INVESTIGATION: Corruption, extortion reign at Nigeria Immigration Passport Offices (Concluding Part)

Entrance of Ikoyi passport office
Entrance of Ikoyi passport office

This is the second and final part of the investigation. Read the first part here.

Welcome to Ikoyi, Nigeria’s oldest passport office

‘Hello sah,’ ‘passport sah,’ ‘I can help you to get it fast sah,’ pleading voices, obviously deceived by my appearance, beckon as I moved closer to the premises of the Ikoyi passport office.

In the next minute, I was with Ade, the one who appeared most suitable for my mission.

After the usual 32, 64 booklet explanation, ‘why one is scarce and the other is in abundance’, Ade offered to take me to his capturing office even before I explained my mission in details.

The process of passport acquisition at the Ikoyi office is divided into parts and each part is handled by immigration personnel or an affiliated tout.

The first part, which is the actual registration, is done under the trees, inside abandoned vehicles, gate corners and a large shopping complex situated beside the passport office.

‘’This is where we do the registration. Let me bring the form for you so that we can talk,’’ Ade said while helping me to a seat in one of the shops in the complex.

The form is almost like the one offered at the Alausa office, except for a few grammatical errors. And after feigning a careful look of it, I explained to Ade how he may ‘help’ me.

“I work in a big firm and in our last meeting, the management mandated us (workers) to get passports. In fact, they have started deducting it from our salaries. I told them I would handle it because I have a brother who does the runs but when I called him, he said the officer that helps him has been transferred. I want you to give me a cheaper price and explain how this money will be distributed so that you and I can do business.’’

My explanation worked like magic. Almost instantly, Ade’s countenance brightens, his eyes grow wider at the prospect of making brisk money.

Nobody would have doubted me anyway. While I explained to him, I presented an A-4 paper with a flourish on which I had listed 18 names of would-be-applicants; all fake names of course.

Now seeing me as a partner in the business, Ade would in the next 30 minutes take me further into the ring of money-making passport business at Ikoyi office.

“I will do the 32-page for N30, 000 and 64-page for N35, 000. The official payment is N18, 000 for 32-page while it is N23, 000 for 64-page but I advise you do the 64 so that all of you can get it the day you applied or the next. You will pay for it here and I will help you do all the running around from registration till you get your passport.’’

‘‘If the official payment is N23, 000, what do you use the remaining money, N12, 000 for?’’ I ask, adding that I needed to know to enable me convince my ‘superiors’ who would want to know why such the sum is being paid.

“The N23, 000 is the official price, government price. I will still have to give your file to someone who will runs it, after they run it, they will still take it to the production room, the capturing room and other stages. These stages will cost me N7, 000.

‘’The officer I will hand your file over to will collect the N7, 000 and pay N5, 000 to a junior officer at the production room who will distribute the money and handle other stages. That is how it works.

“Sometimes, the people at the production or capturing room also request for extra pay which I would have to remove from my own ‘workmanship’ (remaining N5, 000).’’

After this explanation, I informed Ade that I will give him the ‘contract’ of applying for the 18 of us, but on a final condition that I spoke with the officer he works with.

‘’I have a senior officer nah,’’ he smiled, obviously to douse my fear.

“Before I can do anything, I must pass through him. He is a two-star officer and his price doesn’t go below N7, 000. I can make you talk to him since you want to do more than one but that is when you are ready and I have the money with me.’’

With this, it was a done deal between me and Ade as he gave me his mobile number and I quickly save ‘Passport’ as his surname again.

At Ikoyi, your money buys you a guarantor

After this discussion, Ade asked if I had my documents with me, so he could help with my application before others.

“Let me tell you all the documents you need so that you will bring everything next time,’’ he said after I replied in the negative.

“You will need a birth certificate, state of origin (certificate of origin), four passport photographs, and for your guarantor, your money has covered for that. We’ll provide you a guarantor so you don’t need to worry about that. Once you bring all these and pay, you will have your passport.’

“But where will you get a guarantor for me,” I probed.

“Just don’t worry about that,’ Ade replied, now sounding pissed off by my query.

MAXIMUM SECURITY

Like Alausa, the Ikoyi passport office has no front desk for a new applicant to make inquiries. The office is always under heavy security with men of the Nigerian Army and combat-ready immigration officers on guard.

The officers are strategically placed such that it would be tedious, almost impossible for even a bird to pass through the main gate without their permission.

I decided my mission would not be complete until I had my way into the main premises and I was determined, so sure that I would be granted entrance. With this mind set, I headed for the main entrance.

I was wrong. No sooner had I stepped into the pathway than I was accosted by an immigration officer who demanded to know why I was there.

With what many would call a ‘tush’ accent and demeanour, I explained to him my intention of facilitating passport application for multiple persons.

