Mrs. Funmilayo Odubela-Aduroja is a retired Assistant Comptroller General (ACG) of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). Popularly described as 'iron lady,' she once headed Border Patrol. An alumnus of National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, she spent her time researching terrorism and border control. The first female officer to be posted to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, she speaks on terrorism and the need for the Federal Government to merge all internal security agencies to create the Department of Homeland Security.
How were your years in Nigeria Immigration Service?
I got into the paramilitary service when the service was in need of female officers. I was one of the first batches of female officers admitted into the service. I served to the best of my abilities and I enjoyed my job.
As a former border patrol boss, do you think our borders are well policed?
I believe they are putting their best because every country has its own insurgency. Every country is trying to see how best to police its borders. In Europe and other countries, they are building fences because the number of people coming into the country is very large. So, they are building fences to protect themselves. The Syrians are now migrating to Europe because of the war in their country. Nigerian government should look into the possibility of securing her borders by building fences. The government should also emulate Europe by fencing the border to secure the country.
I think President Muhammadu Buhari should listen to advice from experienced officers and border control experts. If there is an issue, he could call us to trash out things and put things right.
Do you think the military is winning war on terror as Nigerians are being made to believe?
The terrorists are getting more and more aggressive. They are recruiting more young ones via the Internet. Terror war has not been won and it is quite challenging. The recommendation contained in the 9/11 Commission Report was what I worked on when I was in Nigeria Institute for Strategic Studies (NIPS) in 2004. I recommended in my research that there is need for us to merge most of the small agencies together in order to fund them adequately and to make sure they deliver.
It was done in America and it was successful. When the report was submitted in 2003, President George Bush wrote to congress for money so that they could implement the recommendations of the commission. The money was released, so they merged the security agencies and they now have what is called Department of Homeland Security.
All the agencies were merged and they went ahead to create the Department of Homeland Security, headed by somebody of cabinet rank who would report on a daily basis to the president on security information on embassies abroad.
Would merging of internal security agencies bring an end to insurgency?
The responsibility of Nigerian Customs Service is to collect revenue, remit it into government account. They should try and merge Customs and Immigration Services together and put them on one platform and fund them adequately. Customs has no business being in the Ministry of Finance.
Every country is trying to see how best to police its borders. In Europe and other countries, they are building fences because the number of people coming into the country is very large. So, they are building fences to protect themselves. The Syrians are now migrating to Europe because of the war in their country. Nigerian government should look into the possibility of securing her borders by building fences. The government should also emulate Europe by fencing the border to secure the country
As a patriotic Nigerian, we want result; we want to put our money where our mouth is and get results.
So, I will encourage them to have someone who is answerable to the minister and the president and he must be of cabinet rank. The time the book on 9/11 Commission report was published, there was no Boko Haram. Ironically, when they were asking some of the suspected terrorists question like: "If you are a terrorist leader today, where would you like to locate your base?" The same places came up again and again on their list. Those places they mentioned are Western Pakistan, Afghanistan border region, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia and Kenya. Other countries the suspected terrorists fingered are Southeast Asia, Philipines and Indonnesia. In West Africa, Nigeria and Mali were chosen by the suspected terrorists as their preferred bases.
I personally gave the report to some highly placed persons to read and learn from it and I made executive summary of the book and gave it to them. I want government in my lifetime to accept and utilize the recommendation in this commission. I also want to be able to say Nigeria is secure and to tell foreigners that my country is highly secure; that is my aim and my hope.
As a security operative and as a border patrol expert, I want to say that it doesn't sound right that a group of people have a conquered territory within a territorial jurisdiction of a country. It is absurd. What I observed is that we are not getting value for the money we are spending on security.
Are you satisfied with the administration of the NIS today?
The NIS is trying its best. At least they have initiated new technologies into the system like biometrics, which was not done in our time. For instance, many people had more than one passport back then, which is not done overseas. So, they are putting in a lot to upgrade the technology and I think it would be of benefit to the country.
What would you like to contribute to the nation's security even in retirement?
I want to give back to society and the country at large what I had acquired when I was in service. The service gave me the opportunity to travel out to study some professional courses. I was also at NIPSS, Kuru, Jos, in 2004. I was given both local and international exposure. We were thought to emulate the security services of foreign countries; we were enlightened on how to inculcate the act of good administration and governance.
Due to the tour, my colleagues and I had a good understanding on how to be good administrators. Our reasoning was sharpened and it broadened our minds analytically and we were also able to advice others on how to think analytically in the field. Immediately after the trainings in Jos, I was retired. I was not given the opportunity to give back what I learnt to society; that is why I think it is important I offer advice to the present government which I think is sincere.
Do you think the female officers in NIS are committed to hard work as you were?
My advice to upcoming officers is that they should be hardworking, whether male or female. At least when I was in the service, I was the first female officer posted to Muritala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA). After I proved my worth, they were encouraged to post other female officers to different commands. Currently, the head of the Immigration Service at MMA is a female officer.
When I was in the service, my boss always encouraged me to do better in whatsoever I was doing. This was possible because he saw that I was hard working; he gave me tasks that people found difficult to accomplish. I always made sure to accomplish on time. That is why I was appointed as the first female officer to head the Ogun State command in the service.
It was quite challenging because I was till nursing a baby. I try explaining to my boss, but he turned deaf hears. I also sent some senior officers to explain things to him and allow me till my child was a year old, but he refused. My boss said he knew I was capable of doing the job. So, I advise woman to be as strong like a man.
I advise mothers to encourage their children to always have role models and emulate positive things. Because my mother encouraged me to have one and it also helped me to make my journey easy in life. I also advise my children to have focus in life alongside a role model. One of my children, right from time, always insists on working with Bill Gates. He has Bill Gates' photographs in his room and reads his biography on how he became a computer genius; he studied computer engineering and now he is working with Microsoft.
Parents should always guide their children on how to accomplish their goals. So, it is very important to allow your children to have mentors.
Source: The Guardian