The federal government has declared as illegal, the N5,000 “Compliance Fee” charged by some personnel of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in some Passport Offices to help applicants process their passports.

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Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo made the declaration while responding to questions by Vanguard.

“Compliance fee? I am hearing it for the first time. We will plead with Nigerians to assist us to succeed. Do not pay compliance fee, if there is anything like that.

“Do not pay for your rights. There is nothing in the books that is compliance fee. Please, let us educate our people to know”, he stated.

Passport to heaven?
On assumption of office, the minister had queried the long queues at the immigration passport offices, lamenting that the situation had become as if Nigerians were queuing for passports to heaven.

While he stressed the need to reduce the waiting period to get an international passport, the Minister said even as a federal lawmaker and Chairman of the Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, his own daughter waited for six months to get her passport, wondering what the fate of the average Nigerian would be.

His predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola had instituted a three-week timeline for renewal of passports and six-week timeline for fresh applications. However, as of September 2023, there were well over 204,000 unprocessed applications.

Acting Comptroller General of Immigration, Caroline Wuraola-Adepoju who explained the reasons for the increased backlogs, said the urge by young Nigerians to move out of the country, popularly referred to as the “Japa Syndrome”, led to increased applications since 2021.

“My daughter waited for six months to get her passport booklet. I was the House committee chairman on NDDC. I faced this, tell me what an average Nigerian would face. It is like we are waiting for a passport to heaven,” said Tunji-Ojo.

The minister also hinted that in the foreseeable future, the Service may introduce a fast-track service at a specified fee for those who need the documents very urgently.

He however said security vetting of applicants and the need to satisfy the generality of Nigerians would not be sacrificed on the altar of offering express service to a few financially buoyant individuals.

Introduction of APIS
Tunji-Ojo also disclosed that the ministry has now introduced the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS) which will help the NIS in terms of border control and management.