Despite efforts by the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to sanitise the agency, Immigration workers still extort and rip off travellers through the international airports.
But the Comptroller General of Immigration, Mohammad Babandede, recently warned officers that any abuse or infringement on the rules would be dealt with severely.
However, THISDAY gathered that some Immigration officials subvert the process of issuing passport in order to create opportunities to collect bribe from applicants and some of them allegedly connive with applicants to declare that they their passports have gotten lost, for those who were deported back to Nigeria.
Reliable sources also told THISDAY that in Abuja, some Immigration personnel illegally shortlist some passport numbers to the file of those banned from travelling and force such Nigerians to pay money before their passports were removed from the blacklist.
Also, it was gathered that at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, some officials also extort travellers.
An eyewitness account disclosed that some travellers were detained unduly for trumped up allegations even after they have met all the condition to travel until they have parted with money.
Some were even detained until they missed their flight and some of the allegations included not having enough money to travel with; even when the traveller has a credit card; the traveller not having place to stay overseas – even when there was evidence that the traveller was accompanying a relation on medical trip with documented evidence to prove same.
THISDAY also learnt that after the Visa-on-Arrival policy of the federal government had been successfully implemented at the Lagos airport, officers have started abusing the process.
But Babandede, recently urged his men to desist from any act that is capable of smearing the image of the NIS.
“You need to change your attitude. We should not continue to do what we used to do. In the past and even now, some of the Immigration officials have company letterheads. That should not continue. We talk to senior officers but we don’t talk to the junior officers. We must change because change has come to Nigeria.
“We need to stop the way we do business. You don’t have to support Nigerians and expatriates to commit crime. Immigration officer who advise traveller to declare passport lost will be held responsible. You don’t have to hide anything from the applicant,” Babandede admonished the officials in his recent visit to Lagos.
He urged Immigration officials to treat people the way the way they would like to be treated by others, adding, “We need to deepen the reform. You don’t have to make life difficult to others.
Babandede, however, promised that he would set up networks to monitor the activities of Immigration officials, saying that the management of the agency reserves very severe punishment for anybody found wanting.
He said the process of obtaining passports and screening passengers before they travel by Immigration must be made transparent, adding that junior officers who circumvent the rules because they want to make money must desist henceforth or face the wrath of the law.
“I need that commitment because I will ask others t police you. We can make our work better. We are the elite corps of the Nigerian
security so we should be responsible and commitment to our duties. Attitude must change because we want to eliminate touting,” Babandede said.