Following allegations of corruption in the issuance of passports in Alausa Passport Office of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in Lagos, the Service Comptroller General (CG), Muhammad Babandede, has ordered an immediate probe.
The CG was responding to recent allegations by passport applicants that officers at the Alausa Passport Office were overcharging them in the process of acquiring their international passports.
Babandede who reacted through the NIS Spokesman, James Sunday, an Assistant Comptroller of Immigration, said anyone found culpable during the investigation would be dealt with.
He said: â€œThe 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.
â€œThe 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.
â€œThe problem is that Nigerians like to look for shortcut, and so they fall into the hands of people who dupe them.
â€œThey prefer to do things through the backdoor. They need to know that every office opened by the NIS has a duty to serve them.â€
THISDAY gathered that the passport office has allegedly been turned to den for extortion with NIS personnel using accredited agents to charge the applicants above the stipulated fee.
However, inquires at the passport office have revealed that the office do not have agents, rather, they allowed cyber cafe operators to set up business within the environment to aid the applicants.
A senior officer who did not want to be mentioned said: â€œWe allowed this because a lot of the applicants complain that they could not do the online registration nor pay fees through e-Transact.
â€œSo we allowed cyber cafe operators close to our office for applicantsâ€™ easy access. We adopted that approach because NIS personnel were relegating their duties to assist applicants do their registration which was not supposed to be.
â€œE-Passport is a cashless and participatory idea. Applicants play their parts while NIS officers do theirs. People are expected to log on to the website, do their payments, bring all documents to the passport office where we take over and process within a time limit.
â€œBut the people complained about payments. They could not do the e-transacts. That was why NIS officers started assisting in doing payment.
â€œSo in order for the job not to suffer, we decided to bring cyber cafes closer so that they can assist the applicants who couldnâ€™t do it on their own while our personnel can face their jobs.
â€œAccredited cafÃ©s were allowed around passport offices. Applicants patronise them and they do their things without interference from the NIS.
â€œWe do not take part in it. But along the line, we discovered that some of these applicants complained that they were being charged above the official rates.
â€œThe business centre owners were invited and they explained that they were doing so to cover the cost of their internet subscription, time and intellect.â€
The NIS officer further stated that â€œat that point, we told applicants to do their registration anywhere they can and bring the documents since we could not force the business owners to collect any amount.
â€œIt is not true that they are within the premises because they are not allowed in. It is also false that we do not have information desk.â€