British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, and Minister of Interior, Lieutenant General Abdulrahman Dambazau, on Wednesday jointly inaugurated a N56 million Returnees Reception Centre at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
It was a donation by the British government to the Nigerian Immigration Service.
An exited Dambazau said the centre was part of efforts to enhance service delivery and in line with global best practice in modern migration management.
He said it was also in line with the Memorandum of Understanding signed between Nigeria and the United Kingdom on June 1, 2005.
According to him, it will deepen the robust partnership between the two countries in migration management and be a symbol of their commitment to respect human rights of migrants to dignified returns.
Dambazau reaffirmed the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to the protection of the rights of Nigerians wherever they are and promised improved service delivery to Nigerians in diaspora.
He said: “We have given directive to the NIS to fast track issuance of passports.
“The Ministry of Interior is working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that the current global migration crises do not target Nigerians specifically.
“We will also continue to provide consular assistance to those with legal and medical reasons when it comes to deportation.”
Arkwright said Nigeria was a valued partner to the United Kingdom, stressing that Nigeria was the third highest source of visitors to the country.
He said Buhari had on several occasions made it clear to Nigerians overseas not to run afoul of the laws of their host countries in order to bolster Nigeria’s reputation.
According to him, the centre was constructed in about two years with N56 million and will help facilitate the processing of returnees to the country in a dignified manner.
The high commissioner said: “Currently, approximately 50 Nigerians are removed on a six-weekly basis, with flights arriving into the cargo terminal of the MMIA.
“Until now, the cargo terminal did not have any arrivals facility for these inbound passengers.
“What this meant if you can remember back to around six weeks ago was that returnees were processed by immigration officials on the aircraft, which I know has not been the best working environment for you.”
Arkwright said the issue of returnees and their luggage being left at the tarmac for significant periods had been eliminated with the inauguration of the centre.
He added that it was equipped with modern facilities that would assist in the processing, rehabilitation and reintegration of the returnees by the Nigerian authorities.
Muhammad Babandede, the Comptroller General of the NIS, urged the officers of the service to ensure proper maintenance of the centre in order to realise its objective.
Babandede also warned them against maltreatment of returnees, stressing that the Federal Government was committed to protecting the rights of all Nigerians, irrespective of their circumstances.