenship integrity as a foundation for positioning the ministry as a critical pillar in the nation’s security architecture and safety of its citizens. To underscore the importance of citizenship integrity, Aregbesola has directed the constitution of a committee that will reform the Passport Application process with a view to making it easily accessible by Nigerians and strengthen its integrity which could ultimately qualify the Nigerian passport for visa-free to many countries across the globe.
We congratulate our leader and mentor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on his 64th birthday as he continues to do things right and do the right things.