The Federal Government has declared as illegal, the N5,000 “Compliance Fee” charged by some personnel of the Nigeria Immigration Service NIS in some Passport Offices to help applicants process their passports.
This was the statement of the Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, who spoke to Vanguard on the issue. He said he was unaware of such fee and asked Nigerians to help the government succeed by reporting any cases of extortion. “There is nothing in the books that is compliance fee. Please, let us educate our people to know”, he said.
The minister also expressed concern over the long queues at the immigration passport offices, which he likened to people queuing for passports to heaven. He said he was determined to reduce the waiting period for obtaining an international passport, recalling that his own daughter had to wait for six months to get hers when he was a federal lawmaker and Chairman of the Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC.
His predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola had set a three-week timeline for renewal of passports and six-week timeline for fresh applications. However, as of September 2023, there were over 204,000 unprocessed applications.
The Acting Comptroller General of Immigration, Caroline Wuraola-Adepoju attributed the increased backlogs to the high demand for passports by young Nigerians who want to leave the country, a phenomenon known as the “Japa Syndrome”, which started in 2021.
The minister hinted that the Service might soon offer a special service for a certain fee for those who require the documents in a hurry. He added that security checks of applicants and the need to meet the expectations of most Nigerians would not be compromised for the sake of providing quick service to a few wealthy individuals.
Tunji-Ojo also revealed that the ministry has now implemented the Advanced Passenger Information System APIS which will assist the NIS in border control and management.
He explained that APIS would enable the Service “to profile people and make decisions on them before they reach our borders”.
“We have told the service providers too and they pleaded from now till February. I have added a month to them, that is March. If they don’t deliver, they would have to go and then we will get people that can deliver because the efficiency of the NIS and Nigeria cannot be sacrificed on the altar of any contract.
“We have gone through all the contracts signed by government with all service providers. We have analyzed the scope of work and performances and based on that, we have given them marching orders”, he stated.
He said he was working with the Service and its partners to make it possible for applicants to receive their passports at their preferred locations, such as their homes or offices, as part of his plan to reduce overcrowding at immigration offices.
“We have looked at the contract on courier delivery of passports. Like now, those who want the service should be able to get their passports in their offices or homes. They do not have to travel back to the immigration offices to get their passports.”
He also said that more Passport Front Offices would be set up to make the service more accessible to Nigerians, and that applicants would not have to face the difficulties of travelling to their state capitals or bigger towns to obtain their passports.