On 21st August, 2023, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo strolled into the office complex of the Federal Ministry of Interior to kick start what may be correctly described as the fastest and most visible transformation of a government ministry, department or agency in Nigeria’s recent history.
In his maiden interaction with the heads of agencies and parastatals under his ministry, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo was blunt about his mission. He said, “I am here to work, but in working we must have a good environment. The work of this ministry affects everyone, whether you are rich or poor. I am here to make a change and to deliver results, and I need you to help me do that.”
To underscore his readiness for result-oriented leadership, the Minister also said, “I don’t lead from the back; I lead from the front. We will try, and we will do our best to provide leadership built on the foundation of your support!” 62 days later, when you look at the milestones he has accomplished you would scarcely believe that Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo is just over two months in office.
The first agency of government that witnessed the transformative touch of the Minister was the Nigerian Immigration Service.
Upon his resumption of office, the music in the Nigerian Immigration Service was that of delays in production of international passports leading to a backlog of 204,332 passports pending production. The Minister swung into action immediately and on September 7th, gave a marching order to the NIS to clear the backlogs within 2 weeks. In just over 2 weeks, the backlog of 204,332 passports were cleared!
The Minister did not stop at that, he promised Nigerians that henceforth passport application processes must be completed within a 2-week timeline from the moment a successful application is received to the production of the international passport. Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo described the Nigerian passport as a right of every Nigerian and not a privilege. He unveiled an unprecedented plan for home delivery of passports to applicants by February 2024, further reducing the stress for Nigerians!
The scale of the backlogs and the record time within which they were cleared by the NIS was a pure testament to what a determined and focused leadership can bring to an agency. The Tunji-Ojo performance fever simply caught the NIS and they put in a shift to deliver. However, despite the universal accolades and commendation he got for pulling off a seemingly difficult wager, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo was eager to move his attention unto other areas that require reforms under his ministry.
The Nigerian Correctional Service is one agency yearning for massive reforms starting with the decongestion of the Correctional Centers, which are populated beyond capacity most times due to the high number of inmates awaiting trials as well as those who are only stuck in these Correctional centres because they could not pay court-imposed fines to regain their freedom.
The Minister for Interior, as part of his first steps upon assumption of office, set up a team to ascertain and review the situation of our Correctional Centers. They discovered that more than 4000 inmates out of the 79,000 total inmates in these centers were in custody because of inability to pay a cumulative fine of just over N500 million. The Minister immediately moved to find a solution to this problem by appealing to the private sector to raise the fines as part of their CSR so that these 4000 inmates could be freed and reunite with their families.
On 19th October, 2023, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo announced that progress has been made in raising the N500 million fines and assured that the inmates will be released in the next four (4) weeks. This is another clear target and a definitive timeline of action by the Super Minister!
The anticipated release of the 4000 inmates from Correctional facilities across the country is just the beginning of the reforms planned by the Interior Minister in the NCS. The ultimate goal of Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo is to transform correctional homes into centres of rehabilitation rather than condemnation. This includes a planned overhaul of the physical structures of these centers to make them conducive for rehabilitation of inmates.
Perhaps the most important area of focus to Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo is internal and border security, which forms part of the key mandate of the Ministry of Interior. In fact, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo was recently quoted as saying: “I have no excuse whatsoever not to secure the nation’s borders, I don’t want to be remembered solely as the Minister who resolved passport backlog issues, there are more significant challenges…”
National security starts with border security. This is why the Minister has been engaging widely with all relevant agencies, stakeholders and international partners to discuss critical areas of reforms in that regard, especially as it relates to addressing the challenges posed by illegal migration, countering organized crime, and fortifying border management through the effective deployment of technology. This is a work in progress and one that Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo will definitely see to a logical conclusion.
For decades Nigeria has seem unable to find a way to make its borders less porous and secure. The effect of this failure has ultimately been the increase in transborder crimes and movement of illegal aliens across our borders, which threaten Nigeria’s national security. The Minister of Interior being a goal getter will definitely bring about effective reforms that would make our international borders more secure and give Nigeria a decent control on migration at various entry points.
The Federal Fire Service is another agency under the supervision of the Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo and within 62 days the service has already witnessed an uplift in their capacity to tackle fire outbreaks with the commissioning of many fire engines and rapid intervention vehicles by the Minister two weeks ago. Under the leadership of Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, the Federal Fire Service will definitely rise to its responsibility of preventing fire disasters, efficient fire fighting and even creating thousands of jobs for economic prosperity. This is a guarantee.
The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp is yet another parastatal under the Ministry of Interior, which the Minister, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo has identified as key to ensuring Nigeria’s national security. The NSCDC has underperformed historically when it comes to one of their core functions of protecting Nigeria’s assets and resources from vandalism and illegal exploration/exploitation.
The Minister has announced that reforms are underway in the NCSDC, and is set to reposition all the paramilitary agencies under his watch to out-think and stay ahead of criminals through continuous research and analysis of emerging security threats, with a view to instituting counter measures to foil these threats. The operational capacities of these agencies will definitely witness a massive improvement in the coming months and years.
The recent visit of the Minister to the his colleague at the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, Dele Alake shows clearly that Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo is putting in place a multifaceted approach involving inter-ministerial collaboration to ensure our internal security and by extension our national security is guaranteed. Illegal miners and exploiters of our solid minerals as well as vandals of our national assets need to find a new job.
When you aggregate the steps taken by the Minister of Interior in the past couple of weeks, It is not difficult to see that the general vision of this quintessential public servant called Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo is very simple – an environment where international passports will be very easily accessible and inexpensive for Nigerians to acquire; a correctional service that is properly equipped and transformed to reform inmates; effectively secured borders; protection of Nigeria’s public installations from vandalism; and a world class fire service that will be very efficient and respond to fire emergencies in record time.
At this rate, few can bet against Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo not achieving these targets.