The Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, has described as untrue allegation of extortion of applicants in the issuance of International passports, by its personnel and other alleged corrupt practices at Passports Office, Alausa , Lagos.
NIS Comptroller-General, Muhammad Babandede
Report alleged that touts who work as agents for personnel, collect more than the approved price for international passport from applicants, adding that the office had no information desk where applicants would make clarifications.
To this effect, the Comptroller General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede, has ordered an immediate probe into the allegations, with a threat to deal with any personnel found guilty .
Reacting to the allegation, Immigration sources said “ E-Passport is a cashless and participatory idea, where applicants play their parts as well as NIS officers. Applicants are expected to log on to the website and carry out payment. Thereafter, they are expected to bring all documents to the passport office, from where we take over and process within a time limit.
“However, most applicants began to complain about the payment system , claiming they could not do the E-transacts. That was why NIS officers started assisting them. But the assistance took a toll on personnel official duty. This led to the decision of bringing Cyber Cafés closer ,so that operators could assist applicants who couldn’t do it on their own, while our personnel face their jobs.
“Accredited cafés were allowed around passport offices, not only in Alausa. Applicants patronize them and they do their things without interference from the NIS personnel. Along the line, some applicants began to complain that they were being charged far beyond the official rates.
“The business centre owners were invited and they explained that they were doing so to cover the cost of their Internet subscription, their time and intellect. At that point, we told applicants to do their registration from any other cyber cafés outside those around passport offices and thereafter, bring the documents, since we could not force the business owners to collect a stipulated amount.
“It is not true that these cyber cafés are in our premises . It is also false that we do not have information desk, we do” , Immigration sources at Alausa Passport office said.
CGI orders immediate probe
Vanguard gathered that the Immigration boss, Muhammad Babandede has ordered that investigation be carried out to ascertain the authenticity of the report, with a threat to use any personnel found culpable as a lesson.
Spokesman for the Service, James Sunday, an Assistant Comptroller of Immigration who confirmed the CG’s position , said : “The CG has given a directive for the investigation of the allegations and that is what we are doing. I can tell you for sure that we do not have accredited agents.
“The guidelines for application for international passport are clearly stated in our website. We also sent out our customer feedback number, 07080607900 and email address firstname.lastname@example.org for Nigerians to contact us.
“The problem is that Nigerians like to look for shortcut and so they fall into the hands of people who fleece them. They prefer to do things through the backdoor. They need to know that every office opened by the NIS has a duty to serve them.”