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French Language Development and Governance in the Nigeria Immigration Service

By

Nnanna Roseline N.

Department Of Foundation Studies (Arts)

Port Harcourt City Polytechnic

Rumuola, P.M.B. 5936

Port Harcourt, Rivers State

Tel:     080332127590

&

Ojule, Emmanuel S.C.

Department Of Geography and Environmental Studies 

Faculty of Social Sciences

Ignatius Ajuru University of Education

Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt

TEL: 08029797039    Email: esc_ojule@yahoo.com

Abstract

Language is one of the most important areas of human development because it facilitates human communication skills, which constitutes the major characteristic that distinguishes humankind from other living things. More importantly, these skills are also sine qua non in social interactions among the various individuals. Language is one of such social interaction and also an integral part of a culture. French is an international language and used by more than 55 countries in the world, and spoken by more than 250 million people. This represents one quarter of the countries of the United Nations. It is also a language of more than 20 African countries. It is a language of instruction, business, trade and international diplomacy. Nigeria shares its borders with francophone countries: Chad, Niger, Benin and Cameroon. The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) is one agency of the federal government that is responsible for issuance of Nigerian international passport, Border patrol and provision of other various immigration facilities. The Nigeria international passport is written in both English and French languages. It is against this backdrop that this paper argues that it will be of great advantage to thoroughly equip the men and officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) with an international language such as French. The adequate and complete understanding of French language in speaking and writing will enhance their skills and service delivery especially in dealing with aliens, especially those that .speak French. Thus, they will be better equipped to handle some of the challenges that will arise from border patrol since Nigeria shares boundary with four francophone nations.

 

Key Words: French, Nigeria Immigration Service, foreign language, Francophone countries.

 

Introduction

Language is one of the most important areas of human development as it is learnt because it facilitates humancommunication skills. Language is spoken and understood by people and it constitutes the major characteristics that distinguishes human kind from other animals. More importantly, these skills are also sine qua non in social interactions. Language is one of such social interactions and also an integral part of a culture. Languages are the bedrock of the world’s cultural heritage. Every language offers a rich, diverse and unique insight into different ways of thinking and living as well as into the history of myriad of cultures and peoples (Ogunleke, 2016). Language therefore is one of the major constituents of culture. Furthermore, to properly understand the language spoken by a group of people, the knowledge of various aspects of the culture of that group of people is absolutely necessary.

Human development can only be sustained when people, individually and collectively are exposed to new and greater opportunities only when human beings communicate with one another. Thus for any meaningful and sustainable development to take place, therefore, access to information is paramount and important.When one is not informed or properly informed, abuse is inevitable. Meanwhile, the main channel of information flow is communication thereby making communication a preeminent factor in developmental efforts. If effective communication is the taproot of development, then language related issues could not be toyed with since language enjoys the sine qua non position in communication.

French language is an international language spoken virtually in all the continents of the world. According to Ogunleke (2016) French is used by more than 55 countries in the world by more than 250 million people and this represents one quarter of the countries of the United Nations. In Africa, it is an official language of 20 countries. French is a language of instruction, language of government and inter-governmental organizations, business, commerce, trade and international diplomacy/foreign relations. With the advent of globalization in the 20th century, where the world is becoming more and more of a global village, where no country can boast of being autarkical, it becomes imperative that every modern man should speak more than one international language (Ogunleke, 2016). The French language is a major international language of communication, and is second only to English. In international institutions, French and English enjoy the same status (Ogunleke,2016).

 

Nigeria was colonized by the British and hence English language was automatically adopted as official language (lingua franca) in the country. However, cognizant of the very fact that Nigeria shares its borders with francophone countries (Benin Republic, Niger Republic, Cameroon and Chad) and as well as the contemporary globalization trend sweeping across the world that has virtually transformed the international system into a global village; and equally, the very fact that there is no international lingua franca, but a plurality of language that have assumed international character, there is therefore, the urgent need for Nigerians and Nigerian institutions, in this respect, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to embrace a second international language which cannot be over-emphasized. And of course, that international language should be French which is widely spoken around the world. This will enable Nigerians to be able to interact effectively with her francophone neighbours and as well function efficiently in international diplomacy.

