Birthday means different things to different people in different places. To some, it is the celebration of anniversary. To another, it is the beginning of a new life while to others it is a year of possibilities as endless as the sky and the opportunity to meet the challenges in everything we do.
Within the context of overcoming the challenges in everything we do, this article is going to look at the exploits of a man who has never failed in every assignment ever handed down to him by the Nigerian people and government. The person is no other person but the Honourable Minister of Interior, retired Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau PhD, CFR and “Baraden Kano” as he turns 65 years on March 14.
General AB Dambazau need no introduction because his quintessential personality and stellar performances in every national assignment ever given to him by Nigerian authority have distinguished him from his contemporaries.
This is a man who began his career in a low profile but through hardwork, discipline and abiding faith in God rose to the pinnacle of his career and retired as Chief of Army Staff before his appointment as Minister of Interior and member of the International Advisory Board of Africa Peace Fellow (APF) by the College of Health and Human Services of the California State University, Sacramento, USA.
The APF is an initiative of the California State University’s Centre for African Peace and Conflict Resolution (CAPCR), with major training initiatives on conflict resolution.
Born on March 14, 1954, General AB Dambazau began his military career at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) after completing his secondary education at the famous Barewa College, Zaria in 1974. At NDA, he was member of the 17 Regular Combatant Course and was later commissioned, Second Lieutenant in to the Infantry Corps of the Nigerian Army in June 1977.
In 1979, General Dambazau attended the United States Army Military Police School in Fort McClellan, Alabama. Haven observed that versatility is the key to overcoming the challenges posed by the realities of the 21th Century, in 1980, General Dambazau went to Kent State University in Ohio United States where he graduated with Bachelor of Science Degree (Bsc) in Criminal Justice. After completing his Master of Arts (MA) in International Relations as well as Master of Education (MEd) in Higher Educational Administration, between 1986 and 1989 General Dambazau was at the University of Keele in the United Kingdom to acquire his Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) in Criminology.
Haven served as Aid De Camp (ADC) to a former Chief of Army Staff in 1979 and commanded the Military Police Units as well as Special Investigator at the Special Investigation Bureau of NACMP from 1984 to 1985, General Dambazau was appointed Registrar (Academic Branch) of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) from 1993 to 1999. Thereafter, he served as Chief Instructor, Support Weapon Wing of the Infantry Centre and School from 1999 to 2001.
Later, he served as Directing Staff and Director, Higher Military Organization and Operations at the National War College now known as the National Defence College from 2004 to 2006.
Subsequently, he was made Principal Staff Officer at Army Headquarters as well as Chief of Army Standards and Evaluation before he was appointed General Officer Commanding 2nd Division Ibadan from 2007 to 2008.
After distinguishing himself in several task handed down to him by the Federal Government, in August 2008, General Dambazau was appointed Chief of Army Staff; a position he held until his retirement in September 2010.
As a PhD holder, Dr. AB Dambazau was once a part-time Lecturer (Gratis) at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria where he taught his students Criminology at the Faculty of Law.
Outside the military, Dr. Dambazau is also an erudite scholar and author of five widely read books as well as several academic articles in notable journals.
Before joining President Muhammadu Buhari’s Government in 2015, General Dambazau was the Chairman, Board of University Advancement Centre, University of Ibadan as well as Board of Trustees Chairman and founder, Foundation for Victims of Child Abuse (VCAF) which is dedicated to the victims of child abuse in Nigeria.
In recognition of his numerous services to the nation, the Federal Government honoured him with the National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) as well as the National Productivity Order of Merit Award among others.
General Dambazau is also the Ochiagha 1 of Egbelu Umuekwune in Ngor Okpala Local Government Area of Imo State; a chieftaincy title earlier given to him in recognition of his excellent services to the fatherland.
Dr. AB Dambazau is also a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Peace, Democracy and Development, University of Massachusetts, Boston. Also, he is a Fellow and Associate of the Weather Head Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University, all in the United States of America.
As Visiting Professor, General Dambazau delivered several lectures including the famous one he delivered at the Department of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, Igbinedion University.
As Minister of Interior with the mandate to merge the old Ministry of Interior with the disbanded Ministry of Police Affairs, General Dambazau’s ingenuity was brought to bear as he pioneered the task towards responsibility, accountability, good governance, transparency and respect for the rule of law which Nigerians are not only seeing it but are also feeling it; especially during and after the 2019 general elections.
His capacity building initiatives, retooling and re-equipping of the Federal Fire Service, Nigerian Prisons Service, Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Police Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps are equal to none since record keeping officially began in Nigeria.
Accordingly, Dambazau’s mark of achievements at the Ministry of Interior cannot be wiped out in centuries to come as his patriotic works at the ministry touches every aspect of our national lives.
For Instance, Dambazau stopped the payment of fines paid by Nigerians holding dual citizenship at the nation’s international airports. The intention behind the move is to make movement of Nigerians with dual citizenship easy and convenient for them to enter the country at any time unhindered.
According to the Minister: ”On no account should any Nigerian traveller holding dual citizenship be made to pay fines for the so-called overstay.”
Under this new policy, citizens with dual nationality would only present travelling documents of both countries to the immigration officials upon arrival and departure at the airport regardless of whatever document they are using for the travel.
In similar vein, General Dambazau spearheaded the establishment of the first ever operational border patrol base to effectively police the country’s vast and expansive borders that were hitherto porous and unmanned. This is the most cost effective way of policing our borders since there are no adequate funds to erect walls across the country’s 5,000 kilometre borders that are extensive and porous.
The initiative is in addition to the launching of the National Control Centre for online monitoring of our borders among other things. No doubt, the move has made it possible for immigration officials to monitor our expansive borders in addition to the patrol teams.
