The Patriot Institute of Journalism and Arts (PIJA), Lance Magazine is a public-centric independent media organisation dedicated to fighting injustice, fostering social justice and community development through the telling and retelling of the marginalised-oriented stories.
INVESTIGATION: Nigerian Immigration Officers Extort Applicants During Passport Registration
Under the guise of Stephen Adeniyi, investigative journalist, ENOCH OYEDIBU, visited two Nigeria Immigration Service offices in Ibadan and one in Osun, Osogbo, to investigate how officers extort applicants during passport registration.
Up to eight months, if not more, in 2021, Immigration offices were shut down against passport renewal including fresh applicants with the hope to clear all the backlogs of those who have been seriously delayed for fresh collection, renewal collection or capturing.
It was this issue of delay that made 2021 ranked the year most Nigerians failed to get their passports. This year also got Immigration Comptroller, Muhammed Babandede resigned from his position leaving the Federal Government with a choice to appoint Isah Idris Jere, as National Immigration Service’s new boss.
The new regime then, witnessed Federal Government introducing online passport registration which to FG and NIS, will mitigate the issue of delay in passports collection. Such a move, as described by the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola was a big move “which will ensure the clearing of regular issues encountered on passports registration.”
Aregbesola on December 20, 2021, also urged Nigerians to “avoid patronizing touts and unscrupulous officials when applying for the documents,” since the “Federal Government has digitalized payments for the Nigerian Passports,” with the launching of the new “Enhanced e-Passport with Polycarbonate Data Page and other security features,” as quoted by the Vanguard Newspaper.
Aregbesola reiterated that “all applicants (should) follow the process we put in place. Apply for passports and pay online.”
“The only engagement with our staff is the enrolment of your biometrics. Patronizing touts as well as passport office officials do not always END WELL, but rather serves to DEFEAT our PURPOSE of ELIMINATING CORRUPTION and INFUSING INTEGRITY to the passport administration process,” the Minister stated. Kindly, pin this on your mind as this will be highly needed in the subsequent paragraphs.
Moreover, with what the Minister of Interior said, you will agree with me that it has been ordered: no money must be paid to any officers; all payments must be done online.
Worthy of note, the NIS portal showed that the official registration fee for 32 pages passport is #25,000, while #70,000 is for 64 pages registration. Official Rate!
Jere also reiterated this but as it will turn out, that is not the case with immigration officers in Osun and Oyo States! They trade competence and rights for chicken feed prices tagged passport registration fees and thereby deeply muddle themselves in shameless schemes of racketeering and dubious practices, perverting justice and promoting social inequality, including corruption among citizens.
Maybe at the end of reading this report, you will agree that almost, if not all, NIS officers are deeply corrupt and thoroughly need scrutiny and sanctions from the Federal Government.
November 22, 2022, was a historic day for me because it was the day I finalized my age-long investigation on Nigerian Immigration Service within Osun and Oyo States.
I have received countless reports and complaints from victims who either opted for the officer’s choices and get their passports very early or go for the official routine and wait for a million months before their passports are done, while some may even wait for years, and some had their flights missed as a result of delays in passports issuance.
It has now become difficult for a law-abiding citizen to abide by the law since the supposed officers who were meant to uphold the law are now perverting it with alacrity to indoctrinate such on the citizenry.
Most of the time, this delay in passports issuance was not as a result of the NIS’s sluggish systems but as a result of some officers who have a penchant for trading rights for their gluttony desires and further sabotaging the image of the service, entirely.
In this report, some of the officers in Oyo will be revealed with the convictions backing their reasons for doing so, while some victims of immigration officers’ circumstances in Osogbo, Osun will be fully exposed as well.
Back to the day I earlier mentioned, I took to my feet and boarded a bus, from Ogbomoso to Ibadan. It was not a fair drive as the road had several potholes-visitors greeted us here and there, and the smoky fog of the Harmattan also accompanied us until we arrived in Ibadan.
Getting to Ojoo again, almost four years after I was last there, made me think we were in Lagos. Everything had changed; thanks to the State Government. In Ibadan, one now pays for urinating; nothing is free anymore. Well, all of it is for the growth of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Unbothered, I zigzagged myself off the bus and dashed through the ocean of people, with some croaky sounds noisily ranting, “Ogbomoso… Ogbomoso, Ogbomoso, Oyo, Ilorin…” disturbing my ears, I walked past the gate of Ojoo terminal bus, which was more like a toll gate, where I was instantly faced with a two-lane road.
