The acting Comptroller General of Immigration (Ag. CGI), Isah Idris, has discovered a high prevalence of touts and subsequent hike in passport fees at Lagos passport offices during a personal sting operation.
A statement on Tuesday by the spokesman of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Amos Okpu, said the Ag. CGI paid an unscheduled visit to the Alausa and Ikoyi Passport Offices in Lagos as part of sting operations to assess the quality of service delivery to the members of the public at the centres.
He said Idris arrived the Alausa Passport Office, Ikeja at about 1100 hours and presented himself as a potential passport applicant, adding that he moved round the premises unnoticed, was even attended to by some personnel and also met with some touts within and around the premises who made entreaties to assist him to procure a passport.
He said both the touts and some of the NIS personnel, who offered to assist him, gave exorbitant fees far beyond the official rates, with acting CGI playing along with them and indeed some affirmed their readiness to assist him procure the passport within reasonable time provided he met their charges.
Okpu said determined to have a good understanding of the extent of touting in the area, the acting CGI opted to follow one of the touts to her business centre located not far away from the passport office, and while there, the tout produced all manner of forms and requested the acting CGI to complete same so that the process could begin.
Okpu said the acting CGI chose to see the process through by completing the forms and was thereafter asked to transfer the sum for the charges given him to an account number supplied by the tout if he could not make cash payment.
He said Idris, satisfied with his findings at the Alausa Office, proceeded to the Ikoyi Passport Centre where the same experience played out, adding that he afterwards left the premises unnoticed and proceeded to the Office of the Lagos State Command Comptroller at Alagbon Close, Ikoyi.
Speaking at Ikoyi, the acting CGI noted that the visit was very insightful.
He said: “It has enabled me to assess the quality of service delivery at the centres especially against the backdrop of some public complaints about poor service delivery in some passport office locations. We shall use this experience to deepen our reforms very urgently. I have seen some gaps that must be quickly addressed. I think that the passport appointment system we are about to introduce will take care of some of the gaps, while a huge emphasis on consequence management shall be vigorously pursued.”
He said that none of the personnel found to have acted below expectation during the visit shall go unpunished, assuring Nigerians that appropriate sanctions shall be applied.
Idris, upon assumption of office as the acting CGI, has promised to deepen passport reform efforts, improve border security efforts, as well as emplace measures for enhanced staff welfare.