The Federal Government has deployed hidden and public cameras to all passport offices across the country to check passport racketeering and corruption.
Addressing journalists yesterday after a meeting with all passport control officers in 42 passport offices nationwide and immigration attaches in foreign missions who joined the meeting virtually, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said efforts are on to embed security operatives both seen and unseen, in all passport offices. “They will wear body cameras. They will detect and report any form of solicitations, inflation, improper communications, extortion, diversion, hoarding and other corrupt practices,” he said. He warned that those caught will be dealt with according to the law.
The minister further disclosed that an Ombudsman would also be created for members of the public to receive complaints and reports on officers trying to deviate from prescribed guidelines and subvert 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.
He explained that the entire passport application process by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) would be witnessing an entire turnaround in six weeks, so as to ensure seamless, transparent, as well as accord human dignity to applicants and fulfill citizenship integrity in line with the mandate of the Ministry of Interior.
Highlights of the meeting with the Comptroller-General of NIS, Mohammad Babandede; Passport Officers, as well as the attaches in Nigeria Missions abroad, According to Aregbesola, included the creation of special centres for expedited services.
The special centres are to run on public-private partnership (PPP) 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.
Aregbesola said that the goal is to have one in each local government area, university campuses, institutions of higher learning and other places. He pointed out that timeline would be fixed for every application, such as the collection date which will be six weeks, comparable to what is obtained in other countries, which will allow for enough time to investigate and validate personal information supplied by the applicants.
The minister said henceforth, applicants would have no basis for further communication with officers, other than to complete their application process and leave the venue, as the date for the collection of their passports or any challenge to the application, will be communicated to them.
Aregbesola, who expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for his consistent support for the Ministry of Interior and all its agencies, also commended Babandede for his “tireless efforts and the unprecedented success the agency has recorded under his leadership.”