Nigerians who apply for new passports or reissuance have cried out that they are being extorted of various sums of money by officials of Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) at the Ikoyi Passport Office.
This may however, not be unconnected to the absence of the Deputy Comptroller in charge of the office, Mannir Yari, who was recently involved in accident in his home in Lagos, paving way for Immigration officials to indulge in the crime.
THISDAY’s investigation also revealed that the officials charge applicants arbitrarily for new passport, passport re-issue and even change of name.
For example, the official fee for passport is N17, 500; but even when Yari was in the office, they charged applicants N25, 500 at the Ikoyi Passport office and now since his absence, the officials arbitrarily charge N35, 500.
In addition, the Ikoyi office now charges N3, 000 compliance fee, which is neither approved by the Comptroller-General nor the Ministry of Interior.
The applicants who spoke to THISDAY said even when the passports are ready, the Immigration officials would insist that an applicant should pay N1,000 before you collect it.
One of the applicants who spoke to THISDAY, Bolaji Ayodele said, “I have been coming here since last week to get a passport because I want to travel out of the country. First, they said the fee is N25, 500 but now they have jacked it to N35, 500. Everybody is telling you to pay this and that and the place is chaotic. The whole thing is frustrating,” he said.
Another applicant, Nkiru Okonkwo, said she came for the re-issuing of her passport which has expired “and they said I should pay compliance fee and when I asked them what compliance fee is for, the man just pushed me aside and walked past. I just noticed that many of the officials are unruly and behaving as if they are not accountable to anyone.”
According to THISDAY report the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Passport Office, Ikoyi, Deputy Superintendent of Immigration, Grace Udu, who said the allegations were not true and described applicants as lazy and fond of telling lies.
She explained that every morning while addressing applicants, they are told to apply online and do their payment online, but many of them would say they do not know how to apply online.
“Some of them will even say they don’t know how to use computer so they seek for help and some people would help them. So this is not official and all those allegations are not true. And besides, any applicant who feels he is not treated well can complain to SERVICOM or the Passport Control Officer (PCO). Many of those applicants are very lazy. They claim they cannot do these themselves so they approach persons to help them and they go to all these kiosks to fill the forms,” Udu said.
She also denied the compliance fee of N3,000 and said that nobody was ever asked to pay such amount of money and that the official cost of passport is N17, 500 and that is what is online and what applicants pay; so nobody charges anything more than that.
THISDAY also spoke to the Comptroller, Passport Command, Usman Auna, whose office controls the Ikoyi passport office.
He said he was not aware of extortion and other illicit acts were taking place at the Ikoyi Passport Office and said he would make enquiries immediately to find out the true situation of things.
“I am not aware of this. How can I be aware and I allow such thing to happen. I will find out immediately. I will call the 2IC (second in command). Thank you for informing me of this,” Auna said.
An Immigration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, however confirmed that extortion is really going on at the office and remarked that there are newly transferred officers “who see the passport office as a place to make money and they just exploit the applicants and these people seem to be protected by the PCO. It has been going on before he went on medical leave.”