Buhari’s Plan to Register Illegal Migrants Condemned

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The move by the Federal Government to electronically register illegal migrants in the country has come under criticism, with some observers describing it as a backdoor to unleash an “army of occupation” on Nigerians.

According to The Guardian, President Muhammadu Buhari gave a hint of the e-registration move last Friday when he said: “I am declaring a six-month amnesty period for illegal migrants already in the country to submit themselves to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) for the purpose of this registration.”

Buhari, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha, explained that the registration will be carried out without any payment or penalties.

He enjoined all migrants staying in the country whether regularly or otherwise, to take advantage of the amnesty window to register with the NIS.

But in a swift reaction, a former presidential adviser, Echefuna ’Rotimi Onyebeadi faulted the premise of the planned electronic registration.

In a letter dated July 13, 2019 and being made available to newsmen, the professor of Engineering Economics and Strategic Management, accused the Buhari government of trying to “confer unsolicited and unlawful citizenship on illegal immigrants.”

He writes: “The outcry of Nigerians on the attempt by Buhari’s government to forcefully acquire native lands for these alien Fulani herdsmen through the ‘suspended’ RUGA is yet to die down and, now, just a few days after, as though in a relay race, this unlawful conferment of citizenship on illegal immigrants by the government through the backdoor has been brought up.

“Why is this government hell-bent on populating the already pauperised and over- populated country with alien Fulani wanderers? Why does Buhari want to confer citizenship through the backdoor on aliens under whatever guise, to the detriment of Nigerian citizens? Are these not the same people the Buhari government is creating RUGA for?”

The don argues further: “There are existing laws guiding naturalisation of foreigners which, again, this government is trying to jettison as usual with impunity and reckless abandon with the introduction of this obnoxious e-registration of illegal immigrants to the unsuspecting public.

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“Documenting illegal immigrants should necessarily lead to returning them to where they came from. But, no, the Buhari government is determined to implement a certain unconstitutional hidden agenda that is gradually unfolding everyday by his government’s actions, inactions and responses, which are averse to the well being of the country.”

Meanwhile, statements by the presidency and the NIS on the initiative appeared to have conflicted what President Buhari initially declared. The President had said earlier that the six-month amnesty period was “for illegal migrants already in the country.”

But in swift reactions, NIS Spokesman and Deputy Comptroller of Immigration (DCI), Sunday James gave a different account. he said: “It is not illegal migrants; it is irregular migrants across the country we are registering. What we are doing now is to register every non-Nigerian.”

He added: “People are trying to misconstrue this directive by Mr. President. People should stop giving ethnic colouration to good plans by government. It is good for Nigeria. At least, it would help in our security situation, governance and planning.”

Earlier, Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Buhari, had, to a similar inquiry, replied via SMS: “Please, ask the immigration or interior ministry. I have not been briefed on this.”

Samson Oyedeyi

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