 

Synopsis of the French Language

    According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family which descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance language. The language evolved from audo-Roman, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closet relatives are the other language historically spoken in northern France and in Southern Belgium which French has largely supplanted. Today, owing to France’s past colonial activity, there are numerous French based Creole languages, most notably, Haitian Creole. In both English and French languages, a French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as “francophone”

French is an official language in 29 countries, most of which are members of the Organization International de la Francophone(OIF), the community of 84 countries which share the official use of teaching of French. Furthermore, French has a long history as an international language of literature and scientific standards and in a primary or second language of many international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In 2011, Bloombery Businessweek ranked French as the third most useful language for business after English and Standard Mandarin Chinese ( Laueman, 2011).

According to European Commission (2012) French is the third-most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union, just behind English. Thus of Europeans who speak other language natively, approximately one-fifth are able to speak French as a second language (Hammarstrom et al, 2017). French is the most second taught foreign language in the European Union (Develey  2017). In 2013, approximately 40% of the francophone population (including 1.2 and partial speakers) lived in Europe, 35% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 15% in North Africa and the Middle East, 8% in the Americas, and 1% in Asia and Oceania (European Commission, 2017).

As a result of French and Belgian colonialism from the 16th century onward, French was introduced to new territories in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Most second-language speakers reside in francophone Africa, in particular Gabon, Algeria, Mauritius Senegal and Cote d’ivore (OIF, 2007).  According to Develey (2017) in 2015, French was estimated to have 190 million native speakers and 77 to 110 million secondary speakers. Approximately, 274 million people are able to speak the language (Europa, 2007).According to demographic projection led by the Université Laval and the Reseau Demographie de l’Agence Universitaire de la francophone, total French speakers will number approximately 500 million people in 2025 and 650 million people by 2050 (Agova, 2011).The organization international de la francophone (OIF) in a report in the status of French in the world estimates 700 million people by 3050, 80% or whom will be in Africa.

 

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS)

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) is a federal parastatal of the Ministry of Interior (formally Ministry of Internal Affairs). It is a paramilitary organization headed by a Comptroller General. The service has witnessed series of changes since it was extracted from the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) in 1958. The Immigration Department as it was known then was entrusted with the core immigration duties under the headship of the Chief Federal Immigration Officer (CFIO). The Department in its embryo stage inherited the Immigration Ordinance of 1958 for its operation. At the inception the Department had a narrow operational scope and maintained a low profile and simple approach in altering the desire goals and objectives of the government. During this period, only the Visa and Business Sections were set up.

On August 1st 1963, Immigration came of age when it was formally established as an Act of Parliament (Cap. 171, Laws of the Federation Nigeria). The head of the department then was the Director of Immigration. Thus the first set of immigration officers were former NPF officers. It became a department under the control and supervision of the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs (FMIA) as a civil service unit.

The service mission is “to be an IT driven, security outfit that can conveniently address the operational challenges of modern immigration and to give the service a new sense of direction that can make it relevant at all times to the world security order and global trend”. The Service issues international passport to Nigerians, patrols our borders, oversees the admission of foreigners into the country, and provision of immigration facilities needed in the country. The NIS has three Directorates, eight zonal Offices, thirty six state commands and federal capital territory and immigration offices in the 774 local government areas across the country. The three directorates are: Finance, Administration and Technical Services, Investigation, Inspectorate and Enforcement; and

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), a Para -military organization under the Federal Ministry of Interior is responsible for issuance of Nigerian International Passport, border patrol, and regulations of aliens into the country. It should be noted that Nigeria international passport is written in both English and French languages. In the light of the above services provided by NIS and as well as the provision of various immigration facilities, it becomes imperative for this paper to argue for the equipping of the men and officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS)with another international language such as French as it is the most taught foreign language in the world after English language (Golbert& Nnanna, 2005). It argues that this additional language skill will enhance their service delivery as they deal more with foreigners than Nigerians. The ability of the men and officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service to effectively interact in French language will go a long way in policing our borders and deal with immigrants from our francophone neighbours as well as other immigration issues.

 

The French Language and Nigeria

    Nigeria maintains a high level of international relations with a lot of countries around the world that speak such international languages as English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Russian, Italian, Arabic, etc. Nigeria’s relationship with France is over one hundred years old. According to Ogunleke (2016), the Nigeria-France relationship dates back to 1905; and the aims & objectives of such relationship include the promotion and integration of peace, social, economic and political interest among the people of these two great nations in order to forge stability, strong programmes and education, information, culture, literature, science and technology, migration, language, among others.

