Nigerian Passports

Why touts defraud prospective passport seekers in Imo ─Report

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Nigerians’ increasing requests for international passports in recent times have attracted and amplified touting activities in and around the entrance of the Federal Secretariat along Port Harcourt Road, in Owerri, Imo State capital.

The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) Passport Office is said to be located in the property.

Reports stated that unauthorised vendors have positioned themselves strategically to swindle some members of the public who come around to apply for passports, especially those who need the travelling document urgently.

ConsumerConnect learnt that for them to operate swiftly, the frauds split themselves into two groups, one group at the entrance of the secretariat and the other inside the premises of the building loitering around.

Sources stated that they adopted several ways of engaging applicants; sometimes they cornered them into a seemingly official car parked on the premises of the secretariat, and then, discuss with them inside the car and collect a huge amount of money.

In their bid to make themselves look genuine to potential applicants, some of them go as far as putting a polo having the almost same colour with that of the Nigeria Immigration Service, and a fainted symbol that looks like a coat of arm positioned around the collar of the polo.

However, Vanguard reports that these swindlers have their patronisers pay almost three times more than the official fees passports after promising them to complete the issuance of travelling document in 24 hours or more as agreed with them.

An eyewitness who narrated the activities of the tout groups, said: “They stand at the front of the Federal Secretariat and another group hangs around in the compound.

“For those who position themselves inside the building, they normally use their cars as offices; they convince you and drag you into their cars.

“I was told they even use charms in order to get more customers.

“They talked to you and you agreed; you give them the amount they requested. They will assist you and direct you to the person that will help you to get the passport eventually,” she related her experience.

She said that in most cases, it works for them, and some other cases if you meet the bad ones, they collect the money and run away.

“We have seen problems come out of the arrangement because the time agreed was not complied with.”

A credible source from the NIS who did not want her name mentioned said: “On some occasions, the immigration officers come out to arrest some persons said to be extorting members of the public.

“But after some days you still see people complain that they have been duped by impostors.

“We have advised the members of the public to come straight to the office of the NIS, process their document, and not wait for people outside the secretariat after which they lose their money,” the NIS source said.

“These fraudsters collect more than the official money, and promise them 24 hours to complete the document, and maybe by that time we don’t have any booklet in the office. “In most cases, when the booklets finish, we usually have reservations for emergency, especially people who gave health issues among other things.

“If they collect money from you and promise you that they will do it in 24 hours. It is not possible because it is the machine that determines, not any individual,” she stated.

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