12 May 2019

Liberia: LIS Breaks From Tradition

-Dissolved Military Ranks; New Paramilitary Ranking System Introduced

Acting Immigration Commissioner General Moses K. Yebleh has with immediate effect announced the dissolution of all military ranks existing within the Immigration Service of Liberia.

"As of today's, date, we are migrating from those old military ranks that we were using to now paramilitary ranks that are in line with other immigration officers in the region. As we speak, if you go across those regions and you carry your Colonel or Lt. Colonel... ranks, they are not valid there," he said.

Most of those military ranks such as Sergeant, Colonel Lt. Colonel among several others were given to some individuals within the Immigration Service based on connection with some higher-ups in the past according to Acting Commissioner General Yebleh.

The Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), formerly the Bureau of Immigration & Naturalization (BIN) is charged with the primary responsibility to implement and enforce the Alien and Nationality Law of Liberia. Beside the Alien and Nationality Law, it is also governed by the Constitution of Liberia, the ECOWAS Protocols on Free Movements of persons, goods and services within the sub-region, international conventions and laws, among other instruments.

Speaking Friday, May 10, 2019 in Gbarnga Bong County, during the official launch of the Immigration new ranking structure, Yebleh said the new structure is intended to promote merit and efficiency within the Immigration service.

The launch of the document according to him, follow years of vigorous scrutiny through the help of stakeholders and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

He indicated further that the move is in line with the reform process currently ongoing at the Immigration Service, which is intended to make the service a paramilitary institution rather than a military entity where officers are bearing military ranks.

According to him, due to the lack of reforms over the years, the Immigration service has been the least paid paramilitary institution in Liberia.

As part of the new system according to him, ranks within the service will squarely be based on merit.

He noted that LIS's officers were asked to apply for ranks and upon receipt of those applications; a panel which has already been constituted will review the applications.

Those who applied will be compelled to sit and pass both a written and oral exam before such rank is commissioned.

Unlike in the past when ranks did not align with salary, Yebleh noted that as part of the new process, a communication will be forwarded to the Civil Servant Agency and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning so as to ensure those bearing the ranks are justly compensated.

"The first benefit that you are going to get is equal pay with your colleagues in the sector. Immigration right now is the least paid security entity, the least paid attention to... so to move from this point is to navigate from the military ranks and move on to the new ranks where our benefits will be looked at from a very positive note," he pointed amid huge applause from LIS officers attending the ceremony.

Also speaking was Attorney (Atty.) Massa Jallabah, an official of the Ministry of Justice who proxy for Justice Minister, Frank Musah Dean.

Attorney Jallabah admonished Immigration officers to be mindful of their felicitous responsibility toward the maintenance of peace in Liberia.

According to her, Immigration officers are the first line of contact by those entering the borders of Liberia and as such; their conducts should reflect a positive image of the country.

"You must realize that law enforcement is the fundamental component of the rule of law. Being a post-conflict nation, we have suffered from endemic destruction simply because of the failure to adhere to the rule of law. The breakdown of the rule of law gives rise to the high rate of crimes, violence and the general decline of individuals' security and safety and the internal security of the state. Without inadequate level of law enforcement, it is impossible to achieve sustainable peace and security or to reinforce the rule of law," she said.

At the same time, Attorney Jallabah also encouraged Immigration officers to accept and be a part of the reform process which is geared toward making the service a vibrant entity once more.

While acknowledging constraints facing the Immigration service, Attorney Jallabah promised that plans are underway to address those constraints.

The Gbarnga's ceremony brought together officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Liberia Institute of Public Administration (LIPA), the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), as well as the National Security Agency of Liberia (NSA).

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