Toyin. O recently applied for an international passport and her experience was unpleasant! She took a trip to Ibadan from Lagos with the hope that the process will be slightly easier; Ibadan being less crowded than Lagos. She was met with the same lackadaisical attitude most government workers exhibit. Endless queues, extortion and everything between, she shared her experience at the Immigration office with the hope that things get better.
A couple of years back, I had the opportunity to apply for my Nigerian International passport. Constant harassment from my father fell on deaf ears because I felt I was not leaving the country soon. I deemed it an “unnecessary” document. Then sometime last month, I needed it and it became a problem to obtain.
The struggles Nigerians face at these offices have shown there is a major loophole in the system that requires urgent attention. First time applications or renewals require you to go through hell and back (not like you the passport is an auto pass to heaven).
“I remember when my sister and parents applied for and re-issued their passports respectively, about 5 years ago, there was no stress whatsoever. They got their passports ready the following day, less than 28 hours.”
THE STANDARD PRACTICE
Be prepared to pay an amount different from what’s stated on the official website. Prices also differ from one office to another. Same immigration office, same country, same product. According to the information on the Nigerian Immigration Services website, (NIS) the price for obtaining the passport varies by age and by type. The cost for a 32 page passport for ages 0- 17 and 60 above is: N10,750 and N17,000 for ages 18-60. A 64-page passport will cost you N10,750 if you are between ages 0-17 & 60 above and N22,000 for ages 18-60.
It cost me N28,000 to get my 32 page passport done.
Getting it done in either Lagos where I work or Ibadan where my family resides were the options available to me. Their hassle free experience guided my decision and I was on my way to Ibadan one faithful Tuesday morning.
I requested for a day off at work and left for Ibadan. I got in pretty late and on Wednesday, I was set to go to the passport office. Thinking I was going to be the first in line, I arrived the office at 9.00am. There were over a hundred people sitting under the canopy waiting to be called. The office had no direction on what to do or where to go first and I got pretty confused. Immediately, I placed a call to the contact person given to me by my boss and she directed me accordingly.
I was given a standard form to fill which was submitted with my birth certificate and 2 passport photos. They also requested for an identification letter from my Local Government which I did not have. I was not bothered about it. I was surprised when I was asked to pay N300 for it after the contact person told me it was not necessary. The filling of form was the only thing I was able to do that day and I had to come back the next day for bio metrics (capturing). My entire day was wasted.
Note* Ensure you have all your documents intact as stated on the Nigerian Immigration Service website. The documents are as follows:
- Letter of identification from Local Government/State of origin or residence or National Identity Card
- Completed passport application form and 2 passport sized photographs (passport photographs endorsed at the back by the Guarantor);
- Completed Guarantors’ form duly signed by a Commissioner for Oaths (not compulsory)
- Marriage certificate, where applicable;
- Birth Certificate
- Acknowledgement slip and evidence of payment
Due to the number of people I met the previous day, I decided to leave home very early, so I could finish up in good time. I planned to head back to work right after. Little did I know, the struggle was just about to kick off. I got to the passport office before 8:00am and the number of people there were more than the ones I met the previous day! My name was called and I was super excited to be first in line (In my mind). I was surprised to have been called first, because I met other people there waiting to be interviewed. After about 20 minutes my interview was done and I went back to join the crowd, lol. Now it all made sense. Everyone waiting in line had already been interviewed and were just waiting to be called for capturing.
After a 3 hour wait, it was finally my turn. I was disappointed when I saw there was only capturing office with ONE computer! Just one system is supposed to effectively capture hundreds of people everyday. It’s no wonder the process takes ages and sometimes people have to be turned back due to the volume of work. There is also the typical Nigerian way of doing things; officers having their own applicants who walk into the passport office and jump all the queues.
2nd of February, I went back for the collection of my passport, after I was called that it was ready. I got there at exactly 9:45am they had not started doing anything. I joined the angry crowd who were complaining the officers were wasting their time.
“Angry woman: “I’ve been here since 5:30am, this is past 11 already and you’ve still now called my name. Iru radarada wo de ni gbogbo eleyi gan? (What rubbish is this?)”
Officer: did I tell you to leave your house 5:30? Whoever told you to come here by that time is sick.”
The officials were so rude, it almost felt like they were doing us favors. When they finally started calling the names, I listened attentively so I could hear my name when called and shout “yes sir”! After calling over 150 names with only about 20 people available for collection (including me), they had us wait an additional 45 minutes. I was so impatient because I was to be somewhere else at 1:30pm . I asked an officer what was happening and she told me they had no power.
A whole immigration office without generator to run their systems when they know the kind of electricity problem we have in this country? When we finally entered the office, we were there for a while before given passes. After the whole episode, I left the office at 1:14pm, though disappointed, but excited I won’t have to face the stress again till after 5 years.
Almost everything in the world has gone digital, this process of obtaining an international passport too can take the form. The NIS needs to implement better application and payment procedures. The amount extorted from people and the stress people; both old and young pass through is discouraging. There is a portal for registration but it still requires you to take the signed application to the passport office for further processing.
Payment and uploading of documents should also be made available via this portal. Bio metrics capturing and collection can be done in the passport offices. Nigerian establishments need to do better with making these processes easier for citizens. My experience at the NIS was a tad bit more stressful than I ever imagined but looking on the bright side, I finally have my passport and can travel the world!
How stressful was it when you applied for/re-issued your passport? Where did you re-issue it and how long did it take before you getting it?