According to Dambazau, the responsibility of securing the territorial borders of a vast country like Nigeria is quite enormous and overwhelming. This is why establishing border patrol base is a timely means of supporting border patrol structures by intensifying surveillance along the nation’s routes and enforcing our immigration laws.
The giant move by the Minister has boosted the fight against human trafficking, smuggling, proliferation of small arms and light weapons as well as ending other forms of cross-border crimes in the country and across the continent.
The patrol base is however equipped with modern communication facilities for easy and secure intelligence gathering and sharing.
In similar vein, the revenue generating capacity of the Nigerian Immigration Service has grown from paltry sums to about N38 billion in 2017 alone. The money was generated from passport revenue, address verification fees, non refundable administration fees, e-passport fees among others.
Another success of the Minister is the establishment of E-Citibiz Automation Call Centre for the ease of doing business in the country. The e-citibiz call centre was established to ensure that the Citizenship and Business Department of the Ministry is electronically configured and automated to ease the delivery of services to Nigerians.
According to Dambazau, the automation call centre would reduce unnecessary contact with people as it hastens service delivery in good times.
His words: ”This is one of the moments I have been waiting for since three years. What this means is that, there would no longer be direct contact with applicants from outside. So, I would not want to see anybody coming to inquire about anything because we have all the necessary platforms for the services needed.”
Dambazau also ensured the extension of the validity period of the Nigerian Passport from five years to 10 years with improved security features and quality on the passport booklet. With this development, Nigerians would no longer have to return home every five years for passport renewal or line-up at the Nigerian Embassies abroad for similar purposes.
Again, Nigerians no longer have to come to Abuja to process their passport needs as the whole thing has been decentralized.
Just recently, the Federal Executive Council approved N7.1 billion for the building of a communication centre for the Nigeria Immigration Service.
According to Dambazau, the centre will help harness the data of NIS which is currently domiciled with various service providers in the country.
“The Centre when operational, will help bring together all the data used by the Nigeria Immigration Service under one roof.
“At the proposed centre to be sighted within the headquarters of the Service, the data will be brought together so that the NIS can be able to interface with other institutions that have to do with internal security matters and border management.”
As part of his drive towards good governance, General Dambazau signed the new Immigration Regulations Policy which has been gazetted and subsequently put to work in the country.
The objective of the Regulation is to drive effective implementation of the Immigration Act of 2015 which replaced the Immigration Act of 1963.
It is also aimed at consolidating on the existing immigration regulations to provide a “one-stop” reference on immigration rules in Nigeria. With these new regulations, Nigeria have taken a bold step forward in dealing with modern immigration challenges as well as improving the ease of doing business in the country.
General Dambazau also introduced some reforms to the country’s visa issuance processes. Under the new visa regime, genuine foreign investors who want to do business in Nigeria can now get visa on arrival. The same thing is applicable to tourists who want to explore the country for leisure purposes.
While the Nigerian Prison Service is not overlooked, General Dambazau spearheaded the construction of six new ultra-modern prisons in the six geo-political zones of the country. This move is due to the fact that prisons in the country are out of fashion and therefore cannot meet the demands of the moment.
According to the Minister, the prisons are in line with the United Nations Minimum Standard for Prisons which was obtained in collaboration with states governments.
Hence, the reformed NPS will boost the welfare of inmates by providing them with humane environment and facilities as the Nigerian Prisons no longer serve as warehouse for inmates but a correctional institution!
The education programme General Dambazau introduced at the service have started yielding results as some students in Jos recently graduated with relevant certifications while 465 inmates are currently undergoing various degree programmes in tertiary institutions with 23 undergoing post-graduate courses while one is currently doing a PhD outside the country.”
Because of the many far reaching reforms introduced by the Minister, Nigeria Prisons Service last year won the 2018 United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization Confucius Award for Literacy and Skills Acquisition for inmates in faraway Paris, France.
Dambazau also repositioned the Federal Fire Service to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It should be noted that the last time equipments were procured for the service was in 1996, while the penultimate one was in 1985.
Accordingly, the sum of N3.9 billion was recently approved by the Federal Executive Council for the procurement of 22 firefighting vehicles for the Service.
According to Dambazau, “In 2016, we procured 21 firefighting vehicles. In 2017, the procurement was for 22 firefighting trucks and in 2018, it is a repeat procurement of what we did last year.
Similarly, the Minister ensured the full implementation of the fire building code to guarantee safety and minimize the rate of destruction each time there was fire outbreak in the country. For Instance, every building is now expected to have water sprinkler, fire extinguisher among others.
Besides the fact that General Dambazau empowered staff of the Federal Fire Service, he also replaced the broken down and obsolete equipments at the service with new ones as he also upgraded and renovated old facilities of the service like the Staff Quarters, Fire Service Academy and Libraries to modern standards.
Others include, the building of new hostel facilities, tarring of roads as well as the payment of insurance cover for all staff of the service.
It is also on record that under General Dambazau, the National Fire Academy got affiliated to the Nigerian Defence Academy for the training of staff and award of Degrees, Postgraduate Degrees and Masters in disaster management.
Similarly, in line with the constitutional mandate of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps which includes, mounting surveillance on the nation’s infrastructures, sites and projects for the government, General Dambazau subsequently directed the establishment of Agro-Rangers from the Corps. Agro-ranger is a 3,000 capacity NSCDC personnel unit established by the government to protect farmers and their farm land from armed banditry and kidnapping in the country.
As it is today, the NSCDC is now properly placed to assist in the maintenance of peace and order as well as the protection of critical infrastructures among others in Nigeria.
Therefore, I am joining the Minister’s well-wishers to wish him a very warmed and memorable birthday anniversary as he turn 65 on March 14.
Happy Birthday to the people’s General!
Comrade Edwin Uhara writes from Abuja