PUBLIC RELATIONS PRACTICE AND CORPORATE IMAGE OF NIGERIA IMMIGRATION SERVICE (NIS), AKWA IBOM STATE COMMAND, UYO
This study was on the Public Relations practice and corporate image of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Akwa Ibom State command, Uyo. The research method used was survey and participant observation. The universe of this study consists of the publics of NIS, Uyo which comprised: the staff (employees); Nigerians resident in Uyo, but seeking standard International passport; the expatriate workers (Non-Nigerians) and ECOWAS/Africans – all resident in Uyo. The population of the study was one Thousand, Nine Hundred and Twelve (1,912) and the sample size of Two Hundred and Eighty Six (286) was selected using purposive sampling technique. Data was collected using two sets of structured questionnaire and interview sessions as well as participant observation. Data were analyzed using frequency tables and percentages. The findings of this study reveal that more than one-three quarter (86%) of the publics of NIS, Uyo were aware of the existence and practice of Public relations in NIS, Uyo. 70% of the public agree that NIS, Uyo is credible owing to its public relations practice and this promoted the external publics desire for employment (65%). 67% of the publics believed that the service delivery of NIS, Uyo requires improvement as they submitted that it is normal. This corroborated with findings of the participant observer who reported a poor SERVICOM unit. Employee relations, welfare and management are positively promoted by the command’s PR practice (74%) even as the participant observer agreed with the CIS on regular internal redeployment and correspondence with the service publics as major strategy towards impacting on the corporate image of NIS, Uyo. It was recommended that public enlightenment programmes should certainly be organized to keep the public abreast of developments in the service. An upgrade of PR unit with professionals would engender more public friendly disposition and desired output. Further research that would test hypothesis is also recommended in the discipline of public Relations in NIS, Uyo.
1.1 Background to the Study
As the challenges of globalization and modern migration assume more sophisticated dimensions, the need for further transformation and restructuring of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) becomes expedient. This is unlike the past when immigration duties had a narrow operational scope.
Critics have consistently asked these questions:“Why is NIS, a Department under Ministry of Interior instead of External Affairs Ministry since their activities are anchored more on immigrants?”NIS duties include revenue generation and combating irregular migration using public relation approach.
Ajayi (1997) notes, in Public Relations, no amount of campaign can improve a bad service or product. That is why organizations could devote more time to improving their corporate image and look more inward than outward. Where external image is promoted at the expense of good internal image, it is going to be short-lived because the service seekers or customers will soon uncover the truth.
Some of the major goals of public relations are to create, maintain and protect the organization’s reputation, enhance its prestige and present a favourable image. Image building is essential in the eyes of an organization’s publics be them internal or external. Therefore how an organization relates to its public can make or demean it. Effective public relations requires knowledge based on analysis and understanding of all factors that influence public attitude towards the organization.
NIS, being under the Board of Customs, Immigrations, Prisons, CIPB, in early 1990’s suffered major problems. The Board was saddled with the affairs of the Civil Service Commission in relation to Recruitment, Promotion and Discipline. Having made progress in this direction, the Board further received power from the Federal Government of Nigeria, FGN, to assume full responsibility of the three Services-Customs, Immigration and Prisons.
In its policies and programme of action to move the three services forward, a major paralytic policy made by the board within the period under review is “transfer of service”. This policy has long inhibited growth of the service in many facets including its character and image. No sooner had the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, exited from the Board (CIPB), than the Board of Immigrations and Prisons (IPB) expanded with the addition of Civil Defense Corps and Fire Service, forming what is now called Civil Defense, Fire and Immigration Prisons Board (CDFIPB)
CDFIPB, now does the same functions as it were, CIPB. Even though the new Board is perceived an umpire on the affairs of these services that made it up, there have been growing interference on its core duties from the Ministry of Interior. The latest was the infamous recruitment exercise of 15th February, 2014, alleged to have been conducted by Nigeria Immigration Service. This huge mistake was not from the board (CDFIPB,) neither NIS, but the Ministry of Interior. In NIS war against irregular migrants, the use of checks points, control post and fencing lines in border communities and coastal water boundaries needed be applied. Before these measures can be introduced, the service needs the understanding of the hosts who could equally act as informants, thereby easing the challenges that come with the job. To identify with its objectives, the communities need to be intensely sensitized. The lack of this has often led to conflicts resulting to burning of the service checkpoints or invasion and destruction of its control posts by host communities.
In this information age, it is necessary to educate, sensitize and even inundate the various publics with information regarding functions, facilities, rules and penalties for defaults and the NIS expectations from them.NIS, Akwa Ibom State Command, Uyo, with a public relations unit, is one of the forty-three (43) Commands in the federation charged with the responsibility of executing immigration functions. This study seeks to assess public relations practice of this service and its impact on her corporate image.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, has long suffered image problems since inception.In August 1963, the newly born NIS, was deeply cloaked in the old traditions of the civil service. As it seeks a better corporate identity, efforts were made within the last two decades at the leadership level to establish a Public Relations (PR) section in the NIS headquarters, Abuja. Although not managed by Immigration officers of professional public relations qualifications at a time, the PR section, even without its own budget allocation and unnecessary interference to its duties by its management, seems to have wobbled to progressive stability. Today almost all the forty-three (43) commands of NIS in the Federation have PR units. However, the proliferation of PR units across length and breadth of NIS seems to have failed to address irregular migration of prohibited persons which hitherto had metamorphosed into MAITASINE of 1990 and most recently, BOKO-HARAM – a ravenous threat to the safety, peace and tranquility of Nigeria nation. Also, a prolonged scourge of human trafficking. It seems that NIS, Public Relation sections and Units have failed to establish unwavering policies and programme of actions which remain defiant even in the face of changing times of this democratic dispensation. A case in point is the infamous NIS recruitment of Feb. 15th 2014.
A Few years ago, NIS was not part of Akwa Ibom State’s security apparatus. It was denied its due recognition owing to what seems to be a public relations error. However, with the ascendancy of His Excellency, Governor Godswill Akpabio, the service was reintegrated after demonstrating what appears to be a goodwill engagement.
NIS, PR unit, Uyo, is an appendage of the overall forty-three (43) Command PR units of NIS with headquarters in Sauka, Abuja.However, it seems the lack of budgetary allocations, and inordinate abuse of its independence appears to flow from the top to the bottom. As a result NIS Uyo’s PR unit is yet to carve a niche for itself through PR practices and subsequently give NIS, Akwa Ibom State Command a desired corporate image.