- “We often hear politicians talk about fighting corruption, improving the efficiency of public-facing institutions etc. It’s all talk. The sad reality is that these agencies are deliberately designed right from the top to be extremely corrupt and predatory.” Christopher Akor 20220.
In Nigeria, virtually all government institutions are ‘deliberately’ designed not to function effectively for extortionist reasons. This view is consistent with the prefatory statement above. Consequently, any legitimate encounter an average Nigerian has with the Nigerian state through its bureaucracy, the outcome is frustration and despondency.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to the Very Important Persons (VIPs) who are in many ways responsible for our deplorable situation in the country. Ordinary Nigerians who legitimately seek an important service from the state are always confronted with a bureaucracy that is deliberately “dead”. The bureaucracy only comes alive and functions effectively when they are willing to bribe their way through the system.
That is why the saying “corruption wakes a dead bureaucracy” holds true for the Nigerian context. There is hardly any government institution that is an exception to this, but my focus is on the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigerian High Commissions/Consulates where Nigerians apply for International Passport
Most Nigerians have been subjected to unnecessary and severe stress whenever they apply or attempt to renew their International Passport at home and abroad. Procedurally, the NIS has a standard online process for application or renewal of Passport on its official website.
However, applicants who rely on this procedure hardly succeed because the unofficial criminal process that thrives on bribery frustrates the official procedure. Herein lies the organised crime of International Passport racketeering that has now been institutionalised at the NIS offices, and High Commissions/Consulates – for applicants in diaspora. Instances of racketeering abound but I will limit myself to a few within and outside the country.
Recently, a friend began the process of application to renew his Passport and his son’s at the Ibadan command in October, 2022. Instead of paying the official rate of N27, 000, he was lured into considering what they now refer to as “express”, which is between N55, 000 to N60, 000. This cost depends on the location of application. He yielded to the “express” believing the Passports would be ready as the name process – express – implies. Having coughed out N150, 000 (for the two Passports) and was captured in December, their Passport is not yet ready.
He has made countless calls to the top brass of the NIS within his reach to no avail. This extortionist, criminal, and cruel network is blind to applications by senior citizens. My mother in-law (now 71years) applied for renewal at the Osogbo command through “express” and paid N60, 000 since she will have to wait for forever if she relies on the official procedure. She was asked to present herself for capturing at 2am!! For heaven’s sake, who in their right senses would fix an appointment for a government business at this ungodly hour?
Isn’t this time for nocturnal appointment meant for witches, wizards, and criminals? Despite her old age, she managed to turn up at 5am. Sadly, she was not shown respect by NIS officials on account of her age, as she was captured around 10am. Up till now, her passport is not yet ready. Unfortunately, the “express” don’t weak the dead bureaucracy in both instances.
Like in Nigeria, the criminal network at the Consulate “fraudulently” charges $130 – that is not receipted – for coming without an appointment, when they’ve made it practically impossible for applicants to book appointment via a phone call. In South Africa where I leave, the criminal network is well institutionalised. They collect R5, 000 (N190, 000) for renewal through the “express” channel.
A Nigerian student told me he was asked to pay R10, 000 (N380, 000) for renewal in December when he explained how urgent he needed the Passport. All efforts to see the Consul-General in Johannesburg was frustrated by officials at the Consulate. Luckily, the President of Nigerian Student Society (NSS) intervened, and he got it. However, this came with a lot of stress and financial burden. My fiancée (a PhD student) applied through the official process and struggled to get captured in Johannesburg in November.
Her Passport is not yet ready because she didn’t use the “express” channel. These are just few among a plethora of the harrowing and traumatising experiences Nigerians in diaspora face to renew their Passports. The experience in Britain I hear it is mildly harrowing because applicants only pay exorbitant charges (which is not supposed to be) with the assurance that they will get their Passport.
Regrettably, the Nigerian state – and its relevant institutions – has not made serious effort to end this criminality at home and abroad. This is largely so because the VIPs and their families are not subjected to the stress and trauma ordinary citizens are confronted with when applying for Passport or renewing an old one.
For this to stop, drastic measures must be taken. The NIS must be comprehensively sanitized.
Nigerian don’t want to wait months for the Nigeria Immigration Service to process passports. This leads to corrupt passport officials trying to offer gullible Nigerian promises of faster service. This is a market opportunity for the government to charge an expedited fee. People are willing to pay for premium service so should be provided. Processing times should be much faster than 2 months.
The NIS should be mailing these documents after payment. There’s no reason to Subject Nigerians to two trips to the office if you’re asking for their residence information during the passport registration. Nigerian postal service should be put to use. This will guarantee faster service because the queues are shorter.
SOURCE/ IMAGE: TravelStart