Where am I heading to? NIS office! But I did not know the place, because I was only using Google Map which later told me that there was more than one immigration office in Ibadan. Within me, I wondered which one to go first. I never knew until I asked one Amotekun Officer who was standing at the Ojoo Gate, a stone’s throw from me, with his wooden gun and a wheezy breath.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you know where the immigration office is here in Ibadan?”
He shot his eyes to the vast space of the junction, with cars, bikes and tricycles (maruwa) darting fleetingly. “Hmmm”, he lifted his index and sandwiched it into his bulky lips. His hand was gloved. “That should be Moniya.” Pronounced as “mawniya”.
“Oh! Moniya,” I said.
Studiously, he affirmed, “Yes.”
“How much will take me from here?” I asked.
He shook his head, “Just #100 or #150,”.
I like him, he was very nice. He even helped me to stop a taxi and told him where I was going.
I took the taxi and told the man driving, “Baba, I am going to Moniya, that immigration office is where I am going o.” I said so continually, pretending as if I knew the place. This is normal, especially when you are going somewhere you do not know. You must not show you do not know, else the taxi drivers or bike riders, would charge you exorbitantly and I do not want that. Still, it is risky because you can be taken beyond where you should have stopped, unknowingly. It has happened to me before within Osogbo, but that will not happen to me again because I had Google Map.
The man dropped me where everyone was dropping. I guessed that was the last bus stop. The sad thing was, I was dropped in front of where I was going, but I never knew that it was the place. Even, my Google Map never showed me the place. So, I boarded a tricycle and kicked off to absolutely nowhere within Moniya, down to Orile Ayo. We were asking along the road and none knew the place, until we met one man who explained that I might probably be going to the Council.
Council? I asked the tricyclist and he said it was where he took me in the first place. Ah! I nearly shed blood or tears but was unruffled. This is an investigation and I must see it to the end. I have been on it for a while, I soliloquized .
The tricyclist was so merciful that he did not collect any money from me, which made me have a rethink about Ibadan people that sometimes, they may be friendly.
Later, I took a bike back to the Council, the very place where our investigation was sealed.
INVESTIGATION: Nonchalance and Corruption of An Immigration Officer in Akinyele Local Government
Akinyele Local Government is one with enormous space that housed other Government parastatals. In it, you will find a Police station, The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) station, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), National Population Commission (NPC), and General Hospital among others.
The entire place called the Council is like a hub for almost all government arms. It took me five minutes before locating the spot for NIS. I saw it, siding with one Award Hall, and directly facing the second gate to the Council. It has an Immigration emblem plastered on its wall, then I knew that was where I was going. So I walked into the corridor that was just by my right and saw a table including some white chairs, about three of them. I noticed that all doors were locked and there was no one to exchange words with.
I asked some women selling stuffs opposite me, they told me I should wait, peradventure the person in charge went out. Well, I waited because I was not in a haste.
After about 10 minutes later, a man who introduced himself as ‘Mr Bolaji Immigration’ who would later be known as ‘Bolaji Daramola’ arrived. He is probably in his late fifties, with grey hair, potbellied, dark complexioned and averagely tall, amongst many of his features.
He was attending to an aged man who came hurriedly to inquire about his passport. Their conversation did not last up to two minutes before he was discharged. Then, he walked close to me.
“Oh! Are you the one here?” I asked.
“I have been waiting since. I asked those women there (women selling stuffs) they said possibly you went out, so I should wait.”
He nodded with a pensive look.
“I want to do a passport,” I said. “But I needed to inquire about all the documents I will be needing, including the payment. This is why I am here.”
He nodded again and sat, saying “Okay, sit down. Have you done it before?” Now I could see his reddish eyeballs more like the hue of mahogany.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Okay, if you want to do it, you will need your birth certificate, local government certificate, NIN, two passport-sized photographs and #45,000 naira.”
Baffled, I inquisitively repeated “45,000?”
“In Lagos,” he said. “They are doing it 60, Abuja, they are doing it more than that.”
Knowing that the initial amount is #25,000, I asked “but I heard some people said it is #25,000 naira and we can even register online?”
