Immigration tackles malpractices, extortion as shortage of materials hits Rivers
The Nigeria Immigration Service, Rivers State Command, is tackling touting and extortions following its porous location at the Federal Secretariat on the Aba Road, Port Harcourt.
Findings by The Guardian revealed that the secretariat harbours numerous service-mongers who had turned every corner of the secretariat into a business centre and den for extortion of passport applicants.
However, following the command’s relocation to a new complex donated by Governor Nyesom Wike, stringent measures were put in place to end the ugly experience of touting and extortions by officers.
A visit to the new complex showed a restricted environment with implanted cameras monitoring the movements and activities of people.
Compared with the old office, there is a clear paradigm change. Officers were not seen loitering and engaging in exchanges with service-mongers around the premises as they were seen attending to applicants.
Further findings revealed that over 1,000 copies of produced passports were abandoned by their owners and sometimes expire on the shelves.
This has, however, compelled the command to appeal to those who do not have urgent need for passport to allow people in desperate need of it to go for it.
Also, there were complaints of scarcity of passport materials by applicants and they urged the relevant authorities to make the materials available to enable them obtain it with ease.
There were crowds at the new passport office because Rivers State is the only state in the South-South and South-East regions issuing the new enhanced e-passport with five and 10-year validity. Hence, applicants from other states come to Rivers to procure the travel document.
Some applicants commended the passport office for tackling extortion and malpractices, which were rampant at the former passport office.
One of the applicants, Mr Rubben Ogba, said the previous office was rowdy, unkempt and with so much extortion.
The Public Relations Officer of Passport Office, Port Harcourt, Rufus Apollo, said the pressure in issuing the improved passport was high, but he assured that the request for all applicants would be met.
He said: “People come from Enugu, Anambra, Benin, Delta just to come and get the passport, but we are doing our best to accommodate all.”
Speaking on its efforts at tackling extortion, Apollo said: “With the magnanimity of the governor, we moved to a better place. So, we have left behind the numerous touts who abound at the Federal Secretariat and issues of extortions, no officer hangs around anymore. We have been able to stop those ugly experiences.”