There have been ways the federal government of Nigeria has indicated interest in the promotion of French language in Nigeria. Two of such ways are discussed here. First in December 1996 when the 19th Franco-African Summit was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The summit is the annual meeting of France and her old colonies. The Nigerian Head of State then, Gen. Sani Abacha was invited to that meeting in his capacity as the ECOWAS chairman (Economic Community of West African States). A few days after the Ouagadougou summit, the Head of State declared in Abuja at the occasion of the 1996 Annual Patrons’ Dinner of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Abuja. He said:“Nigeria will embark on a vigorous language programme that should ensure that our people within the shortest possible time become bilingual”. 

From that speech, it should be noted that the then Head of State was concerned with sub-regional integration in West Africa. In our opinion, we believe this declaration by Gen. Sani Abacha should be of much interest to diplomats, policy makers, decision makers and government agencies, including in this respect, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). Another reason for the declaration may be the need for new linguistic bilingual orientation in Nigeria in order for us to understand our francophone neighbours, Benin Republic, Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon and as well as help Nigerians who will be travelling to other West African countries which speak French for business, trade, commerce, and other activities. Such a bilingual orientations among Nigerians is indeed a very laudable one. It should be noted that inspite of this laudable declaration by Gen. Sani Abacha on 14th December, 1996, no appraisal effort has been made by successive administration towards the ‘bilingualisation’ of Nigeria or Nigerians.

Anothereffort to encourage French Language development is through the Nigerian Policy on Education on French. According to the Nigeria National Policy on Education (2004:10), it states that:

 

For Smooth Interact ion with our neighbours, isdescribe for every Nigerian to speak French. Accordingly, French shall be second official language in Nigeria and it shall be compulsory in primary and junior secondary schools.

 

Since the formulation of that policy, the policy has being made to remain a mere policy, with no action, nor follows-up (Ogunleke, 2016). It only ends up for the pupils and students to pass it in the examinations.

 

Development of French Language in Nigeria Schools

    The advent of French language as a school subjects in Nigeria dates back as far as before our national independence in 1st October, 1960, 1960. According to Brann (1997) in Gilbert and Nnanna (2015), French was first introduced in St. Anne’s School, Lagos in 1891. Omolewa (1971) gave a different date of 1859 at CMS Grammar School, Lagos. It should be noted that while the exact date French language came into being in our school system is not very important to our discussion in this paper, rather we are interested in how it can be integrated into the Nigeria Immigration Service whereby their men and officers can speak, write and understand it and use it freely in the course of their operations.

The National Policy on language education of every country makes a list of some languages to be taught in schools in order of their importance and relevance to their national development and international integration and assimilation. For this same reason, the Nigerian National Policy on language education was English as the official language status and some other Nigerian languages enjoying the status. The last group of the privileged languages listed under the heading of foreign languages includes French and Arabic. However, Bariki (1999) disputed the designation of Arabic as solely a foreign language in Nigeria. He opines that Arabic is partly an indigenous language and partly a foreign language in Nigeria. Thus looking at it critically, both French and Arabic occupy the position of the most important and most crucial foreign language to Nigerians and this was the reason for the establishment Nigerian French Language village in Badagry, Lagos in 1991 and the Nigerian- Arabic Language village at Ngala, Bornu State in 1992.

In analyzing the factors that are responsible for the choice of foreign language to be taught in school system, in any given country,Ajiboye in Bariki (1999) formulated four principles. We shall use these principles to analyze the basics for the prestigious position of French as the first foreign language in Nigeria. These principles are stated below:

 

  1. Principle of geographical neighbourhood
  2. Principle of diplomacy

iii.    Principle of technological advancement

  1. Principle of global interdependence

While one can conveniently say that French satisfies all the four principles, the same cannot be true of Arabic. French is the official language of Nigeria’s bordering countries (Benin Republic, Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroon) and Arabic is not. Both French and Arabicare language of diplomacy thereby making both languages satisfy the second principle. However, while French is a mother tongue and official language of highly technological advanced nations such as France, Canada, and more of the Arabic speaking nations is celebrated as a technologically advanced nations. Both languages satisfy the principle of global interdependence. The result of this analysis shows that French meets all the four conditions while Arabic meets only two. When Ajiboye’s principles are used as parameters to determine the most relevant foreign language in Nigeria, French will be the incontrovertible choice. Another angle through which one can look at the importance of French language in Nigeria is the position of Nigeria within the West African sub-region.

 

According to Okeke(1999), Nigeria’s leadership role within ECOWAS would be more meaningful when Nigerians are able to speak the official languages of the other subordinate countries in the sub-regional community which is predominantly French out of the sixteen countries that make up ECOWAS, nine are French speaking (Bourkina Faso, Togo, Benin Rep, Niger Rep, Guinea, Senegal, Cote D’ivoire, Mali and Mauritania), five are English speaking ( Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Liberal and Sierra Leone) and there are Portuguese speaking (Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde).

