From Joseph Inokotong, Abuja
Against the backdrop of public outcry about poor service delivery in some Passport Offices and the quest to deepen Passport reforms, the acting Comptroller General of Immigration, (Ag.CGI), Isah Jere Idris has uncovered how touts and some Immigration personnel swindle unsuspecting Nigerians who earnestly seek to acquire Passport.
The discovery was made during a recent 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.
According to Amos Okpu,
Assistant Comptroller of Immigration Service and Public Relations Officer, in a statement, the acting Comptroller General arrived the Alausa Passport Office Ikeja at about 1100 hours and presented himself as a potential Passport applicant.
“He moved round the premises unnoticed and was even attended to by some Personnel. He also met with some touts within and around the premises who made entreaties to assist him to procure Passport.
“Both the touts and some of the Personnel who offered to assist him gave exorbitant fees far beyond the official rates. He played along with them and indeed some affirmed their readiness to assist him procure the Passport within reasonable time provided he met their charges”, said Okpu.
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 Office.
“While there, the tout produced all manner of forms and requested the acting CGI to complete same so that the process could begin. He completed some 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”, Okpu further stated.
Satisfied with his findings at the Alausa Office, he proceeded to the Ikoyi Passport Centre and the same experienced played out. Afterwards, he left the premises unnoticed and proceeded to the Office of the Lagos State Command Comptroller on Alagbon Close, Ikoyi.
Speaking after the operation, the acting CGI noted that the visit was very insightful; “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”.
He promised to use this experience to deepen reforms very urgently and said: “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 stressed that none of the personnel found to have acted below expectation during the visit shall go unpunished assuring that appropriate sanctions shall be applied.
It would be recalled that upon assumption of office as the acting Comptroller General, Isah Jere Idris promised to deepen Passport reform efforts, improve Border Security efforts as well as emplace measures for enhanced staff welfare.