Passport applicants allege NIS officials’ widespread extortion in Abuja
Some Nigerian applicants have accused officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service of extorting them at the Abuja passport office.
Some Nigerian passport applicants have accused officials of the Nigerian Immigration Service Abuja passport office of extortion.
The applicants said that not much had changed in the system despite a recent directive from the Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, to the immigration authorities to sanitise the system.
The applicants, who spoke in separate interviews with journalists, lamented that they were made to pay various sums of money by NIS officials before getting the travel document.
They also alleged that the electronic passport application system had been compromised, forcing those who followed due process with no alternative but to “settle” the officials in order to get their passports on time.
Some of them further alleged that even when the passport was ready, they were made to pay another N5,000 before collection.
An applicant and civil servant, Ahmed Isa, said that he had been to the passport office more than 10 times and had yet to get his passport.
“I have been coming here since September to get a passport because I want to travel out of the country. First, they said the fee was N35,500, but now they have increased it to N55,500. This is for a passport with a duration of five years. Everybody is telling you to pay this and that, and the place is chaotic. The whole thing is frustrating,” Mr Isa said.
Another applicant, Mohammed Umar, said that he came for the re-issuing of his expired passport but was told by a NIS official to pay an additional “compliance fee.”
“When I asked them what the compliance fee was for, the man pushed me aside and walked away. All I have noticed here is that many of the officials are unruly and behaving as if they are not accountable to anyone,” Mr Umar said.
Another applicant who spoke on condition of anonymity said she applied for passport renewal online in August 2022 and was still awaiting a response.
“Every time I go to the immigration office to track its progress, officials keep telling me to contact the person helping me. It has been frustrating and depressing. Everyone expects and believes I should have a certain someone who is helping me. When I told them I did it online, I got the ‘ohh’ look, and then the term ‘self-service’ follows me everywhere I turn to for help,” she added.
Another applicant, Blessing Ibiyemi, shared that she missed out on a scholarship abroad because of her inability to get her passport processed despite abiding by due process.
“I applied for a passport in April, and I just got it in October after paying an extra N40,000 to process it. The first time I came to their office, I told them I paid online; they gave me a chair to sit in, and I was there for hours.
“When I asked them why I was still here, they told me to contact the officer helping me. I was shocked because I paid online and I didn’t expect any officer to be helping me. The NIS has not shown true commitment to wanting to tackle this menace,” Ms Ibiyemi said.
Also, Alarape Ogunmuyiwa, said that he was initially charged N80,000 for a re-iisue of his expired passport.
Mr Ogunmuyiwa added that he was later made to pay an extra N20,000 because the official in charge told him that the expired passport was “defaced.”
“I have yet to get the passport. They kept saying no booklets. The funny part is that the officer in charge of my passport is not even picking up my calls.
“Now, I have paid N100,000 to get my passport, and yet I can’t access it. This is frustrating, and I can’t take this anymore,” he said.
A journalist, Dennis Abraham, whose passport expired in August, said after paying N120,000 for a 10-year validity passport, he was initially told to pay an additional N25,000 and later another N15,000 to correct a mistake on his date of birth.
Mr Abraham said that the immigration officer handling the process said that though NIMCI had corrected the date, the change has yet to be reflected in the immigration portal.
“I’m still waiting after paying N160,000 to renew my passport. Hopefully, it will be ready soon,” he added.
An immigration official who spoke on condition of anonymity told journalists that the system had been highly compromised, adding that those who applied for passports online “will take forever to get their passports.”
“What obtains now is to pay any officer who will fast-track the process for you, and you’ll get your passport within the space of two weeks after application,” he said.
Another official said that the extortion of passport applicants by fellow immigration officers was real. He described the situation as not only embarrassing but also a huge threat to national security.
“It is a menace; we may not know the full implication today until a little later when the negative impact of this issue begins to manifest negatively in our national security. It has national security implications for Nigeria. We are talking about obtaining a Nigerian passport. Now, if we, the officials involved, are only after money, it means anybody can come into Nigeria through any of our porous borders, play the necessary game, and obtain anything that makes and certifies him as a Nigerian citizen,” he lamented.
The officer, who advised that drastic measures must be taken to curb the menace, urged passport applicants to resist any attempt to force them into offering a bribe for a passport.
He said that it was important for victims of the extortion to report to higher authorities.
However, the Service Public Relations Officer, Dr Adedotun Aridegbe, dismissed the allegations as untrue, claiming that some passport applicants fabricate stories to dent the image of NIS.
According to him, it is not possible for applicants to pay more than the official amount for passport booklets.
“All these things are not true. It’s unrealistic. When I investigated some of these allegations, some applicants just formulated stories to tarnish our good image. We have officers that work round the clock, including weekends, and even run shifts to produce these passports.
“There is a task force set up by the Comptroller General, Caroline Adepoju, to checkmate any illicit activities going on in the passport offices,” he said.
Mr Aridegbe said instead of the “unfounded allegations,” passport control officers across the nation should be commended for being able to clear backlogs of passport applications as recently directed by the minister.
He said both the minister and the Comptroller General endured sleepless nights to ensure that the backlogs were cleared.
The NIS spokesman, however, said disciplinary action would be taken against any officer found wanting.