The Minister of Interior Dr. Olubunmi Tunji Ojo has received accolades from Nigerians in his efforts to sanitize the process of the issuance of international passports.
The Minister was urged to go beyond overseeing the clearing of over 200,000 backlogs of passports by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to institutionalize efficiency and integrity in the service.
The call was made by participants in an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organisation for Community Development, PRIMORG, on Wednesday in Abuja.
Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo was praised for stepping up integrity and speed in the passport application and processing.
Data Analyst and programme Associate at Step-Up Nigeria, Godfrey Itatu, said there was no better time for the Ministry of Interior and Nigeria Immigration Service to work out modalities that will institutionalize seamless processing of passports and measures that will reduce corruption to the barest minimum.
Itatu stressed that the rapid clearance of the backlog of passports at Immigration offices nationwide is a testament that the lack of will to do the right thing is the bane of service delivery in public offices. He hailed the Minister of Interior for leading a significant change in the operations of the Nigeria Immigration Service.
“Until we get it right, this may just be a phase. If the Minister does not structure the immigration service properly, especially from the leadership, the effort is not going to last.
“When you fight corruption, corruption fights back. When you cut the source of where people make money from illicit money, they will definitely fight you.
“if structures are not put in place, if all the changes are happening because of the strength of the new sheriff in town, and you know everybody has to act in line, once he leaves, it goes back to business as usual. So until the structure is gotten and the institution strengthened against corruption, we are going nowhere.”
Itatu backed the use of technology, describing it as a silver bullet in eradicating corruption in a passport application, emphasizing that “the more humans are out of the system, the better; when you deal with computers, everything has been arranged, and it’s organized. It’s a fluid process. When you take out human interference, everything becomes faster and easier.
He urged Nigerians to embrace technology introduced in passport application and stop seeking proxy services, as well as desist from any act that would encourage extortion and bribery in passport processing. He called on the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to decentralize information about passport applications so that many Nigerians know the prices and processes of legitimately acquiring passports.
Similarly, PRIMORG’s Program Manager, Dr. Adaobi Obiabunmuo, called for the strengthening of the Nigeria Immigration Service and creating an unconducive environment for corruption to thrive in passport issuance across the country.
She noted that Nigerians have endured difficult years of processing their international passport and cannot afford not to build on the innovations and drive to sanitize the system of sharp practices and make it more efficient the current Minister of Interior.
“For several years, many intending Nigerian travellers have been subjected to tough times in their bid to obtain passports from the service.
Passport applications in Nigeria have been associated with delays in enrolment, processing and production of passport booklets, which is at the center of extortion of applicants and other sharp practices.
“A couple of times, PRIMORG amplified reports on the challenges citizens seeking passports go through in the hands of immigration officials and the attendant corruption affecting the system, ” Obiabunmuo said.
Nigerians who called into the radio programme commended the Minister of Interior following immediate changes he brought in passport processing.
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program PRIMORG uses to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.