NIS violation of TSA fuels corruption
… funds collected into commercial bank accounts, not directly to CBN … TSA payments rejected for passport processing … back-door cash payments prevalent at passport centres
Four years after President Muhammadu Buhari directed all Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to implement the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has failed to make itself accountable in what seems to be a defiance of all entreaties in ensuring passport fees are paid directly into the coffers of the government.
The disregard for implementing the payment structure, not surprisingly, has created legroom for racketeering and the exploitation of many Nigerians seeking to obtain a passport, some of which have become vocal with their frustration about the system.
The TSA was introduced under President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012, however, was mandated for full compliance by all MDAs under the Buhari administration in 2015. Only 13 companies and agencies are exempted from the TSA, and the NIS is not one of them.
The essence of the TSA is to consolidate all government revenue into a single account that ensures all inflow and outflow can be accounted for and are judiciously used.
To achieve its goal, the Federal Government through the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) put in place two critical systems – a Financial Information Management System and an Integrated Payment Gateway to support the TSA scheme.
However, several years down the line, and still under the same administration that mandated all MDAs to fully comply with the TSA directives, there is still a cloud shrouding the payments for NIS passport and other NIS’ services.
“Can the payments for the processes towards the issuance of the Nigerian international passport be routed through the Remita platform instead of this current interface with immigration officials,” Chigozie (@ChigozieAnagba1) quizzed on social sharing platform, Twitter, March 28, 2019.
Going by public feedback, it seems the government agency has subscribed to other channels of collecting funds from the public at variance with published TSA collections guideline and which may be unknown to the Account General and Auditor General of the Federation for funds monitoring and audit purposes, a the major reason for the TSA.
“How else is one expected to pay NIS since it’s a government agency?” Omolewa, another twitter user, lamented after losing money, paying the NIS through Remita – a channel that seems to be foreign to the immigration service.
BusinessDay on Monday contacted the NIS to confirm if the agency indeed allows payments for Nigerian passports to be made through the Remita TSA payment gateway.
“Don’t pay using Remita,” a NIS customer service told the BuisnessDay correspondent who called in the guise of seeking assistance in paying for a passport using the well-known TSA payment gateway.
“Pay through PayArena or after you have made all the application online, print it out and take to either Skye Bank, Sterling or First Bank. If you pay through Remita, we don’t have access to that fund. The money is gone and you are on your own!” the NIS customer service personnel warned.
The ‘private’ arrangement made by the NIS outside of the TSA for payments into accounts outside the CBN raises serious questions whether the NIS, in fact, remits its revenue to the coffers of the government, makes full disclosures of monies received and makes itself available for revenue monitoring and audit as stipulated by the TSA.
If it does, how so and how much, given the wet appetite of its officers’ for cash payment.
Meanwhile, corruption has allegedly continued to thrive with allegations of corruption against immigration officers who favour cash payment in order to discharge their lawful duties in guiding Nigerians on the process of obtaining international passports.
“There is no issue with the online payment platform,” according to Gbenga (@gbengaogun), a Nigerian youth weighing on the issue who said, “The issue is that paying online means your passport may take forever to be processed. Paying cash means an officer will personally monitor your file.”
Damilola Praiseworth noted on his social media page that (@Depraiz) that he was approached by an officer to pay cash in order to fast track the passport application process.
“An officer asked me if I had an appointment with any officer,” he tweeted.
“When I said no, he cornered me and told me to pay N38,500, to get it immediately and if I didn’t pay I could risk not getting it in months.”
Recounting his experience, Taofiq Adetoro, 32, told BuinessDay he had in 2015 experienced a similar incident where he was told by an officer at the NIS Osun office that only NIS officers were allowed access to “the account number or Remita process to facilitate payment”, hence he had to pay cash. “That’s how they all are,” he said.
“If they don’t collect at least 10k more than the original fee, the passport wouldn’t see the light of day. I hope things change for good,” he added. When Adetoro assisted his wife in collecting her passport in 2018, it was the same experience still.
BusinessDay, in futility, tried to reach the Director of the TSA to ascertain if indeed there have been complaints by the public on the non-compliance of the NIS with TSA directives and on the issue of non-processing of passports when payments are made on the TSA platform.
The NIS also refused to reply to an email sent by BusinessDay requesting for clarification on the issue.