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EFCC and Well-Meaning Nigerians: Save Our Soul from E-Passport Rip-Off

October 4, 2009

Image removed.The advent of E-passport in Nigeria was welcomed with the hope that the nightmare of obtaining an international passport is over. Nigerians who are in the Diasporas are about more elated with this development.. These are for obvious reasons. These include the possibility that the waiting and processing time will be reduced and the prospect that many of them will not need to travel home to sort out some passport related problems. To some of us in this category, if any of our places of resident commission or embassy is lucky enough to be allocated one or two the E-passport machines, then, this will be our own share of Yar’dua’s legacy. As it turns out to be, those of us resident in Malaysia are one of the lucky ones whose prayer of being allocated the E-passport machine was answered.

To launch the machine, we trooped all out en-mass to the High commission by adorning the best of our attires. This is not to say we do not harbor fears of the uncertain because the machine is one thing and the irritating attitude of the staff of the commission is another issue which the advent of the machine cannot solve. At least, our problem has reduced by one inch. There were some doubting Thomases in our midst who felt the machine may be another Nigerian government abracadabra. They withheld their sigh of joy until the machine was commissioned by issuing a valid E-passport, hence demonstrating the genuineness of the whole thing. Still not done, some still considered the whole thing a scam, so, their decision to allow the machine work for some months before they can settle for it as a real development. To God’s glory, they were disappointed to see the machine work as effectively as promised by the commission. God! Nigeria government is changing for the good. However, the restoration of the government and commission credibility in our minds assumed a turning point as facts started emerging on the amount being levied as procurement cost for the E-passport. In fact, since the first day when the machine was commissioned, some smart ones amongst us have started to raise very sensitive questions on the two regimes of payment being demanded by the commission. There is the 110USD which is to be paid to the central immigration and the 30 USD which is to be paid to the coffers of the High commission in Malaysia.  People wondered why the 30 USD should be paid, more so into the coffers of the commission. Questions were raised about the need for the money, but, the High Commissioner with his I don’t care attitude did not bother to offer any official explanation.

Realizing that things were not working in his ways, he made us know through the Commission and NIDOMY that the 30 USD is administrative charge. This met with further suspicion, therefore making people to be more interested in why they must be responsible for the Commission’s administrative expenses. However, people again exploited the NIDOMY programme scheduled to mark the country’s 49th independent anniversary to air their views on the same matter. This time the High Commissioner in his above everybody style was absent, so, he delegated some of his High ranking staff to represent him. When the question was asked again by aggrieved Nigerians who graced the occasion, the tone of the response which was albeit fatherly, diplomatic and persuasive changed as it was now said that the extra 30 USD is meant to be maintenance fees. What only changed was the nomenclature, but, the same line of justification was offered to the same old question. The approach with which the question was responded to offer a temporal smoothening effect, the pangs of which was to resurface as soon as the programme ended. Due to time constraint, people were unable to flog the issue to a logical conclusion.

While taking their lunch, this issue was the major one which was discussed on virtually all tables. There was no end to the interpretation and names given the 30USD levy which to some is official 419. There was also the suggestion that it should be called official E-scam. However, there was the consensus that the money is an act of exploitation because how on earth, will a government expect her citizenry to be defraying its Commission’s maintenance expenses. In the first instance, the 110USD is overcharging if one is to go by the fact that it is twice the amount payable at home to obtain same passport. We therefore reject any attempt to make us responsible for the maintenance of the E-passport machine and on the basis of this we therefore demand that:

    * The Federal Government of Nigeria should produce the directives which mandated the Nigerian High Commission in Malaysia to collect the additional 30 USD. We have demanded for this from the Commission and there was no document provided to that effect. If there is none, it shows the 30USD is illegal and must be so treated by the appropriate anti-corruption agency
    * The EFCC and ICPC should dispatch a high level investigating commission to Malaysia to investigate this scam and recommend appropriate disciplinary measures against erring officers.
    * The refund of the 30USD to those from whom the fees have been collected should be made with letter apology offered for intentionally exploiting them.

In event the government of Nigeria fails to act and nip this crime in the bud, concerned Nigerians will not hesitate to picket the High Commission and begin a strong E-campaign against the government for exploiting its citizenry through his officers in Malaysia. There is no end to how we will address our grievances because this is nothing less another demonstration of irresponsibility and the failure of the government to  act on time, will surely spell doom.


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