By Sunday Oyinloye
Nigerian High Commissioner to United Kingdom, Ambassador Sarafa Tunji Isola has taken steps to address incessant allegations of corruption and other negative reports on the issuance of the Nigerian passport in London as well as restore the Mission’s credibility in the process.
According to an official document obtained by Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable, to put an end to the negativity, the High Commissioner held series of strategic meetings, including engaging the immigration section of the Mission and at the end, he was able to identify and break the gang of passport racketeers in London.
It was also discovered by the High Commissioner that 18 innocent Nigerians paid between 200 and 350 Pounds to the racketeers in their desire to urgently acquire or renew Nigerian passports.
Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable gathered that the racketeers issued their victims forged documents with a promise to assist the applicants through a non-existent Abuja list in the Mission.
Ambassador Isola while sympathising with the victims advised Nigerians living in United Kingdom to always avail themselves with official channels in the Mission and desist from patronizing unofficial agents and touts.
The Mission also said it would continue to investigate possible in-house collaboration for appropriate disciplinary action.
To curb touting, racketeering and give the Mission a new image, the High Commission will resume the Fast-Track Services in line with global best practices.
Other measures put in place include: continuous processing of applications and dates of appointments in line with the current practice, administrative charges of 20 Pounds on all passport processing, and resumption of 100 Pounds Fast-Track Service with all payments made in postal orders clearly addressed to the High Commission, London. This step is to ensure transparency and accountability.
According to the Mission, “We shall continue to adopt extra vigilance to discover and eliminate corrupt actions associated with passport application and processing. This is in line with the zero tolerance of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to corruption as clearly spelt out in the Mission’s Charter”.
It would be recalled that the Mission commenced the processing of passport applications on 13th April, 2021, following the lifting of the lockdown restriction by the British government.
Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable also gathered that as of 31st March, 2021, there was a backlog of 18,000 applications awaiting processing which were accumulated between December 2019 to March 2021.
Officers and staff of the Immigration section were said to have worked tirelessly to run a crass programme to reduce the backlog. Currently the Mission is said to have issued a total of 8852 out of 9964 passports that were captured from the backlog.
Meanwhile, the High Commission has assured that progress is being recorded in the processing of applications for passports.
According to the High Commission “The week of Monday 3rd May to Friday, 4th June, 2021 was quite hectic in the Mission because many Nigerians showed up for capturing with their children who were on school break. The mission was under tremendous pressure to address all the challenges arising from the large turnout as we needed to avail parents of the opportunity offered by the school break
“Nevertheless all applicants who showed up at an average of 452 per day were processed accordingly. Many applicants left the Mission as late as 8.00-10.00pm daily within the period while lessons learnt would be useful for future challenges.
“In line with the commitment of the Mission to ensure service delivery, we are happy to report that 14, 189 passport applications have been captured from 16th April 2021 whilst 12,580 have been issued and delivered to Nigerians as at Monday, June 8, 2021. The remaining applications are under processing and would be delivered in due course.
“It is noteworthy that the Mission did engage the applicants when they came to the High Commission. The High Commissioner, Sectional Heads, and the entire Mission elicit suggestions, ideas and observations from Nigerians. The ideas generated in the course of our engagements are seriously being considered by the Mission for further actions
“We are still open to useful suggestions on how to improve consular services to Nigerians particularly on the issue of passports processing”