Racketeering: FG to deploy hidden cameras, security operatives to NIS passport offices

The federal government has said it is turning around the entire passport application process by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to six weeks, adding that efforts were on to deploy security operatives both seen and unseen, in all passport offices nationwide as part of efforts to stop racketeering in the Service.

The government said this effort is aimed to ensure seamless, transparent, as well as according human dignity to applicants and fulfil citizenship integrity, in line with the mandate of  the Ministry of Interior.

The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola stated this Thursday in Abuja, at a meeting with the Comptroller General of Immigration, Mohammad Babandede, Passport Officers, as well as the attaches in Nigeria Missions abroad.

In his speech, the Minister said, “We have had several challenges in the past, including shortage of booklets, touting, racketeering, inflating the cost, passports being issued to ineligible persons, among  others. It has become imperative therefore to review our operations and rejig our system, in order to be able to offer excellent services to our clients.”

“They will wear body cameras. They will detect and report any form of solicitations, inflation, improper communications, extortion, diversion, hoarding and other corrupt practices. Those caught will be dealt with according to the law,” he stressed.The Minister disclosed further that an ombudsman will also be created for members of the public to receive complaints and reports on officers trying to deviate from prescribed guidelines and subversion of the process.

“Therefore, I am declaring a zero-tolerance stance to all forms of touting. No applicant will be made to pay any illegitimate fees,” he said.
The meeting to create a special centres which will run on public-private partnership basis. 

“This has already taken off in Abuja and 10 more will be opened in coming weeks as more of such centres will be opened all over the country. Our goal is to have one in each local government, university campuses, institutions of higher learning and other places.

“A timeline will be fixed for every application i.e., a collection date. This will be six weeks, comparable to what obtains in other countries. This is to allow for enough time to investigate and validate personal information supplied by the applicants. What we are driving at is the peace of mind that comes from assurance of certainty. If there are circumstances that will make the date to change, it will be communicated to the applicant one week before the collection date.  

“Applicants will have no basis for further communication with officers, other than to complete their application process and leave the venue. The date for the collection of their passports or any challenge to the application, will be communicated to them. The technology for the efficient running of this system has been acquired and will be deployed.

“To publish the list of the backlog of applications that are ready which are yet to be collected by the owners. They will be required to go to the State commands to collect them.”

Aregbesola called for the support and maximum cooperation of all passport officers so to make more significant contribution to national development.

“It should be our personal and collective goal to leave an institution better than we met it,” he reiterated.

Aregbesola who expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for his consistent support for the Ministry of Interior and all its agencies, also commended the Controller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mohammad Babandede for his tireless efforts and the unprecedented success the agency has recorded under his leadership.

Aregbesola lauded all the officers who he said “sacrificially serving to man the nation’s borders and do the business of the agency under very challenging conditions.