The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has threatened that ministers or top officials – who served under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure – could get a two-year jail term if they fail to submit their diplomatic passports.
The decision was in line with a directive issued to the NIS from the Nigerian government that all 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.
The comptroller-general of the NIS, Mohammed Babandede, in an interview with The Punch Newspaper on Wednesday 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.”
The NIS boss said he once warned a former minister whose name he did not mention, that he could get two years jail term for refusing to surrender his diplomatic passport.
“The next thing we will do is to go from house to house to collect it. It is an offense. I told a former minister that it is an offense for you to hold a (diplomatic) passport when you don’t deserve it . It attracts two years jail term; will soon begin to catch defaulters. People have started returning a lot of the passports,” he said.