• Monday, April 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Passport seekers rue missed opportunities

Passport seekers rue missed opportunities

Kingsley Ferdinand has lost a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom because his passport application was delayed for over eight months after capturing in one of the passport offices in Abuja.

Despite the Federal Government’s promise that processing passport applications will now take about six weeks, Ferdinand, an Abuja-based businessman, told BusinessDay that he has been through a lot of stress travelling on a weekly basis from his base in the outskirts of Abuja to the passport office, only to get the same response: “Your passport is still in production.”

After losing the opportunity to further his studies in the UK, Ferdinand nearly fell into depression, and it took the comfort of his wife to recover from the shock.

“It is painful and annoying that you have to go through stress to get a passport in Nigeria. I captured in April 2022. This is January 2023, and I have not got my passport because it has not been produced. I have lost many opportunities – a scholarship and my plans for 2022 all went down the drain. I almost got depressed at a time but thank God for the kind, wonderful wife and mother in my life who helped me to pull through,” he said.

“I am a businessman. I needed to further my education in the UK, which was why I initiated the process of renewing my expired passport in April 2022.”

Just like many other Nigerians, Ferdinand has fallen victim to Immigration officers who are involved in passport racketeering, defrauding desperate Nigerians of their hard-earned resources.

BusinessDay found that many people out of desperation to avoid delays and meet up with their trips paid much more than the official N25,000 plus N1,000 bank charges to Immigration officers to fast-track their applications.

“I paid this immigration officer over N180,000 to fast-track the processing of my application and he has been making promises. Today, he no longer takes my calls. I live far away from Abuja central, and the insecurity scares me from travelling to the passport office regularly,” Ferdinand said.

“I have called to beg him severally to help see that my passport is out but he has been giving excuses, only for me to find out that there is another guy whose passport has been with the same officer for over 10 months and he has not been able to do the job that we paid him for.”

Ferdinand said he was thinking of reporting the officer to the police but he was discouraged because he would have to pay the police and he cannot afford to spend extra money on police cases.

His case is similar to that of Sandra Udoh, a mother of three, whose mother-in-law is an applicant.

Udoh said her mother-in-law has been sick for months and requires urgent medical attention in the United States but the delay has kept the woman from travelling for two months now.

She said: “My mother-in-law was diagnosed with a medical condition that I will not want to make public. My husband decided to fly her to the United States where one of her daughters resides for surgery. The doctor gave her an appointment for November 2022, but she was not able to make it due to the delay in getting her passport.

“She did her capturing in October, and we were told to come back in a few weeks to get the passport. Then, I never knew there was anything like a fast-track because I would have opted for it. However, after three weeks, I returned and was told there was a scarcity of booklets. I got really worried because our hospital appointment date was near and we have not even got a visa because we need a passport to get the visa. When I explained my dilemma to one of the officials, he suggested I applied for a fast-track,” Udoh.

Read also: Passport racketeering as organised crime at Nigeria Immigration Service, embassies

She said she applied for fast-track in the second week of December and got the passport in the second week of January.

“This is after the doctor has shifted the hospital appointment dates twice. It has really been a tough one for my mother-in-law. Over three months of frustration and health deterioration of the old woman. The passport issuance delay situation in Nigeria is terrible,” she lamented.

Some Nigerians have also lost job opportunities abroad due to the long delay in passport processing in the country.

BusinessDay spoke to an applicant who identified herself as Ann. She applied for a passport in October 2022 at the Ikoyi Passport Office in Lagos.

Ann said she missed a job opportunity in the United Kingdom as a result of the delay.

She said she applied for a job as a hairstylist in a big salon in the UK, adding that the firm was impressed with her work and had sent her an invitation to come and work with them.

“My dreams have since been shattered because the UK firm has withdrawn the job appointment and has given it to someone else after they had waited for me for two months. I felt so sad, depressed, and frustrated because this job opportunity would have changed my life. After capturing in October 2022, I did not get my passport till this January,” she said.

Ann said she was forced to try her luck abroad due to a lack of viable job opportunities in Nigeria. “Yet, the government frustrates people from leaving the country in search of greener pastures overseas.”