Editorial

Corruption in Passport Offices

The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) needs to address the corruption that has taken over its Passport Offices across the country. An article was recently published in a daily newspaper detailing the nature and depth of deep-rooted corruption among NIS officials in the Lagos and Oyo Passport Offices.

Alausa-passport-office
Alausa-passport-office

The problem is, however, not peculiar to these two states alone. Corrupt officials extort Nigerians applying for passports, making them pay sometimes up to double the legitimate fee of N27,000 for a 32-page passport.

The registration is supposed to be done online, but applicants who follow this due process and submit their print-out to the Passport Office almost certainly face a delay of weeks, if not months.

One is spared only if the palms of certain officials are “greased” with cash. People who are willing to pay could get their passports in as short a time as 24 hours depending on how much they are willing to give as bribe.

For this reason, many applicants, are forced to defer or even cancel their travel plans. Some may lose out on a job opportunity that requires one to present an international travelling passport. Nigerian students who have gotten admissions into universities abroad are forced to defer or cancel their registration since they require a passport to apply for a travel visa.

People waiting in queue
People waiting in queue

Every Nigerian has a right to own a Passport and it is not fair that corrupt NIS officials are making it difficult for honest Nigerians to acquire one. The Comptroller-General of NIS and Comptrollers of passport offices need to sit up and deal with the corruption among their officers.

Touts have taken over the passport application and acquisition process, working together with corrupt officials for selfish gain. This needs to be addressed.

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The practice of charging 45,000 for 32-page, and 90,000 for 64-page passports respectively must be stopped. These corrupt officials are well known because they carry out their “business” openly.

They abandon their posts in the interests of going about “fast-tracking” their “client’s” applications. They work together with so-called business centres located near the passport offices where applicants are directed to pay to have their application done online.

The online application process itself has been ridden with corruption and compromised in such a way that the applicant is forced to seek the help of these touts or officials, who in turn charge hapless applicants for their services.

These services sometimes include arranging for fake birth certificates, state of origin certificates and other required documents for applicants who do not have them. In such a case, even wanted criminals could be assisted to acquire a passport that would help them get a visa to flee the country.

Immigration Office
Immigration Office

The NIS therefore needs to put its house in order. The narrative out there is that top officials in the NIS are seriously compromised by giving a tacit approval to corrupt practices. The sites and channels that applicants can use to get assistance should be upgraded and run smoothly to make the passport application process easier.

Corrupt officials should be arrested and punished to serve as a deterrent to others. More outlets should be opened to clear the bottlenecks that currently characterise the whole process. Officers of the NIS need to be sensitized that corruption among them is a dent in the image of Nigeria.

Immigration officers are the point of first contact with foreigners at the port of entry; so, integrity and credibility become extremely important to ensure that the dealings of NIS officials with foreigners is honest and professional.

These same NIS officials are in the habit of soliciting for funds from travelers. It is unethical, unpatriotic, and disgraceful to the image of the country. The passport offices must rid themselves of touts and expel any person from their premises who is not there to apply for a passport. As it stands right now, the NIS has a very poor image among Nigerians because people believe that without paying a bribe to NIS officials one will not get a passport on time.

The NIS must therefore curb corruption among its ranks and treat all passport applicants equally. Professionalism is being eroded from the NIS; Nigerians have lost confidence in the integrity of NIS officials. The Trumpet therefore calls on the Minister of Interior to take a decisive action to correct the ills in the system.

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