THE cost and acquisition of a passport document has long been in debate which is not supposed to be the case, causing many Nigerians fall victims to unscrupulous characters who seek to extort them.
The document currently sells at N22, 000 for a 64-page document while a 32-page document costs N17,000 (between ages of 18-59), N10,750 (between ages of 0-17, 60 and above) officially even on the Nigeria Immigration Service website. This, mind you, is not inclusive of bank charges which vary, however some people claim to have acquired it for more while others say they have spent many hours and some, weeks in order to get the document.
Not saying those claims are untrue but also know that human nature comes to play sometimes and in many cases some applicants just want the passports at all cost and refuse to follow simple steps to acquire it choosing instead to pay far more than the rate for this document and thereafter go on social media to rant about how bad the country is?
On Tips today, after our visit to the passport office, we have outlined the processes for Nigerians and in particular a friend who claimed he paid over N40,000 for this document probably contracting the services of such shady characters who hang around some passport offices.
Information is key, and being armed with it will help you avoid extortion.
The Electronic- passport ( e-passport) is a document acquired through a cashless process, applicants, in fact Nigerians need to know this. As a cashless system, it means you are not supposed to come to passport office with your money.
The second aspect is that the acquisition of a passport document is a participatory system and what makes it so is that the applicant needs to play a role as well as a role the service provider must play also.
The role of the service seeker, who is the applicant, involves him or her to go to the immigration website, fill his or her form online and generate his/her acknowledgement slip, make his/her payment online and equally generate his guarantor form if he is applying for a fresh document.
He or she must gather the necessary requirement, when armed with it, go to the passport office and that covers the participatory role.
However, some people go there and say they’ve spent 5-7 hours at the passport office and sometimes it is due to the fact that they have not done the participatory aspect of the document acquisition.
In truth, the internet does not have breaks or take holidays so you can generate the above requirement every day, even work free days, midnight, at the office, on Sundays and the list goes on. Applicants are not supposed to generate these at the passport office since these things can be accessed outside the passport office.
If you go to the Passport office to wait it means you are giving NIS, extra work and bringing your role to them, because if you are able to complete the form in that time as stipulated, you are the one delaying yourself not NIS delaying you.
Also, the new Comptroller General, Mahmmud Babandede in a bid to make the acquisition seamless and in line with the ease of doing business has gone the extra mile not just for applicants to use the internet but also for banks that operate with passport offices.
At her Ikoyi Passport office there are several banks within the premises and the essence is that where you are not able to do the assessment of the internet by yourself, you can patronise the banks
However, note that these banks are not charity Organisations and so they will add their charges whether minute or substantial and there in lies one of the challenges when people ask the price of passports.
The money for the passport acquisition is different from that which you pay at the bank as service charge to help you do what must be done to finish the participatory aspect. The banks are the second window to do the payments.
On the 27th of July at the Ikoyi Passport office, the Comptroller General launched a third window for payment, since the work at that office exceeds all others in the country.
NIS technical partners in the area of payment linked with GT Bank to open the third window for the Point of Sale ( POS). The essence of this window is that in an event of some people that may not have access to internet or do not have confidence in the internet system.
If they are able to come with their cash, they go to the GT Bank POS platform, even ATM/credit cards can be used there, through it payment can be made and printed out for you, then you present the payment to immigration who attaches to your file.
This third POS platform has been open in some other passport offices apart from Ikoyi but Nigerianflightdeck.com can only confirm the Festac Passport Office which it visited Friday.
The main essence of these windows is to phase out touts, so that applicants will stop patronising touts, come straight to any of the above mentioned, apply and get it done.
Once the participatory aspect is done, that is the beginning of the Nigeria Immigration Service ( NIS) role.
As soon as the documents are presented to NIS, a file will be opened and confirmation of payment done. This is done at a back door office, and confirmation is done via the internet so at times there may be network issues that make it that even after payment, it has not dropped.
Once it is confirmed that payment has dropped and NIS can access it and it is genuinely done, the applicant is sent for capture immediately and the moment you are captured that is the end of the applicants link with immigration until collection.
Note however that payment must enter Federal Government account before immigration commences production, if there are hitches, we learnt that the applicant needs to wait for it to happen.
This is however, no fault of the agency as it must follow due process and do its diligence on the payment, if this happens, the service is mandated to communicate with the applicant(s).
They give out options of waiting for the network issue to be resolved so you can continue( it is a gamble the network issue may or may not be resolved), then there is the option of going home and coming back the next day so you can be attended to and then the third option is that the PRO releases her mobile line to those involved so they can communicate to find out if the network is back.
At the Ikoyi office, once people have a slip, you can give to SERVICOM which at the Ikoyi office has been linked to the server and from the gate there they can tell you the status of the passport. It can be Approved or in the production room and by the next day it will be out so you don’t need to stay and wait, but when they check and tell you it is encode, it means the production has been done and it may be in the process of leaving production room to go for collection.
This innovation is new and it reduces the cumbersome nature of collection.
All passports produced must be registered before going out, when’s migration produces 1000 passports they all need to be registered so at every point in time they can trace where they are in case any get missing.
At times when they say it is ready for collection it simply means it is being registered, it is in the collection room or on the way. When they go to the collection room, they must count all the passport they are signs for and reconcile with the register, this process also takes time because of the volume of people.
These are checking mechanisms put in place to ensure everything is as it should be.
Immigration also created a SERVICOM office, which caters for whomever wants to make enquiries, complain, even report there, they will listen to the applicant because the reason is that whoever comes to make enquiries officers should be able to explain and attend to him.
Like our correspondent, noticed, if you are there for application, they give you a special guide.
Most importantly for some people who are impatient, yes the passport may be ready for collection but they have to be sorted out alphabetically from A to Z.
They are sorted and put in the proper alphabetical column, so it is easy to trace an applicant.
When applicants are many you may have come first and your slip taken first that does not mean you get your passport first. Why, You ask?
This is because once slips are collected the officers go in and check alphabet by alphabet to sort it out. 80% of names in Lagos start with ‘A’ and ‘O’ there are thousands, when your name starts with ‘X’ or Y, and they are five on the counter, it’s easy to sort out and so patience is key to get those passports.
We are revealing this so as Nigerians we don’t go out with the wrong impression and always try to do what’s right both as applicants and as service provider.