The Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, hosts ECOWAS Heads of Immigration Meeting today.
The meeting is convened to review and make recommendations on the protocol of free movement of persons, migration and irregular migration management as well as regional data sharing.
PREMIUM TIMES will bring you live updates from the event.
9.32am: Cross section of heads of Immigration from West African countries are seated for the meeting. Counties represented include Ghana, Mali, Togo, The Gambia, Guinea, among others.
9.39am: Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede arrives the venue of the ECOWAS meeting of Heads of Immigration. He moves round to greet delegates.
9.49am: Apart from Heads of Immigration agencies in West Africa, diplomats and other stakeholders are also part of the high level meeting. Embassies of Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin are in attendance. Also representatives of Nigeria’s service chiefs and the State Security Service.
10.24am: Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, who repesents Acting President Yemi Osinbajo walks in alongside Minister of Internal Affairs, Abdulrahman Dambazau.
National Anthem taken
10.30am: Comptroller General of Nigeria’s Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, delivers his welcome address.
He said the objective of the ECOWAS heads of Immigration which was inaugurated in 2015 is to bring together heads of Immigration in the region to deliberate on issues of common interest and, compare notes and experience in migration management.
He said the ongoing meeting will strengthen cooperation among the respective jurisdictions and discuss challenges of rights of residence of citizens within the contexts of new security challenges.
Mr. Babandede also underscores the need for “robust intelligence sharing” among countries.
He said Immigration bodies should work “jointly as a team yo save lives of innocent youths who are dying in the sahara or in crosssing the Mediterranean”.
10.40am: AVM AY Bello, representing Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, delivers his address.
He said mass migration poses danger to peace in West Africa particularly with ongoing security challenges that, he said, could be “threat to corporate existence of Africa as region”.
He said recommendations from the meeting “could go a long way in enhancing peace and stability”.
10.45am: Representative of the EU ambassador to Nigeria reveals that EU is supporting the ECOWAS integration by promoting free movement of citizens.
He said already the European Union has contributed 26 million Euros to the project.
10:45: President of the ECOWAS Commission H.E Marcel de Souza presenting his address.
11.14am: Geoffery Onyema, Foreign Affairs Minister who represented the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, in his remarks, commended the Comptroller General and ECOWAS heads for organising such a meeting; stressing that it will strengthen the bond that exists between ECOWAS members.
11.27am: The minister emphasised the sharing of intelligence amongst members. He acknowledged that the borders are currently facing security challenges. “We have to develope a mechanism to facilitate free movement across our borders,” he said.
11.36am: Acting President Yemi Osinbajo represented by Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema, tasked the chiefs of immigration in West Africa to find solutions to security problems attributed to movement of people within their countries.
Mr. Osinbajo announced the decision of Nigeria to host a Migration Training Academy for the region saying already “a large expanse of land has been reserved for purpose in Tugga, Kebbi State”.
11.42am: The opening of the 2-day meeting of the Heads of Immigration in Ecowas region comes to a close with a closing remarks by ECOWAS Commission’d Commissioner for Trade, Customs and Free Movement, Louoli Chaibou.
12.02pm: Guests pose for a group photograph at the end of the session.