Nigerians have expressed disgust over incessant blame game by the federal government, particularly on issues of accountability and welfare of the citizens.
The questions on the lips of most Nigerians are, when will our government be accountable and responsive, who is actually in charge of the affairs, including ministries and parastatals, why is huge tax payers’ money expended on elected leaders as well as government appointees, with their retinue of aides, yet expected detailed planning, execution in the various fields lacking, what has happened to our core values of transparency and where has the much mouthed war against corruption taking the country,?.”
Specifically, at the interior ministry, which supervises immigration service, Nigerians applying for international passports are having nightmares.
From discriminatory charges by the NIS to demand for gratification, some Nigerians are made to suffer untold hardship in procuring what should be ordinarily regarded as basics as citizens of the country.
For now Nigerians pay between N70, 000 and N50, 000, depending on your connection and less than N30, 000, depending on where you are applying from.
For instance, although, there is provision for online payment, it will take over six months, after paying about N26, 000 and booked for an online appointment for capturing.
MetroBusinessNews (MBN) investigations show that while some were able to capture at the appointed time, collection is a major problem.
Relieving his experience last week, one of the distraught applicants said, “ I applied for my international. Passport online about three months ago and did my capturing almost two weeks later. On getting there at the passport immigration office at Alausa, Ikeja, about two weeks ago on the appointed day for collected, I was told to come back in three weeks time. This was after spending a whole day at their office, jam-packed with applicants from as early as 4am each day. My frustration started after waiting for about two hours before they started with the announcement of those that applied online should stay differently from those that applied physically. With some coming and collecting, some of us that applied online were told to come back in three weeks time. On further inquiry, some persons told me that if I wanted quick service, I should have applied physically and even easier and quicker when you know somebody there. The most painful aspect is when I tried to track my application online, I was told that the information could not be found.”
But, the Federal Government has acknowledged that the efforts of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) at sanitizing the process and bringing integrity to passports application are being sabotaged by a ‘few’ corrupt officials of the NIS.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, stated this in Oyo Town while inaugurating the NIS passports front office in the town on Tuesday evening.
This is coming less than 24 hours after the Senate ordered a probe into the operations of the NIS to unravel why there have been delays in the issuance and renewal of international passports.
The minister said that NIS did not, at any given time, experience a shortage of passport booklets, adding it was “a lie and an excuse by few corrupt officials of the service to extort the applicants”.
Explaining why there have been delays in the process of issuing the Nigerian passport, Aregbesola said:
“One of the challenges facing NIS as regards passports application are the few corrupt officials of the service who are undermining the efforts of the service at the sanitizing process and bringing integrity to passports application.
“These unscrupulous people are making the situation difficult by the day, if people did not tolerate them, they will not exist again. They are the ones spreading the rumor that there are no booklets in order to continue to extort the applicants.
“We did not have a shortage of booklets at any given time; we have enough booklets to meet the need of the people. There are more than enough booklets in our production schedule.”
He, however, appealed to Nigerians to stop patronizing the touts and report any NIS officials manipulating applicants for money.
The minister said that NIS has been improving its services, noting that only a few countries could boast of the type of Nigeria passport, which he said “is one of the best in the world”.
He said that the challenges currently facing immigration service included a dearth of offices to enrol applicants for data capturing.
The minister said that the challenges were gradually been tackled, especially with the construction of more passport front offices.
Aregbesola said the inauguration of a new office in Oyo Town would reduce the congestion in the Ibadan center. He said that about 5,000 applicants waiting for data capturing in the Ibadan center would be offloaded to the new center in Oyo, to reduce the challenge of a waiting period for data capturing by applicants.
“There is a limit to the number of applicants any passport office can attend to in a day, thus making it impossible to urgently attend to all the applicants necessitating the long waiting period.
“Ibadan can only attend to 450 applicants in a day and that is why we need several locations like this one in Oyo,” he said.
The minister said that getting an international passport was the right of all Nigerians in Nigeria and those outside the country, assuring them that the service would not relent in its mandate of providing passports to all Nigerians.
Earlier, the NIS Comptroller in Oyo State, Mohammed Umar, said the new passport office would be an additional center to that of Ibadan Centre, which had been serving people of the state and its environs for decades.
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Meanwhile, the Senate has launched an investigation into the operations of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) over the incessant complaints by Nigerians of delay in the issuance and renewal of international passports.
The upper legislative chamber on Tuesday mandated its committee on Interior to urgently commence the investigation and turn in its report of the investigation in two weeks.
The Senate resolution was a sequel to the adoption of a motion on the matter at Plenary. The motion was sponsored by Sen. Uche Ekwunife (PDP-Anambra).