I was lucky to have his audience, unlike other officers who usually hand over their ‘customers’ to touts after a short conversation, probably for fear of being caught in the act or to make way for other ‘customers.’

In the next few minutes, the immigration official (name withheld) would explain to me, like others, the basic knowledge required by applicants. He agreed to N30,000 for the 32-page passport and assured of the provision of a guarantor.

“You don’t need that,” he replied after I ask if I needed to first get my guarantor informed. “Just apply now, we’ll have it sorted,’’ he added.

I hesitated and told him I will make some calls for cash and come back shortly. He offered me the use of his phone number and asked me to ring him up whenever I’m ready.

“Save my number with (name) passport,’’ he said.

CORRUPTION, FRUSTRATION IN ONLINE REGISTRATION

Written on the home page of the NIS website, immigration.gov.ng, are instructions on how to make fresh applications for a passport.

Applicants are enjoined to follow three simple steps: complete passport application form online; make payment and obtain Application ID and Reference Number; print out Guarantor’s Form to be signed by a guarantor and commissioner of oath in a competent court of jurisdiction; and then submit completed passport application form with other requirements in person at passport office selected during online payment process for further processing.

Simple, you’d call it. But it doesn’t turn out to be so.

DIFFERENT STATES, DIFFERENT AMOUNTS

Even though the prices of passports are quoted on the website of NIS, as N17, 000 for 32-page booklets and N22, 000 for 64-page booklets, officers charge different prices in different states.

Investigations revealed that officers at the Ikoyi office charge between N28, 000 and N32, 000 for the 32-page booklets while the price of the 64-page booklets is fixed at N35, 000.

At the Alausa office, the booklets go for between N27, 000 and N30, 000 and N35, 000, respectively.

Further investigations into prices in other states show more disparities in the price regime of NIS.

The 32-page booklet goes for N25, 000 in Osun, N28, 000 in Oyo, N28, 000 in Ondo and N27, 000 in Ogun and Ekiti states.

The 64-page can be obtained for between N34, 000 and N42, 000 in these states.

NIS REACTION

Reacting to differences in fee and others allegations, the Public Relations Officer of NIS, James Sunday, said all the passport offices in the country operate “the same system.”

“As far as I know, all the passport offices throughout the Federation have the same rates and if anybody is doing something else, contrary to what we do at the headquarters, I cannot defend that,” he said.

“We don’t have discrepancies in passport fees. The Comptroller-General (CG) is magnanimous enough to have uploaded the fee on the service website and that is the correct fee. Since the introduction of e-passport, the prices have not been altered.

“The CG has vowed that no Nigerian should suffer in the hands of immigration officers and he won’t take it lightly with the officers who charged you (the reporter) high fee.

“The passport is the property of the Federal Republic of Nigeria so Nigerians are entitled to getting the best.’’

He further debunked claims that the 32-pages booklets were scarce at passport offices saying “It’s not true.”

According to him, the offices had adequate supplies of the 32-page booklet and “at no time should officers dictate for applicants which to choose.”

On specific allegations that the PCO of FESTAC office Lagos demanded extra money from online applicants to ‘run the office,’ Mr. Sunday was quick to defend the service.

He said, “That is the opinion of the officer. There is no office that is directed to request for money to run its services. The service headquarters send funds to maintain offices throughout the country.’’

On the Comptroller-General’s promise that official fees/categories of passports will henceforth be displayed at various passport offices to ensure transparency, he explained that the process “is in the pipeline.”

“It’s an executive order given to the service and there is a committee already set up to that effect, we call it SERVICOM. They are currently working on that,’’ Mr. Sunday said just as he assured Nigerians that once the committee swung to work, “the prices will be displayed.”

CORRECTING ANOMALIES

After the first part of this investigation was published, the Immigration Service made steps to correct some anomalies that allowed the passport scandal to continue, while promising official investigations to weed out corrupt elements within its ranks.

At the Alausa Passport Office, the Passport Control Officer, Abdullahi Dalhatu, has ordered the immediate closure of shops operated by touts within the premises.

When PREMIUM TIMES visited, the shops which initially housed touts who receive payments from applicants on behalf of NIS were under lock. The price board which displays different amounts for obtaining passports was also displayed at the entrance.

Similarly, authorities at the Ikoyi office have taken steps at checking corruption among immigration officers.

When a PREMIUM TIMES correspondent as conducted round the premises, new changes such as the display of permanent price board at the entrance, enhanced security and monitoring of officers’ activities through surveillance cameras had been put in place.

Also, the activities of touts around the premises had waned compared to when this reporter conducted the investigation.


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  • FineBoy

    Feasting on common Nigerians and looting the Commonwealth has become the rule and exception.

    These same fraudulent guys will do testimonies in churches, build mosques as collect Chieftancy titles.

