Nigerian Immigration Officials
There are indications that the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) may close its Festac office in Lagos because of sharp practices in the process of obtaining passports.
THISDAY learnt that NIS had been inundated with petitions against the fraudulent activities of its officers at the particular office by well-meaning Nigerians who were embarrassed by the unchecked corrupt practices that go on in that place every day.
THISDAY investigations revealed that 100 per cent of Nigerians who came to obtain their passport at the Festac office were forced to give bribe before they could obtain their passports.
It was found out that any Nigerian, who wanted to follow the official process of obtaining passports, might never be issued a passport because that official process had been jettisoned, so any one who requested for passport must go through an Immigration officer.
“So what you see is an on-going racketeering where various homes around the passport office are converted to an extension of Nigeria Immigration Service and the Immigration officers recruit their relations and touts to solicit for people who wish to obtain or renew their passports. The place looks like a market place and it is surprising that the management of NIS has not taken any action to stop this nefarious activities till now,” a source told THISDAY.
THISDAY also learnt that the fraudulent activities at the Festac office might have received approval from high places in government because the officers who “get these clients render account to some high officers,” as nobody issues passport to Nigerian at the official price of over N9,000 but at the average price of N17,000.
Inside source confirmed to THISDAY that some top government officials were not unaware of the nefarious activities going on at the Festac officer of NIS but noted that there was a serious consideration of closing the office, until an alternative place is found where it would be relocated.
“The reason is that the place the office is presently located is a residential area which is densely populated and the office is not distinctly located but integrates with other houses around it. So it is easy to be doing the illegal things that go on in that place. Such place is not good for the location of government officer that offers such sensitive document.”
The inside source also said that the place was crime infested, pointing out that most times in the evening criminals waylaid people who came to collect passports and took the documents from them.
The source frowned at the infiltration of the civil service by politicians who influence the appointment of heads of the passport office, adding: “When somebody get the job of heading such sensitive organisation under such condition, he feels that he can do anything and get away with it.”
The source also noted that the new passport office at Ikeja Lagos is uniquely located “and that is the way passport office should be. When you come there you know that you are in government office that officers the kind of special service that is sensitive and important.”
Exonerating the organisation, an Immigration officer told THISDAY that it was Nigerians who wished to obtain passport that failed to be patient and follow due process.
“They are the ones that cause all these things you are complaining of because somebody who wants to travel tomorrow will come to the office today and tell you to give him passport today. The problem is not with us; it is with Nigerians who cannot follow the rules.”