Stakeholders raise alarm over extortion at NIS Passport offices after ICIR report

STAKEHOLDERS have raised the alarm over continued extortion at the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) Passport office even after the International Centre For Investigative Reporting (The ICIR) report.

They also condemned the seeming inability of the electronic passport application system of the NIS to curb extortion of applicants and reduce bribery across the nation.

The issue came to the fore at a radio programme called PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development (PRIMORG) on Wednesday, September 28 in Abuja.


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The lamentation by passport applicants is coming on the heels of a recent investigative report published by The ICIR, revealing that the electronic passport application of the NIS is facing sabotage by corrupt officials.

During the radio programme, many citizens narrated how they met bottlenecks at passport offices while seeking to get new international passports or renew old ones. 

Most of them said they paid higher than the approved money to the immigration personnel and had no choice but to bribe officials to get their passports on time.

A victim of the exploitation, Emmanuel David, a resident of Abuja, revealed that he missed out on a scholarship abroad because he was attempting to get his international passport by following due process.

David said he had an ugly experience in the Abuja office, which confirmed that many people like him are frustrated daily.

He said, “Sincerely speaking, thousands, millions of people are out there crying out because of this. So, if you pay online and get to the passport office, they will give you a chair to sit outside. 

“You might sit there from morning to night and return the way you came without anything being done. If you stand up to tell them, ‘please, I came for capturing’, the first thing you will hear them ask is, “which officer is in charge of your passport?’ “

He said he applied in March 2020 and got his passport in August 2022 after paying an extra N25,000 to process it.

An investigative journalist with The ICIR, Nurudeen Akewushola, disclosed that Nigerians in their numbers were affected by the scheming of immigration officials who were extorting them in the process.

Akewushola stated that the Centre had extortion reports from Nigerians seeking international passports in Abuja, the nation’s capital; Lagos Niger, and other states of the federation.

He reported, “I was able to speak with people who applied in Lagos, in Abuja, and people who were extorted in other passport offices, but for the undercover investigation, I went to the NIS headquarters and observed that this is actually happening.”

He stressed that without making the officers perpetrating the corrupt act at passport offices scapegoats, there would be no change.

He knocked the Nigeria Immigration authorities for doing nothing to prosecute its officials extorting Nigerians despite The ICIR publishing the faces of the indicted officers on the investigative report.

“The NIS has not shown true commitment to wanting to tackle this menace. After the investigation, I called the NIS spokesperson and informed him, and he said it was a lie. So, we published the information, and they saw it.

“After that, we invited them to a Twitter space to speak with Nigerians, but they didn’t come, and since we published that report, nothing was said or done, not even a press statement. So, the NIS needs to show true commitment. They need to make scapegoats out of people that are defaulting,” Akewushola stated.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at the Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Stephanie Omere, called on the Federal government and Immigration authorities to embark on vigorous sensitisation of the general public to curb officials from taking advantage of the citizens.

A Nigerian Jacob from Abuja who called in during the programme said: “I renewed my passport for ten years and I paid the officer about N95,000, and I feel they should put a tracking for the electronic version so that we can track the position of the passport at every moment so that the duration of production is seen online.”

Another Abuja resident Ashedu said, “This issue has really gotten deep, and it’s not just for us to excuse a system, but there must be an overhauling of the whole system. If not, it will not work.

He added that if we want the new system to work, we must set up departments that follow up and ensure that the system is not jeopardised.






     

     

    Also contributing, Solomon from Abuja stated what is going on in the immigration office is terrible. 

    “My friend that works there told me that I shouldn’t bother with doing online because it would take forever, but I’ll have to pay an officer who fast-tracked the process for me, and I got my passport within the space of 2 week, ” Solomon said.

    Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

    The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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    1 COMMENT

    1. I applied for a 32 pages passport at nis office osogbo since January 2023, I went to check in March and they told me it is not out, I went again this month and they told me at collection that I have to pay 20000 naira before they will give me my passport.
      Nigerians please help me, I don’t have anybody to fight for me, is this the fate of ordinary citizen in Nigeria.

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