    May cancer knock them down

  • People Deliberately Pilfering

    With the said changes people will find it very difficult to obtain their passport. Your file will go missing or be stuck at one point of the process whereas the price of the chuachua will go up a bit as it will be done in a hush tone and only by the brave officers. Thus all this said changes are rubbish.. If anyone has policy makers ears they should change the process to a process similar to what is done in Britain… you pay online, select a post office where you can get captured and then you receive your passport via post signed for at the address you have provided.

    This will increase revenue to the courts, Nipost and Nigerian Immigration service too.

    The NIS personnel should only deal with production and sending to Nipost for onward delivery to owner, issue of lost case, afiz rejects and double application etc.

    Nipost should invest in the capture kiosks as a partner or NIS should own the kiosks then they pay for use of post-office space, train nipost officers on the use of the kiosks and how to administer the kiosks. If this is done and supported with adequate awareness by new and print media (further income for these sector) then a lot of people will be attracted to the process.

    This process will also help in identifying criminals who will think they can acquire more than one passport and as such will also ensure people provide proper address as required for delivery of their passports.

  • omobabalemomu

    Kudos to this professional and astute journalist for the job well done.

    • Country Watch 2017

      @omobabalemomu:disqus

      Muhamadu Buhari keeps blowing in the wind

      O’ Yes, the Buhari government is not just instinctively murderous,
      it has no compass; but just drifts any which way, like something blowing in the
      wind. Muhamadu Buhari himself does not inspire Nigerians. His sense of justice
      is wrong and askew. Here are two examples of frauds of huge public importance which
      President Muhamadu Buhari sweeps under the carpet either because those involved
      are financiers of his APC party or related to top APC party members:

      • A whopping $146 million allegedly stolen from
      NNPC was found hidden at Sterling Bank in Nigeria by the bank’s Managing Director
      Yemi Adeola who actively hid the funds away from the bank’s balance sheet and
      actively disguised it to prevent detection. President Buhari has not brought the
      Sterling Bank’s officials to book till date for conspiracy or moneylaundering.

      • The Federal government’s Financial Reporting Council agency
      conducted an official investigative audit of Central Bank of Nigeria under the
      tenure of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and uncovered massive fraud disguised on the
      bank’s account books totaling a whopping one Trillion three hundred billion Naira.
      That audit report was detailed and delivered to President Buhari since 29th May,
      2015. Till today, President Buhari has taken no sensible step to either recover the
      stolen funds or bring the CBN officials to book as fraudsters.

    • MANTRA

      What is professional there? This is nonsense.How does this anomaly in Immigration office differ from a sick incapacitated president who abdicates position for 103 days and refuses to resign?

      This is how PT goes about writing sensational stories and posting them on its miserable web pages. Imagine the funniest they currently have somewhere on their site stating that the “oldest” Storey building in Nigeria was built in 1845. Can you beat that? Did Nigeria exist in 1845? Even Lord Luggard wasn’t born by 1845. How could a building exist in Nigeria 69 yrs before 1914? Honestly since Imam Bokohari came into office, brainlessness and mumudity has become pervasive, and PT are not immune.

  • Justina Ngozi Okorie

    How is this so called fraud in Nigerian passport immigration offices different from the fraud committed by Buhari when he consistently contested presidential elections knowing fully well that he never had a Secondary school certificate or at least presented one? When the head of the fish (or Lion abi na Hyena) is rotten what do you expect of the other parts of the body?

    • Poeticas

      @omobabalemomu:disqus;

      Muhamadu Buhari is pure fraud wrapped in enigma inside a Gce/Wasc certificate mystery.

      • D.O. Derick

        @disqus_A4ihmfUrQh:disqus

        What is striking to me is how Nigeria is becoming so local under BUHARI.
        Lagos under Akin Ambode is today rated by global economists as the 2nd
        worst city in the world. Under the daftly incompetent Raji Fashola it was also
        worsened into becoming the 3rd worst city in the world. Failure upon failure
        is called ACTION and PROGRESS by the APC Leader’s illiterate followers who,
        like him, did not go to primary and secondary schools or had no head to learn
        anything in school. All of a sudden, Nigeria – where the best variant of English
        language was spoken in Lagos in the 1960s – has become such riff-raff society
        where pidgin and broken English is all you hear on the smelly streets.

        Islamist Fuji music has now taken over Lagos city as residents no longer have
        any sense of smell after getting inured to living in stench with gutters passing
        through the bedrooms on Lagos Island – the very last capital of Nigeria. It’s so
        un-believable seeing how a raft of very local creatures with no education and
        bearing only choking names like SALAWU, KAMORU, AHMED, SULE, SUMOLA
        took over Lagos state under the banner of the ruling APC Islamist party. There
        are no John, Thomas, Peter, Andrew and Stephen near the top hierarchies of
        Lagos state anymore. Oh, dear, what a sad story for over-educated but mostly
        senseless Christians who’re being ruined and trampled over by their intellectual
        inferiors. What a tragedy!

