In a resolute stance against corruption within its ranks, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has recently taken significant measures to combat passport extortion by eliminating third-party involvement, News About Nigeria reports.
The NIS announced the dismissal of eight of its officers, while an additional 80 individuals are set to face trial for engaging in illegal fee collection related to passport issuance and renewal.
The Service Public Relations Officer (SPRO), Comptroller of Immigration Tony Akuneme, revealed the disciplinary actions and forthcoming trials in a recent interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
These actions are part of the NIS’s ongoing efforts to reform the passport issuance process and maintain the integrity of its operations.
The passport reform agenda, spearheaded by the current Comptroller-General (CG) of the NIS, Isah Jere, focuses on three key areas: improving the efficiency of passport issuance, strengthening border security, and enhancing the welfare of NIS officers.
Over the past year, CG Jere has been unwavering in his commitment to achieving these objectives, which have now led to an increased number of applicants opting to book their passports online.
One of the primary goals of the NIS reforms is to eliminate the involvement of third-party agents and middlemen, who often engage in illicit activities during the passport application process.
By leveraging advancements in technology, the NIS has made it possible for individuals to apply for passports conveniently and securely from the comfort of their own homes. The online application system accepts payments through various digital channels, further reducing the reliance on intermediaries.
Comptroller Akuneme emphasized the importance of minimizing third-party involvement, stating, “We have tried as much as possible to eliminate third parties so that if you really want, you can process the application of your passport from the comfort of your room on your laptop, android phones, and you can pay online. You don’t really need anybody, whether immigration officers or agents which we usually call touts.”
However, despite these reforms, some individuals continue to rely on third parties, often unaware of the risks associated with such arrangements.
Akuneme cautioned against using agents, as they may lack a comprehensive understanding of the information entered into the application, potentially leading to complications with the National Identification Number (NIN) or other aspects of the process.
The NIS has made it clear that officers found to be involved in acts of extortion or attempts to sabotage the reform process will face strict disciplinary action.
Comptroller Akuneme emphasized the commitment of the NIS to curb corruption and other illicit activities within the service, noting that the level of public awareness has significantly increased in recent months.
“We have continued to punish NIS officers and men who try to assist people for a fee. You can assist people genuinely but not extort from them. We are committed to curbing corruption and other illicit acts in the service,” Akuneme stated firmly.
He also urged the public to report any instances of corruption or misconduct, stating, “Don’t patronize agents, fill your forms yourself. We have officers watching, and these agents know they are being watched. When they take money from you, tell us. If we don’t take action, tell the world.”
The NIS’s swift and decisive action against passport extortion sends a strong message that corruption will not be tolerated within the service.
With ongoing trials and the continued dedication of its officers, the NIS aims to restore public trust in the passport application process and ensure a transparent and efficient experience for all Nigerians.