Funny as it may come across this is is a very serious issue. Bayo Adeyinka who claimed he was at the Ikoyi passport office today explained how he was made to cough out extra cash to ‘touts’ and how most of them who were early callers were made to pray for 20mins ‘by force’ before their offices were officially declared opened. The writeup is quite funny and engaging, but then the truth is corruption must stop at Ikoyi Passport Office and all passport offices in Lagos. Please read;
There are times I feel that we put unnecessary emphasis on the corruption of political officers and appointees while neglecting that of civil servants. With my experience at the Ikoyi Passport Office in the last 24 hours, I am of the opinion that anyone serious about dealing with corruption should start from that place. In spite of a large sign that says 'Don't patronize touts', touts were all over the place disguised as photographers and lobbying on behalf of immigration officers. Continue...
There were even cyber cafe attendants who collated customer's files on behalf of the Passport Office! At the end of the day, they made nonsense of the online registration by demanding an extra 10k for "verification and processing"-with a subtle punch line that "it's not under compulsion".
I asked her what would happen if I decide not to pay 10k since I already registered online and she just smiled. Not a single word. When I asked her what will happen if I part with the 10k, she said I can even collect same day. Just imagine 10k extra per person in addition to the official rate of 24k for a 64-page passport!
And yet this same people forced us to pray for 20 minutes at 8 am when the office opened. An Immigration Officer came to where we were ushered in to sit and led a three-pronged prayer service which he divided into "praise and worship, apology and request"- using his own words. We started by singing "Good Morning Jesus". In a few minutes, a man beside me started speaking in tongues and another clasped his hands and shook his head so much I was startled momentarily. In a short while, the Immigration Officer started "prophetic prayers". " The passport you have come to collect shall take you places in Jesus Name. Whatever visa you apply for with this passport, you shall never be denied in Jesus Name. You will achieve beyond your expectations with this passport".
Those were his exact words and I'm not exaggerating. Then he started exhorting people to make any request they want from God. "If you're looking for husband, this is your time. Ask God and He will not deny you". Looking for husband at the Passport Office? He also asked us to pray for the "network so that it will not be slow today". At 8.20am, another officer came to lead us to pray in the Islamic manner. He didn't spend more than 3 minutes as all he did was to take the "Fatiha". Why would any government office subject people to forced prayers and waste 20 minutes of their customers' time on prayers? I was told that is the practice on a daily basis and I recollect that I witnessed the same thing when I wanted to register for my driver's license also.
In spite of the religious pretensions, serious racketeering went on. I saw more than one officer negotiating and haggling with hapless citizens. The tout that approached me when I got there told me a 64-page passport was 38k- he even called an Officer Joe in my presence and wanted to introduce me to him. When I told him I already registered online and even paid online, he laughed hysterically. "Iyen o mean anything" (that doesn't mean anything), he said. I would later find out he was right as my name was not called at all despite the fact that I was the first person to arrive at the Passport Office at 6am! It was at 10.30am that I got fed up and called the lady I submitted my form to (whom I later discovered to be a cyber cafe attendant, though she was introduced to me by an officer). She now explained that I had to pay 10k for verification and processing and then my file will be moved.
What can be done about this cesspool of corruption? I believe technology should be used to attack corruption via deployment of cameras all over the place. I also think mystery shoppers should be deployed to catch people in the act. Another citizen, who was equally as riled as I was lamented and said, " Is there hope for this country this way"?
By: Bayo Adeyinka
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