By Philomina Attah
The federal government on Thursday announced measures to control gateways, extortion and other sophisticated practices of passport officers across the country and abroad.
Home Secretary Rauf Aregbesola, who made the disclosure in Abuja, said undercover officers would be deployed to passport offices across the country and Nigerian missions abroad.
He said the country had witnessed several challenges in the past, including the shortage of brochures, bragging, racketeering, the inflated cost of passports issued to ineligible people, etc.
“We carry out the entire passport application process in a way that will be simple, transparent and transparent.
“We will also accord human dignity to applicants and respect the integrity of citizenship.
“Therefore, I declare a position of zero tolerance to all forms of bragging. No applicant will be forced to pay illegitimate fees.
“We will integrate security guards, visible and invisible, into all of our passport offices. They will be wearing body cameras.
“They will also detect and report all forms of solicitation, inflation, inappropriate communications, extortion, embezzlement, hoarding and other corrupt practices.
“Applicants will have no basis for other communications officers except to complete their application process and vacate the premises.
“The date of withdrawal of their passports or of any challenge to the application will be communicated to them.
“The technology for the efficient operation of this system has been acquired and will be deployed.
“Those arrested will be treated in accordance with the law,” Aregbesola said.
According to the minister, an ombudsman will also be created for members of the public to receive complaints and reports about agents who attempt to deviate from prescribed guidelines and subvert the process.
He explained that two special centers for expedited services had been established, adding that the special centers would operate on the basis of a public-private partnership.
He said: “We are posting on our website the list of the backlog of passports that are ready and yet to be collected by owners.
“They will have to go to the controls of the state to recover them.
“With these changes, I am firmly convinced that we will arrive at a new dawn in the processing of passport applications,” he added.
The minister, however, praised the good work and sacrifices of the men in the service, saying they had received negative reactions to the challenges emanating from a flawed process that was not theirs. (NOPE)
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