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Ikoyi Passport Office under siege over delayed processing

PCO blames power failure, tackles EKDC over disconnection
…says passport not a right but privilege

The Nigerian Immigration Service’s Ikoyi Passport Office is currently facing a crisis over delayed processing of passports for applicants. Findings by New Telegraph revealed that events at the office had turned full circle as the officers and men, as well as applicants, are finding it difficult to get their passports out, contrary EKDCo the directives of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, that processing should be done within a short time. Specifically, it was learnt from sources that despite the Federal Government making passport booklets available to ensure processing of new and renewal of the documents are done within a stipulated time, the situation has turned out frustrating for the applicants as well as the officers in charge. An officer, who spoke to New Telegraph on the condition of anonymity, said: “Things are obviously not right in this place.

“The Federal Government had recently made it easier for passports to be procured, not just by giving directives to that effect, but also making booklets available. “However, what we see here every week is delay.” He lamented the situation had also affected jobs left behind by the immediate past Passport Control Officer, saying that it had resulted in a backlog. He added: “Government policies are meant to relieve the pains and challenges of the public as well as enhance the performance of public servants in the discharge of their duties.

The Honourable Minister and the immediate past Comptroller General of Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede (MFR), meant well by introducing a new passport regime on June 1, 2021. “This reform is in tandem with global best practice where fresh applications are expected to be treated within six weeks while reissue cases are meant to be done within three weeks, all things being equal. “To the disappointment of applicants, who received the new policy in good faith and enthusiasm, the situation is not the same here.”

An applicant, who craved anonymity, complained bitterly that he applied for a passport in the first week of June and was yet to get it. N Zacho reasons given for the delay. He further stated that he reliably confirmed that only a selected few were given preference under inexplicable circumstances.

“The fear being expressed in certain quarters is that the backlog of passport applications that the Honourable Minister and the CGIS, in their wisdom, successfully cleared, has gradually built up again and if care is not taken we will go back to square one,” he said. He appealed to the minister and the CGIS to look into the issue with the aim of proffering the more desired solution before it gets out of hand. Speaking in the same vein, another applicant expressed frustration, saying his application had remained for over four months. According to him: “The passport officer is acting with impunity as he bluntly refused to release passports within three and six weeks as stipulated by the Minister of Interior.

“We have suffered a lot as the purpose of obtaining the passport has been defeated. My daughter is one of the applicants, who needed urgent medical attention. Most applicants are dying in silence, with no one to cry to. “Sir, I beg you in the name of God, to use your good office to intervene in this matter because it is no longer funny. Most people who have applied since the first week of June, which is over four months, have yet to collect their passports.” New Telegraph also gathered that at a point, the Comptroller in Charge of Passport Control, Lagos, had to relocate to the Ikoyi passport office in a bid to ensure that the backlogs were cleared.

Reacting to the development on the phone, the Passport Control Officer, Lima Abdullahi, blamed the situation on poor power supply. He said it was wrong for anyone to accuse the office of deliberately delaying processing the documents, saying that the public should take cognisance of the fact that the Ikoyi passport office is the busiest in the country. Abdullahi said: “There is no way we can deliberately delay processing of passports. You know the situation of things in this country as far as electricity is concerned. “Every day, we rely on generator to make things work. We keep buying diesel. I have been on this issue for a long time that EKDC should reconnect us to Dodan Barracks line for stable power.” Another official also told our correspondent that there was no reason for passport applications to experience delays since the Federal Government has made booklets available. He, however, said the only snag the officers were experiencing at the moment had to do with discrepancies in NIN verification.

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