One of the documents that authenticates the true identity of a Nigerian citizen and a very essential requirement for such a citizen to enable him travel out of the shores of this country for business transactions, academic pursuit or tourism and leisure is a valid Nigerian passport.
For some years now, emphatically in recent times it has become herculean task for many Imo citizens to acquire this all important document, that enables a citizen to travel abroad or transact some internal bank or financial businesses owing to stringent unofficial bottle necks posed or created by officials of the Federal Immigration Service operating in the passport office located at the federal secretariat along Port Harcourt road Owerri.
Ordinarily, it is supposed or expected that a citizen who fulfills the essential requirements,produces relevant document and pays the statutory fee of N25,000 –N35000 should be able to take hold of his valid Nigerian passport in three to four weeks.This is not the case at all.
Investigation has revealed that if you apply for a passport through the Owerri office, it takes a period of six months or one year to get it, if you are lucky,otherwise you wait indefinitely. If you need this passport urgently, perhaps to travel abroad for urgent business like medical attention, you have to pay for urgent services as dictated by the personnel, and the rate ranges between N100,000 –N120,000.
Sometimes, prospective applicants who do not have enough funds are told to wait as there are not enough booklets in Imo. At times the applicants who are eager and ready are directed to travel to Uyo in Akwa-Ibom or Calaber in Cross River state or Asaba in Delta state. It is difficult to get a passport from Owerri office but if you pay for quick service, the passport is in your hands within two weeks.
Again when you visit the passport office in Owerri as a visitor you are directed to surrender your mobile phone at the security desk for yet to be explained reasons but this does not obtain elsewhere in Nigeria.
We believe that it is time the government, security agents and the public directed their searchlights on the passport office in Owerri as regards their activities and modus operandi. For instance on Wednesday February 16, a young man,Mr Tobechi Chigbu made this report,”I applied for a passport for my brother’s wife and her siblings since July 2021 and to date, I have not been able to get the passports. Other young men and applicants narrated their ordeals. They narrated that most applicants now prefer to go to other states or even find their way to neigbouring Benin Republic or Ghana to procure Nigeria International passport which they should have procured here in Owerri without any hassles, or qualms.
Why does it cost about N100,000 or more to get a passport from Owerri Immigration office and why does it take more than six months to process and procure a passport whereas it takes less than four weeks to procure same elsewhere?