“Don’t listen to them o,” he frankly said. “Don’t allow them to do fake for you (sic) o. If you pay #25,000 naira and they give you fake. You will still pay for another one. It is better to do the original one which is #45,000. If you pay now it will generate a date for us now.”
Despite the order that the Nigerian Immigration Service comptroller and FG had given that no officer must collect Passport fees by hand, I asked who will I pay and he said, “you will pay me. Pay to my account number. I will give you my number where you will send all your information to. I will help you to do it in a way that only when you want to do an interview (capturing) will be when you will come around. All other documents will be sent to me through WhatsApp.” More to note, Mr Bolaji has sent me his account details, only for me to credit him my #45,000 naira remains.
“Where will I do the capturing?” I asked.
“Gate ni,” he answered. “Our head office at Gate, you will do it there. I will just take you there, do it and go on the day fixed for you.”
However, this part brings to mind why many who opted for the registration online are usually delayed for months before they are allowed to do the capturing. But, this part did not explain it better like my other experience with another officer at the Immigration office in Agodi Gate. I guess that was the NIS headquarters Mr Bolaji was referring to earlier.
INVESTIGATION: Perverse Officer Isiaq, Standing Firm at Gate to Screen for Extortion
“Excuse me, sir, excuse me, sir,” an officer in a blue and black uniform called. I guessed he is one of the security at the Local council beside NIS office.
I never knew it was me at first. I was busy, jostling among the throngs of people (in my mind, potential victims of immigration officers) who were flooding inside the Immigration office in Agodi, Ibadan.
But it was me. I stopped and craned my neck backwards, “what happened?” I asked.
“Are you going there?”
I shot my head back to my front, a few steps away from me, with two officers standing firm on the gate.
Immediately, I knew it. This man knew the deal and he also wants to stick his lips to suck the juicy corrupt soup behind passport registration. Maybe, he thought I was a novice, so, he probably wanted to help me out (just like the way Immigration Officers will also do).
But I was really in a haste. I didn’t want him to waste my time. So, I left him. I never said a word, so he turned back ( he never had something really important to say, I presumed).
Instantly, I was already at the immigration office gate. Before me were two officers standing firm and gallantly flanked the wicket gate, checking every soul willing to enter the building.
I never cared to greet or approach them. I knew they will call for me. Intentionally, I just walked past them, then made my way in, and that was when one of the officers called. And that Officer was later known to be Isiaq Adewale.
“Sir, come,” he said, as a gentle smile twinkled on his sturdy face. “What do you want to do?”
“Passport,” I said.
“Come to this side,” he said with his left hand twisting round to his right side.
I did as I was told.
“Fresh or renewal?” He asked.
“Fresh,” I answered. “I want to know the criteria I will need to do it.”
“Are you sure you have not applied before?” He said jokingly. “Because there is no other way to it o.”
“Ah!” I laughed. “Am I not the owner of myself? I have not done anything before.”
“When do you want to use it?”
“Next year, January,” I said.
“It is better that you apply now because it takes four to five weeks (sic) before you can get it immediately after the application. Once you have done capturing you will need to wait for eight weeks or more before collection.”
“Eh! Okay, is there anyone I can see to register or what?”
Firmly, he said, “that is why we are here. Any officer you have seen in Ibadan, even if it is he, or he, (pointing to some other officers with him) you have no problem.”
“Okay. What are those things I will need?”
“NIN Slip, Birth Certificate, State Of Origin, Two passport photographs and #45,000 naira.”
“Ah!” I exclaimed. “#45,000 naira is it for 32 pages or what?”
“Yes, it is for 32 pages.”
“What about 64 pages?”
“We have two types of 64 pages,” he said and explained. “64 pages five years and 64 pages 10 years. That 64 pages 10 years is #120,000.”
“Ah! Why is it so costly like that?” I asked.
“The one we are doing now is different from the one we are doing before. We are doing Enhanced now,” he said as he started giving what I tagged as unnecessary reasons for him to extort me. This is where I got baffled at the extent these officers can go to just prey on their victims. The first officer at Akinyele Local Government explained that I should not allow people to do fake for me. That people paying #25,000 for passport, as commanded by FG and Jere are being given fake while the ones which #45,000 (32 pages) was paid for are the original.
If this were true, well, I expect all officers to have the same story in their mouths but, it seems they did not.
