…As touts frustrate issuance of travel documents
Getting access to travel documents, especially passports, is a tough hurdle applicants must scale in their bid to travel out of the country. The process is time consuming, and an applicant could be lucky if he or she gets the paperwork done within a month.
New requirements, introduced by officials, have made the activity even more difficult. Though these officials say the rules were put in place to curb fraud, some applicants say it is a ploy to extort money.
Mr. Akin Olude (not real name), an applicant who visited the Ikoyi Passport Office in July, told The Guardian his experience.
He explained to an officer that he needed a fresh passport for a business trip to Dubai with one of his business associates, and that the document was required within 24 hours. The officer led him to a superior, who listed all the requirements, including data page of a guarantor and a state of origin certificate.
He was given an alternative: if he couldn’t provide the items, he could have the passport for an amount. The superior officer in turn led him to a man in mufti. This man told Olude that a passport could be processed at a fixed rate of N23,000, but since his documents were incomplete, a N30,000 price could do the magic.
“After the payment, within 30 minutes, I was called from among over 100 people. Many had been there before I arrived. I went straight for the data capturing session. There, I was handed a file on which my name was boldly inscribed. Curiously, I opened it. To my surprise, I saw the data page of a man I had never met alongside his passport photograph. This was my ‘guarantor’. I also saw my ‘certificate of origin’ with my name beautifully typed on it. There was also an affidavit for age declaration, with my date of birth and other papers neatly arranged.
“I was asked to return the following day. I did, early in the money, and picked up my passport. There were people I met there who had been processing their passports for about four weeks. There was a guy who said he was asked to get an affidavit for his declaration of age and had been coming for two weeks. Several people who followed similar process, as I did, received their passports the second day.”
One woman, Bakare Olukunle, who approached the Ogun Passport Office in Abeokuta, had a near similar tale. After paying N30,000, she was charged an additional N2,000, being ‘recharge card fee’ for the Ogas who facilitated the process.