No fewer than 80 officers and men of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) have gone on trial for indulging in the collection of illegal fees for the issuance of new passports and renewal of old ones.
The Service Public Relations Officer (SPRO), Comptroller of Immigration Tony Akuneme, who disclosed this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja, also indicated that eight other officers have been dismissed from service for the same offence in the last one year.
He said the disciplinary measures under the passport reform were part of the three-point agenda of the present Comptroller-General (CG), NIS, Isah Jere when he came on board.
Akuneme said that the CG’s three-point agenda is to reform passport issuance, tighten border security, and improve the welfare of NIS officers.
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According to him, Jere had done this to the best of his ability in the last year plus, and that is what has led to most applicants booking online for passports.
“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. They have upgraded and become agents. They are still third parties.
“The problem we have is the use of third parties because no matter how much reform you put in, you will always see a learned and civilised person using a third party to process his or her application.
“And one thing they don’t understand is that third parties don’t have an idea of the information entered into your application. This can result in somebody having issues with his/her National Identification Number (NIN),” he said.
Akuneme said that the CG had vowed to discipline officers who go out of their way to try to either engage or sabotage the reform process.
“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. You will appreciate the fact that if nothing else, the level of awareness has increased in the last few months.
“Don’t patronise 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,” he said. (NAN)