For being the official language of nine out of sixteen countries, French enjoys the status or simple majority with 56.3% of the languages spoken in West Africa; English 31.3% and finally 12.5%. Although in population size, English Language has more number of people. Therefore, French is the frontline language of ECOWAS. It also makes economic sense to say that Nigerians should be the ones to learn French speaking West African countries put together. By implication Nigeria is supposed to be more economically capable of promoting the learning of French in different level of our educational  system starting from the primary to the tertiary level rather than making these other countries to promote the learning of English with their meager financial resources.

The socio-economic and political relevance of French within Nigeria is another important aspect cannot be totally ignored when analyzing the importance of the language. In Nigeria, there are several French companies doing business in Nigeria that would need the services of professionals who have working knowledge of French language. These professionals also include the men and officers of t he Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) who process the immigration papers of these French nationals before entering the country. Some of the French enterprises which transact businesses in Nigeria are: CFAO, SCOA, BNP, Total, Total Fina ELF, Michelin, Peugeot, Bouygues, SAE, BEC Freres, SGE, Fougerolle, Degremont, and SPIE-Batignolles. These companies are engaged in different areas of the Nigerian economy such as oil exploration and production, manufacturing, trading, construction, etc.

When all these factors are aggregated together, one becomes convinced that the importance/relevance of French as a foreign language in Nigeria will no longer be disputable. +once the resolutions contained in the National Political Conference Reforms in 2005 in Abuja was that French language teaching should be vigorously pursued at the secondary school level because of its relevance in the West African sub-region. Having established some of the factors that make French an important language in Nigeria, this paper is going to argue in favour of the relevance of French language in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).

 

Concept of Governance

The term governance has been described in several ways by different people as conceived by them based on their backgrounds. For the purposes of this paper, the term will be discussed from the perspective of government based on the constitution being dealt with in this context. According to Bevir (2013), governance is all of process of governing, whether undertaken by government, market or network, whether over a family, tribe, formal or informal organization or territory and whether through the laws, norms, power or language of an organized society. In the view of Hufty (2011), it relates to the “processes of interaction and decision making among the actors involved on a collective problem that lead to the creation, reinforcement or reproduction of social norms and institutions. In lay terms, it could be described as the political processes that exist in between formal institutions.

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, governance is the way the rules, norms and action are structured, sustained, regulated and held accountable; and the degree of formality depends on the internal rules of a given organization and externally, with its business partners. The encyclopedia further posits that as such, governance may take many forms, driven by many different motivations and with many different results.

Bell (2002) submits that governance often refers to a particular “level of governance associated with a type of organization (including public governance, global governance, non-profit  governance, corporate governance, and project governance) a particular “field of governance associated with a type of activity or outcome (including environmental governance, internet governance, and information  technology governance) or a particular ‘model’ of governance, often derived as an empirical or normative theory (including regulatory governance, participatory governance, multilevel governance, meta governance, and collaborative governance).

According to a document prepared by the European Commission, the use of the term governance in its current broader sense, encompassing the activities of a wide range of public and private institutions, acquired general currency only as recently as the 1990’s, when  it was re-minted by economists and political scientists and disseminated by institutions such as the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. (EU,n.d.)Since then, the term has steadily gained increasing usage.

 

French Language and Governance in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS)

Having established that governance relates to the processes of interaction and decision-making among the actors involved in a collective problem that lead to the creation, reinforcement, or reproduction of social norms and institutions, it becomes imperative at this juncture to  relate French language to governance in the Nigeria Immigration Service. This is because the Nigeria Immigration Service is a public sector organization that will benefit immensely if French language is introduced in the services of that the men and officers of the service will be bilingual. This language and governance are therefore intertwined as when we learn a language, it enhances our communication skills. Introducing French language in Nigeria Immigration Service can enhance the career personnel of this service even after retiring from the service. With globalization, permeating every aspect of the human society, the Nigeria Immigration Service will not be left behind. With the increased popularity of this language in the NIS, the tackling of illegal immigrants problem especially from the four Francophone countries will be minimized as the interaction between them and the service is enhanced. Furthermore, dealing with legal immigrants who speak French and aiming at our international airport especially concerning then them and other entry permits will easily handled as customs officials will be able to effectively communicate with them and candle then issues ,

