Extortion and touting by Nigerian Immigration Officers Across the nation is becoming a worrisome thing, Despite the scorching sun, the crowd at the Nigeria Immigration passport offices, at fastac, Ikoyi, Ikeja, Lagos, kept swelling with exasperated Nigerians. Many of the applicants, who went with high hopes of getting their passports, however, left in frustration.
Most of the applicants needed the travel document urgently. Worry and anxiety were written on their faces as they lament their ordeal.
After a long conversation with our correspondent on how he had become frustrated after pursuing the document for over three months, some two one even said four mouths.
‘We have been coming here since February, they keep wasting people’s time. Nobody applies online, because they will not attend to you, they will not respond to your request or letters, So many people are just sitting down here and their files are unattended.
The documents for processing are not available; they say there are no booklets,” yet they will collect your money, encourage you to make payment, do data capturing then turn around to tell you there’s no booklet, and if you request for refund they will tell you, you paid into Federal Government acct, not to them.
one applicant, Patience, was also dejected when a journalist approached her and introduced himself as a journalist. She sneered, wondering how the reporter could help her situation.
After some persuasion, she opened up. “I gave up on Nigeria a long time ago. Nothing can be better. For the past three weeks, they have been asking me to bring one document or the other. My house is far away and I need the passport urgently. But they are saying there is no passport booklet.
“The officers said if I needed express (service), then I must add something to the fee they had already charged; they demanded between N10,000 and N15,000. But I am ready to even pay, except that there is a problem with my name that I needed them to correct. You know how things are done in Nigeria. Online, the fee is N17,000, but I was asked to pay N40,000, and that was because I went directly to an officer I knew. And on top of that, they are asking for extra money for express.”
Several other applicants lamented how they could not secure their passports because the officials claimed the booklets were not available yet those paying their express money are getting the passport that keeps me wondering the kind of nation Nigeria is.
Because despite the scarcity of the booklets, a few individuals seemed to be getting theirs. Some immigration officers around the security office near the main gate were observed counting naira notes collected from some applicants. who can pay their fee?
While our correspondent could not tell the purpose of the payment, it was observed that many applicants paid directly to the immigration officers to ease the process of the application. Several applicants confirmed this to a punch reporter.
A woman, who did not identify herself, said the process of the passport application had been hitch-free for her because “an uncle paid directly into the account of the officer handling it.”
The journalist also overheard an agent discussing with a client on the phone and talking about how he had been haggling the price for a 10-year passport for N95,000. He claimed that his link in the immigration office was demanding N120,000, which many Nigerians are paying, some pay as high as N150,000 for the 10-years passport.
In the Federal Capital Territory, the situation is not different. Findings indicate that passport applicants generally go through unofficial routes to obtain the booklets and pay exorbitantly.
Checks show that many NIS officers are taking advantage of the scarcity to engage in passport racketeering, it was revealed that the majority of the NIS official employed the tout who scout for clients outside and around the gate for them.
Many applicants have yet to get the passports months after going for biometric capture after paying the stipulated fees. Officials blamed the scarcity on the inadequate supply of booklets by the contractor, Iris Smart Technology Limited.
A passport applicant, Anselm Ansadi stated, “I discovered that getting the e-passport isn’t as easy as it sounds. After paying the necessary fees and doing the biometric capture, I was informed that the passport would be ready within a week and is over a month now, the passport is not ready.
“However, there is a scarcity of passports now. But if you go through an immigration officer (unofficially), you will finish your application and receive the passport booklet.”
The State Controller of Immigration, Mr Joachim Olumbah, promised to investigate and fish out those behind the passport racketeering in the command.
He said such unprofessional acts could not be denied, but noted that it was not an official endorsement from the command.
A lawyer, Deji Ajare, of the Sterling Centre, Abuja, said the failure of the government to issue passport booklets was a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of movement of the citizens.
Nigerians in the Diaspora, who are reportedly facing some form of difficulty over-processing of their passports, can benefit from renewal by postal service and the opening of more centres to cater to this need.”
Speaking in a similar vein, the Executive Director, United Global Resolve for Peace, Olaseni Shalom, argued that the passport scarcity was artificial and meant to subvert due process and enrich the pockets of a few corrupt officers.
The NIS spokesman, Sunday James, failed to respond to inquiries about what the service was doing to curb the unethical conduct by immigration personnel. He did not respond to calls and a text message sent to his phone on Wednesday.
Apparently roused from its slumber by the loud complaints from angry Nigerians, the Federal Government announced a policy statement it hopes would assuage the problem. The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said all passport backlogs would be issued on or before May 31, 2021, adding that those with issues with their applications would be contacted.