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Officials of Ondo State command of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) have paraded three suspected members of a passport racketeering syndicate who specialise in collecting money from unsuspecting members of the public.

The command spokesman, Oladapo Bayode, who paraded the suspects before journalists in Akure, said their action was highly condemnable.

He pointed out that despite repeated warnings by the authorities, the suspects, who capitalised on the previous lapses in passport administration, charged between N80,000 and N165,000 for passport issuance, which is against the widely publicised cost of passport on the NIS website.

“On hearing of such a syndicate in Akure, the PCO sent an officer to disguise as a civilian looking to obtain a passport to the suspect’s office where he was presented with some Immigration documents to obtain his data for passport application, which eventually led to their arrest.”

He warned residents against patronising individuals parading themselves as agents, who dupe people of their hard-earned resources in a bid to acquire international passports.

“At this junction, we must make it known to members of the public that a Nigerian passport being issued by the Nigeria Immigration Service is neither a commodity that can be bargained over nor a service that NIS employs an agent to carry out on her behalf.

The command assured the people that the era of waiting for months to obtain Nigerian passports is over.

“We want to use this medium to encourage citizens of the state and environs who wish to apply for a Nigerian passport to approach the Nigeria Immigration Service, Akure Passport Office along Igbatoro Road, Alagbaka, Akure.

“Your passports will be out within two weeks as directed by the Minister of Interior, and we intend to comply fully.

“We should recall that on the assumption of duty by the Acting Comptroller General of Immigration, Caroline Wuraola Adepoju, she declared a state of emergency on passport administration and since then all hands have been on deck to solve the lingering issues of passport acquisition.”

Also, following the directives of the Minister of Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, we were able to clear 11,000 backlogs of passports in August.”

The command noted that the suspects will be arraigned in court after the conclusion of the investigation.

“One of the suspects here paraded himself as an immigration officer. We are not the ones collecting much money from the public; it is unknown agents. The minister is not happy about the amount of money collected to apply for a passport. If anybody is caught collecting money for a passport, we would take them in and charge them to court.”

The suspects are Etaoghere Cyril, Okunika Joy, and Adehaka Blessing. Etaoghere said he was not aware of the information of the minister not to collect money from the public for a passport. He laments the short notification given as that is how they collect money from the public for a passport.

“I am only an agent, my gain from the money is N10,000. The organisation did not make it public for us not to collect money any longer for a passport.”

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