Officer Isiaq has another story about why Nigerians must pay #45,000 to Immigration Officers. He said, that the passport issued previously was different from the ones issued now. The newest one issued is called ENHANCED and this is what makes it cost up to #45,000 for 32 pages and #120,000 for 64 pages.
Let us hear more from Officer Isiaq as he explained why #45,000 is being extorted from Nigerians by officers.
“Is (Enhanced) is more security secure than the previous one which is E. E is what we are (sic) doing before which is Electronic Passport but the one we were doing before was MRP, Machine Readable Passport. So, the next one we did was Electronic Passport. The newest one we are doing now is Enhanced Passport which is harmonized Passport. What makes it different is its security. This new one cannot be easily forged. They just launched it last year.”
I said, “but sir, I heard that it is #25,000 that is usually charged for the passport and one can even pay online.”
“Yes, yes,” he interjected. “You can do it online. But the thing is, you will have nobody to call. If you have done it online now and come to me, I know where to direct you. Just go to the front desk, and they will say you should arrange your file. But the issues that you will encounter…hmm, first you will need to go to the high court to sign, you will have to find a guarantor and as well, the guarantor must not be from your family. It must be from someone close to you. So,” he paused, “the stress will be much. Even, when you have any issue, no officer will help you with it. No officer will help you to check whether your passport has been ready or the status it is. You understand. That is the stress. Because once you come around now you will need to go to the front desk and later go to the 2ic office…so the stress will be much but the officer in charge of your file will be the one helping you do all those things. And when you come for capturing, the officer will be the one that will help you to do capturing on time. Let me tell you something, come, come…”
Officer Isiaq said, “go and check that place.”
It was a waiting hall, where people waited for their turn for capturing or collection. When I checked as I was told by the Officer, about 50 people were waiting for their capturing. But the point is, most of them, never knew they will never get their capturing done on that day.
“People are there, right?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Those are the people that have paid for the past two months. So, the benefit between you doing it by yourself or allowing an officer to do it for you is that, as I am now, I have the opportunity to take you to those that will do capturing for you and say that you are my person o, please help me capture him fast. That is it. The thing is, only those people who know People (officers) will be attended to first. That is just the truth. I no fit lie for you (sic).”
“Ah!” I sighed.
“Truly, the money is not much but there is still some money you will still need to pay that is different from the online payment. If you check it very well, if you do online payment and do it yourself, all your documents will be arranged inside a white file but if I or any officer help you do it, we will arrange your documents in a brown file. That is the difference.”
Many thanks to Officer Isiaq, I know much about Immigration Officers and their racketeering operations which I highlighted below:
First, in his speech, I don’t need to go through the stress of signing from the commissioner of oath, getting a necessary guarantor until I get my passport done once I made the #45,000 naira or #120,000 naira to any officer. This part made me think if FORGERY or BREACHING OF LAW is not going on in the NIS circle. And you might ask why?
If I don’t need all the necessary things listed above to do my passport, then, it means two things: it is either all the needed things will be forged on my behalf by the officer I paid to, or probably, officers are breaching the law of immigration.
According to the law that bound all officers, no officers of NIS is expected to use their passport information as guarantor for any applicant. Now, the question is, if I don’t need all the listed above, how will the officers get a guarantor for me. Will it be forged or will an officer stand for me?
Officer Isiaq also stated that there will still be some money I will be paying if I registered online. This makes me to think of BRIBERY. and of which I have a victim who demanded he doesn’t want his identity revealed that experienced such when he went to Osogbo branch office of NIS to register for his passport.
He explained it is normal for officers to help the applicants that registered through them capture first over those that registered online, irrespective of the dates. (Nepotism, Favoritism and Prejudice)
He said no officer will help those who did their registration online take care of issues they encountered. (Negligence). This also means that officers who are employed and made responsible to answer the queries of citizens are no longer interested in doing such again, they will only delightedly do such when there is an opportunity for racketeering.
Officer Isiaq said that the colours of the files for online applicants and applicants helped by immigration officers are different, as the former is a white file while the latter is brown. (Segregation).
And this is it: my investigation and my experience with the immigration officers within Oyo State, Ibadan and Osun, Osogbo; exposing the extremity of their corruption and extortion on passport registrants. I will be delighted if the appropriate authorities can take it up from here and do the needful.
Edited by Jerome Kalu and Bushra Ghazal