The undersigned well meaning Nigerians, resident in Malaysia, wish to bring to your attention, a specific and general problem on the two regimes of E-passport processing fees.
Recently, our Commission was able to acquire a Biometric/E-passport issuing machine, which as reported, was donated to the Commission by IRIS Behad (ICB) in collaboration with its Nigeria partner, IRIS Smart Technologies Limited (ISTL). The machine was installed and commissioned on June 1, 2009. The Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service, Mr. Joseph Chukwura Udeh, (OFR) was the Special Guest. Since then, the machine has effectively been in operation.
However, with the twilight of our long wait for passports, came a more nerving worry about the amounts and the legitimacy of what is to be paid as processing fees. There is the 110 USD, equivalent 15, 950 Naira payable to the central immigration account and another 150 Malaysian Ringit, equivalent to 43 USD, 6, 235 Naira, which is to be paid into the Commission’s coffers. Without paying both amounts, one’s passport will not be processed. In respect of the 43 USD payable to the Commission’s coffer, we have raised questions about its legitimacy but only to be told on the one hand that it is an administrative fee, and on the other, maintenance charges. Also, we have demanded for a Federal Government directive, which authorized such payment, but none was given.
Mr. President, we will like to know if there was any directive, issued by your office, which mandates the Commission to levy such extra charges. In the event there is none, we will be appreciative of your intervention to issue a directive that revokes such payment order and direct the Commission to make immediate refund to all those who have paid the money. However, if the amount, that is, the 43 USD is with your consent, then, we wish to raise the following observations.
To obtain the same e-passport in Nigeria, one is required to pay 8,750 Naira. Given the exchange rate of 1.00 USD to be 145.00 Naira, and British £1.00 to be 250.00 Naira, this translates to 60.35 USD and British £35.00 respectively. These, however, depends on the exchange rates. If one is to compare this with the US$110.00, (a whooping 15, 950 Naira), it is stark clear that we are paying as much as twice the amount required to process the e-passport at home. This, in itself is over charging, because the production cost in Malaysia will be lesser. This is because power is stable in Malaysia, unlike Nigeria where it is hyper erratic and the cost of internet is cheaper when also compared to Nigeria. This, in addition with other factors will reduce the maintenance and operational cost, thereby making it more rational that those in Malaysia pay a lesser amount. But surprisingly, this is not the case. On this ground, it is ridiculous to now ask us to pay another 43 USD as maintenance and administrative fees.
Again, Mr. President, if one may ask, is it the responsibility of the citizens to maintain the Biometric/E-passport machine? Is it also our responsibility to pay for the administrative charges being incurred by the Commission, considering the fact that the staff of the Commission are employees of the Federal Government? With due respect, we beg to disagree that this is not our responsibility as citizens. Another way to take a look at this, is to ask if this has not been accommodated in the 8,750 Naira payable at home, let alone in the astronomical 110.00 USD, which we are compelled to pay, just because we are staying abroad.
Further investigation reveals that, to the exception of Spain, where there is just one regime of application fees, which is the 110 USD, this exploitative culture has become a tradition of other Nigerian Embassies and High Commissions. In Ireland, there are the110 USD payable online to the central account and another 40 Euros payable to the embassy’s account. The Nigerian New York Consulate is reported to collect additional 20 USD payable to the consulate’s account, in London, there is the additional 50 pounds payable to the Commission. Same amount as it is with London is being paid to a dedicated account in Dublin.
Mr. President, we thereby place the following demands before you:
1. That a statement of rebuttal or acknowledgment of your consent in respect of the additional 43 USD fees be made known to the public.
2. That if your office is not aware of this additional levy, then, the EFCC and ICPC be ordered to probe the various Commissions and Embassies where such amount is levied on the beloved citizens of Nigeria.
3. The probe should not be a close door affairs as we demand all stakeholders’ involvement.
4. The outcome of the probe should be made public with appropriate sanction meted out to erring officers.
5. The Comptroller General of Immigration, Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of External Affairs should be included amongst those to be probed.
6. That a broad based Committee comprising stakeholders in the Diaspora community be set up to look into the appropriateness of the 100 USD as passport processing fees payable by those abroad.
7. That the probe be conducted and completed as soon as possible, with its outcome published in all major Nigerian dailies.
8. That refund be made to all those who have paid the 43 USD, in the event there is no Federal Government directive mandating such payment.
9. That the 43 USD be canceled and the directive communicated to the Diaspora community.
Mr. President, while hoping that our requests will be promptly looked into, we hereby pledge our highest regards and commitment to the struggle of making Nigeria a heaven on earth.
Adebiyi Jelili A.
For the Concerned:
Passport Number: A2352804
Cc: The Senate
Federal House of Representative
Nigerian National Dailies
Online Nigeria News Reporters
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
Action Congress (AC)
Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP)