The Nigeria Police Force abodes the immigration service as The Immigration Department. However, in August 1958, the service was plugged off from the Force and endowed with the responsibilities of monitoring the affairs of immigration under the leadership of Mr.E.H. Harrison as the Chief Federal Immigration Officer (CFIO). As at the time of emergence as a department, the service as a very narrow scope compares to now that they have a very wide scope in migration management.
Because of the smaller scope, only two sections were formed in the department. These sections include
- The Visa and
- Business sections
During this time, the department maintained a low key in carrying out their duties for the fulfillment of the aims and objectives of the government. Constitutionally wise, during this time, the department has not been fully recognized as an independent entity formally.
The department was formally recognized and marked as an independent entity exactly five (5) years after their extraction from the Nigeria Police Force. In August 1963, the organization of the department got a new look when the department was formally established by an Act of Parliament, Cap 171, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. Because it was an extraction from the NPF, the former staffs were still retained but now called immigration officers. The CFIO was also changed to Director of Immigration (DOI). The Law also passed that the department will be a Civil Service Outfit under the supervision and control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). The structural reform of the department did not stop at this level but rather went on for further modification by giving the department a paramilitary status. In 1992, the name “Comptroller General of Immigration Service” was given to the head of the department to replace the former “Director of Immigration”. Hence, the last Director became the First Comptroller General of Immigration (CGI) in the person of Alhaji Garba Abbas. Since then, the service as noticed well-structured conformational changes, directly towards the proper management of the migration affairs. Also, the service has gone a long way in the implementation of new policies for the development of Nigeria Immigration affairs and performing the responsibilities of making alignments with regional and sub-regional political bodies. These included the introduction of Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) and African Affairs Division, Aliens Control and Border Patrol Management etc. Also, as part of accommodative to responsibilities, the service was also saddled with the responsibility of issuing all Nigerian travel document which included the Nigeria Passports in 1988.
The Immigration service, over the years, has learned the importance of ICT as we are now dwelling in the computer age. In June 1998, The service uses the application of ICT to introduce The Machine Readable Passport (MRP), which is a machine-readable travel document having the bio data on the identity page encoded in optical character recognition format and The Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card (CERPAC), which must be acquired by a foreigner in order to live in Nigeria. Since 2001, when those cards were introduced, the service has taken a bold step towards the use of ICT in the process of its operations. Among these steps is the introduction of the e-facility that enables online payment. This not only eases the workload on the service but also open the eyes of other government agency towards the use of ICT. Example include the e-revenue collection. Also, it has also brought fame and respect to the service being the first pioneer of e-payments.