© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
First Lady, Minister, Protect Rogue Immigration Officers
First Lady Patience Jonathan and Interior minister Abba Moro protect errant immigration officers from being sanctioned for misdemeanor
The First Lady, Patience Jonathan, and the minister of interior, Abba Moro, have been accused of shielding two senior immigration officers from facing disciplinary action and sanctions for misconduct and conversion of property of the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, into personal use.
The two officers allegedly misappropriated two vehicles belonging to the service kept in their custody and have refused to account for them relying on their closeness to the First Lady and the interior minister.
Many of the colleagues of the errant officers are miffed that rather than being sanctioned by the immigration authorities for their misconduct, the two have since been promoted or deployed to highly visible posts.
The two officers are David Adi, a deputy comptroller, who was recently posted to Kaduna as passport comptroller and Fimibama Steven, an assistant comptroller general in charge of River State command who has now been posted to the NIS headquarters in Abuja.
In the case of Fimibama, an indigene of Rivers State, he is said to have gotten the posting to head the state command contrary to long standing tradition in the service that officers do not head state commands where they hale from.
It was gathered that officers are usually not posted to head a command in their state of origin except on health grounds and even then only when they have just a few months to retire.
But this was not the case with Fimibama who is said to have succeeded in lobbying the First Lady, also an indigene of Rivers State, who directed the minister of interior to ensure that he was posted to his home state.
But as fate would have it, the officer went to Port Harcourt and misbehaved. Sometime last year, the River State government bought and handed over some vehicles to the immigration and prison services to support their operations in the state.
While the prison service got three Toyota Hormer buses, two Toyota Hilux patrol and one Toyota Coaster bus, the NIS got a Toyota Camry car.
The vehicles were presented to the heads of the two services on behalf of the state government by the secretary to the state government, George Feyii. While Jerome Babalola Ogundana received the prison service’s vehicles, Fimibama received the Toyota Camry car on behalf of the immigration service.
The River State comptroller of immigration, however, saw an opportunity of owning a brand new car in the gift and refused to report the government gesture to anybody at the state command or the NIS headquarters.
He took the car straight to his house and converted it to personal use. This was in spite of the fact that the immigration service in the state was short of operational vehicles which is why the state government gave it the car in the first instance.
The cat was, however, fortuitously let out of the bag when the River State government in its official publication, Insight, published details of the gift to both the immigration and prison services.
When officers in the state command saw the publication, they promptly reported the matter to the headquarters which ordered an investigation.
The investigation not only confirmed that Fimibama converted to personal use a car gift from the River State government but also made other unsavoury disclosures. For example, it was found out that he was actually due to have retired since 2012 having reached the 35 years limit of length of service.
Fimibama’s name had actually been published in 2011 on the list of officers that were going to retire the next year. But because of his connections in high places he has remained in service and even got promoted in 2012.
Fimibama was ordered to hand over the car in question to his successor, but he left Port Harcourt for his new posting in Abuja without doing so.
As for Adi, an indigene of Taraba State, he was queried in January by the immediate past comptroller general of immigration, Rose Uzoma, in connection with the disappearance of the service’s ambulance.
It was gathered that when Uzoma took over as CG, she received a report from the comptroller of works that 15 operational vehicles went missing in the NIS headquarters under her predecessor, Chukwuma Udeh, when Adi was transport officer.
Investigations carried out on the retired Uzoma’s orders showed that 15 operational and staff vehicles, including an ambulance had disappeared.
In the case of the ambulance, Adi had reported that it had an accident and got money approved for its repairs.
However, the ambulance was never returned to the pool after it was purportedly repaired and when asked, the transport officer could not give proper account.
Sources in the immigration service said that Uzoma was very angry about the missing ambulance because it was the only operational one at the time it disappeared.
Confronted with possibility of facing disciplinary action, Adi ran to the minister of interior for protection. And that is what he got. Rather than account for the missing ambulance or get sanctioned, the minister instructed the errant deputy comptroller deployed to Kaduna State as the passport control officer.
Immigration officer who spoke to icirnigeria.org expressed worry that favouritism and nepotism such as has been exhibited by the two officers are fueling gross indiscipline in the service.
“It has reached a worrying level so much so that as long as you have a godfather, you can commit any crime and not only get away with it but also rub it in by getting rewarded for wrongdoing,” one of the officers said.
Another said that a situation where godfathers outside the service influence the fate of officers fuels disrespect, unruly behavior, disloyalty and indiscipline as favoured persons believe that they can do anything and get away with it.
It was observed that for a security agency, it is dangerous for officers of the immigration to maintain loyalty to civilians, however highly places, because it means that they can be induced to take actions against internal security.