On 6 October 2022, when Benita Ezumezu walked into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) headquarters office in Abuja for her biometric capturing, after meeting all the required conditions as stipulated by the law, she had no idea that 16 weeks down the line, she will have no passport in sight. After exhausting all avenues to get her passport issued and missing multiple professional development opportunities that require overseas travel, she has no choice but to approach the Court to seek enforcement of her fundamental rights which the NIS continues to violate by refusing to issue her passport. She has approached the court to seek an order requesting an immediate issuance of her passport having met all conditions as required by the law and financial compensation for the avoidable losses this ordeal has caused her and her career. The case has been assigned to court 8 of the Federal High Court, Abuja, and fixed on the 7th of March, 2023.
We know that Benita’s plight is similar to hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who continue to suffer immeasurable losses from poor service delivery and corruption within the ranks of the Nigerian Immigration Service officials and their principals. The six weeks collection window is continuously communicated by the NIS officials as the expected service timeline has not been adhered to in this instance and many more cases. The continuous delay in the issuance of passports to qualify Nigerians without just cause is unacceptable and the Nigerian Immigration Services, as well as the Minister of the Interior, must be held accountable for this anomaly. The NIS mandate to issue passports is a public service and by all standards should be treated as a commercial transaction because Nigerians are paying for this service. The NIS must be held accountable for continuous failure to meet its obligations to the Nigerian public in this regard.
It is surprising that despite the array of agile productivity-enhancing technology available to the NIS, and billions of Naira in revenue and investment of taxpayers’ money, they continue to disappoint Nigerians, it is time they start paying for these delays. There is simply no excuse for the continuously disappointing service standards except for the fact that the artificial scarcity benefits their NIS officials who encourage the payment of bribes for better and faster service delivery from Nigerians. This can not go on.
Our interest in Benita’s case is not just because she is a staff in our organisation, but primarily because the service quality of the Nigerian Immigration Service has diminished to an all-time low in the last few years. The frustrating experiences of Nigerians seeking to procure international passports in the hands of the NIS officials must be stopped.
We call on the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to begin an immediate investigation into the Nigerian Immigration Services policies, practices and treatment of Nigerians who paid the service to issue passports and remain frustrated and denied their right to an acceptable standard of service. The NIS’s disposition towards passport issuance can not continue the way it is. Our hope is that Benita’s case will serve as a test case for Nigerians and create the needed awareness that spotlights necessary reform to the process and procedure of passport issuance.
We believe the Judiciary remains an option of last resort in any effort to access service with any government agency and hope that the Judiciary will help the claimant with her fundamental rights and frustration to get a passport, what’s the hope of the common Nigerians. It is important to use Benitas’ experience to highlight the plight of Nigerians and spotlight the Nigerian Immigration Service’s continued failure to deliver on its mandate.
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