Does naming and shaming ever really work in Nigeria?

Quite a number of Nigeria’s ex-government officials have unsuprisingly refused to return their diplomatic passports. As such, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) will soon publish the names of former Ministers, Governors and members of the National and State Assemblies who are illegally in possession of official and diplomatic passports. This comes after the NIS was initially set to commence the arrest of former ministers, governors, and lawmakers who failed to return their diplomatic passports to the service.

The Comptroller-General of the NIS, Martin Abeshi disclosed this while giving detail for his programme to the agency in Abuja, yesterday.”I am advising that those who have not returned these facilities [diplomatic and official passports] should bring them because very soon,  I will publish the names of those who collected official and diplomatic passports.” He also emphasized that despite all due respect to elder statesmen, the diplomatic passports in their possession need to be returned immediately.

While the naming and shaming strategy may have seemed like the best option, it didn’t necessarily have an adverse effect on the defaulters. Except for some rants on social media and one or two lawsuits for unspecified damages, many in the past seem to take it rather well. This is the second time within the last two months that authorities have been forced to take such drastic measures. In April, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directed all financial institutions to commence publication of the names of loan defaulters from August 1 in at least three national newspapers. After a three-month grace period deposit banks in Nigeria published about 1,426 names of loan defaulters. Astoundingly, prominent Nigerian businesspersons and politicians were featured in the list of billionaire and millionaire debtors. There have been no reports so far suggesting that some of these individuals cleared their debts after the list was released.

The reluctance of ex-government officials to return their passports is hardly surprising considering that handing in this documentation would prevent international travel on official state business or as representative of the national government. It is very likely that regardless of whether the NIS publishes the names or not, many unauthorised holders will hang on to the diplomatic passports. Only a little over 200 passports have been retrieved since this directive was given, whereas the NIS urged 21 former governors, 42 ex-ministers and 309 former members of the National Assembly to return their diplomatic passports.

General, Mr. Martin Abeshi noted that the passports could also be submitted to Comptrollers of the State commands all over the country who have been mandated to collect the documents from the illegal holders.

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