        • Holy Man

          @disqus_A4ihmfUrQh:disqus

          Yoruba Christians go to church on Sunday to take their Holy Communion but no sooner become morons, like drunken mariners, after the hymns are sung, when they exit the church to go and
          queue up at the polling stations; like goats, so as to vote for just any Jihadist Muslim holding
          a Primary Six certificate as their country’s president – in repudiation of the sermon of truth,
          and the primacy of knowledge they’d shrilly heard from the altar; but reflexively renounce
          in their hearts, in what looks to me like a potent hex placed on the majority Christian
          populace in Lagos to reach their ultimate destiny as animals in need of flogging
          by Fulani herdsmen.

          • Extrasense

            @disqus_A4ihmfUrQh:disqus

            When will Redeemed Christian Church headquarters be changed to become
            Redeemed Central Mosque headquarters? I am asking this question because
            what is going to be done ultimately is best done immediately. Pastor Adeboye
            is wasting his time thinking he’s winning souls. He’s not won a single soul at all.

            The souls of the congregants are profane and fatally bent toward Islamic State
            of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). There’re no Christians in Lagos but Muslim slaves.
            Anyone preaching Jesus Christ to Yoruba Christians is talking Leviticus to Boko
            Haram. The minds of Yoruba Christians in Lagos have no drop of the Holy Spirit.
            True Christians don’t vote for Islamist Jihad, and for Sharia Law, over themselves.

          • ????360° degrees

            My People:

            Okay, okay,
            okay. We have heard all of you. Abubakar Al-Baghdadi of ISIS is the real Leader
            of the Yoruba Christians. It’s okay. Can we now discuss the topic in the headline?
            Can we now move on and dicuss how corruption is growing in leaps and bounds
            under President Muhamadu Buhari. That is the issue!!

          • Sai weytin?

            I MAY BE WRONG BUT THE DISCO CHRISTIANITY IN LAGOS STATE IS NOT CHRISTIANITY.

            IT IS ALL ABOUT PERCUSSION DANCE STEPS WITH GYRATION LIKE PALM WINE DRINKERS.

        • Aaapeecee!!!

          …..i don’t so much agree that Bola Tinubu did not go to primary and secondary school……
          ………the truth of the matter is just that he can’t remember the names of those schools………..
          ……………we cannot conclude that if he had no classmates, he did not go to school………..
          ………………because Bola Tinubu could have been Special Needs child all alone in class……………

    • Bola

      Of all the contestant in 2015, who was least corrupt we should have voted for aside this man? please be sincere

  • curseless

    Fellow country men/women the cancer of corruption has metastitize into every nooks and corner of the nation. The war on corruption will take a divine intervention to succeed , because as it is no mortal man can tame this monster. This is a disease that has become pandemic and is suffocating the life out of Nigeria, and in facts it will be an anomaly if a clean person still resides in the land. Nigeria is known as a nation of corrupt men and fraudsters per excellence and we are living to that stereotype and the consequences is that the mark of ” Cain” is directly or indirectly visible on everyone. In any conceivable way the rotten ones amongst us will use any means and setting to fleece the system and this is playing out at the passport office.To make our situation very hopeless law enforcement and judiciary in particular are very milignant suggesting that hoping for a change is not even a possibility. God have mercy .

  • deji 3SC (Up shooting)

    99.9% of Nigerians who has Nigeria Passports did not get it at the official price. If Buhari or Osinbajo should get to any of the Passport office, without security details or aides, they cannot get the Nigeria Passport at the official price. It is that bad.

    • Maverick

      You think Buhari isn’t aware of this inflated price? He’s and accomplice. The IMMIGRATION boss gives him returns.

  • emmanuel

    Corruption in Nigeria is now in every sector and industry. It walks naked in the streets of Nigeria. Before now, Policemen on duty collect bribes or roger in code. In the current dispensation, they give change to bribe givers.
    What an irony?
    Immigration is not an exception. No one greets for free in Nigeria agiain

  • Good samaritan

    This is a good article but what will it do in Nigeria, immigration is even better than their brother custom

  • SerBronn

    Well done Kemi Buhari,
    Ogun State (NIS, Oke Mosan) should be your next stop. Security isn’t as beefed up as the Ikoyi office. There, you can go directly to the PCO’s office. Where a wire/ discreet camera if you can. You’ll be shocked.

    • SerBronn

      *Busari

  • shola

    Only through investigative journalism and whistle blowing can we Nigerians save our country. If you see something, say something and with the collective help of the press and the police we hopefully fight against impunity and corruption.

  • callistus u owuamanam

    This is the kind of journalism, needed in nigeria not the ‘dem say dem say journalism we have. Go to the field, get vidoe and audio recording and expose corruption.