Since the acquisition of international language’s remain a virile toolfor successful international relations.The Nigeria Immigrations Service has to transcend the culture of mediocrity  to that of touch of excellence as it will be properly integrated into the fabric of the international system for better service delivery. This is because, Nigeria is a force to reckon with in the “international comity of nations

 

The Relevance and Necessity of French Language in Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS)

Having examined Nigeria as an Anglophone country bordered by four francophone countries and also in the context of ECOWAS; the French language as an  international language in the world used in business, commerce, trade, diplomacy and international relations and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), as the foremost agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria  for border patrol and processing of all categories of Visas available to expiates desire of travelling to Nigeria for various reasons and purposes, it therefore becomes very imperative at this juncture to examine the overriding relevance and necessity of French language in the Nigeria Immigration Service.

From the activities and operations of the Nigeria Immigration Service, and Nigeria being bordered by Francophone countries and for NIS to achieve its mission statement and vision, it  becomes imperative for French language to be fully integrated into this organization for efficient and effective service delivery. There is need therefore to inculcate the teaching and learning of French language in the Nigeria Immigration Service. Thus in  the course of training them in their training schools or centres, there is need for their curriculum to accommodate courses like French language be introduced in the system of their training. When all officers and men of the Nigeria Immigration Service are fluent in speaking and writing of  French language, their job will made much easier especially in dealing with immigrants entering the country whose official language is French and as well as in border patrol since Nigeria is surrounded by four Francophone countries.

When the men and officers of NIS are proficient in French other than English will enable them to have a wider communicative and writing perspective as bilingual security operatives. The aim of the French language module in their training and operations is to develop the listening skills and their speaking ability and to enable them use simple French expressions to communicate in everyday life and situations. Though, the course outlines lay emphasis on oral communication, basic and important reading and writing skills should also be taught and encouraged so that its effect will be felt by the men and officers of NIS. As earlier stated, Nigeria International Passport is written in English and French languages, it becomes absolutely necessary for the officers and men of NIS should be well versed in written and spoken abilities and skills in French language. Learning French language among men and officers of NIS effectively position them to secure our borders as they patrol them as language is a powerful medium of communication among people. The NIS is the only Nigerian security organization that regularly interacts with aliens entering the country whether legally or illegally. In the area of illegal entry at the borders, their communication in French will enable NIS officials to track down those illegal immigrants. With popularity of this language in NIS it will go a long way to enhance their operational services.

Furthermore, as a way to still further the popularization of this language within the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) as a matter of policy through the Federal Ministry of Interior which oversees the NIS, “that men and officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service should be bilingual in written and spoken  French language”. When this policy is formulated and backed up relevant laws of the National Assembly, it will revolutionalize French language in Nigeria and as well as that of the Nigeria Immigration Service. This will also be of monumental assistance to other sister Para-military organizations such as the Nigeria Custom Service (NCS), Nigeria Prison Service (NPS) and the Nigeria Civil Defense Corps (NCDC)  as they are engaged in one security service or the other

 

Conclusion

Man communicates with one another through the use of languages and French is one of the languages of communication. French is an international language and its effect is seen in the context of globalization, especially in the areas of trade, commerce, business and international diplomacy and relations. French language education was introduced in Nigeria in the 19th century, and since then has been continually encouraged. For instance, successive  Nigerian government have realized the need for Nigeria to be bilingual by adding French language to the already existing English language which is the Lingua Franca in the country. Over the terms, audable policies and programmes have been made in this regard but no appreciable efforts have been made to achieve this feat in the country. However, since the acquisition of international languages remains a virile tool for successful international relations and diplomacy, efforts should be made to encourage French language education and development at any level in Nigeria.

Although much has been said about French language education in Nigeria, it is pertinent to add that the bilingualism of the men and officers of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) is a necessity that must be achieved considering the nature of their job. As the second most important international language in Nigeria, its relevance to the operational activity of NIS cannot be overemphasized as Nigeria has to transcend our culture of mediocrity. The adequate and complete understanding of French language in both speaking and writing will enhance their skill and service delivery and will stimulate the interest of other Para-military organizations in the language. The federal government should come up with such policy and the NIS should lay the roadmap for effective implementation of that policy. At this juncture, adequate funding and recruitment of qualified professional should be encouraged in NIS. Therefore, the relevant instructional materials and well-equipped language laboratories for the effective teaching and learning of French language in NIS should be procured and maintained and the ripple effect will be manifested in the lives of men and officers of NIS.

   

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Published inNumber 2Volume 5