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Passport Scarcity hits Nigeria; as highest bidders are favoured.

 Shortage or outright unavailability of international passport has hit Nigeria, a situation which now leaves the highest bidders as the ones that get the Nigerian passport.

Scores of potential Nigerian travelers visit the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) offices across the nation every working day to either renew their expired passports, or apply for a new one.

But they are only given forms to fill without any hope that they would collect the travel document any time soon.

At the NIS headquarters, Abuja, it was learnt that the passport scarcity has equally hit Nigerian embassies.

A staff at the headquarters of the NIS in Abuja disclosed that the exhaustion of the international passport is a national problem.

However, investigation has revealed that the passport booklets are not “completely” exhausted, as the officers of the Service claimed.

Sources said some that booklets are kept for top people in the government, as well as their families and relatives.

A source said that individuals could get the booklets, if they could pay far more than the official price.

“It is not as if you can’t get one, if you want. But the point is that you have to offer something to get it. What I mean is that you won’t get it at the official price.

“You will have to pay more to get it, if you truly want it”.

However it was discovered, that the ‘official’ prices of the passport booklets have been increased.

In Abuja, for instance, the 32-page booklet, which is officially sold for N15, 000, is now sold for N25, 000.

This is the official price for the age category of 18 to 59.

 Age categories of 0 to 17 and 60-plus are officially sold for N8, 750, respectively.

“It is the price (N25, 000) for the 32-page booklet; ask anybody here” one source said.

Investigation further showed that the 64-page booklet now goes for N35, 000 instead of its official price of N20, 000 across the three age categories.

Aside the hike in prices, a bribe of N5,

000 would fast-track the process of the passport booklets within 24 hours, it was learnt.

A source from the Lagos State Command of the NIS confirmed that it would only take a highly connected individual to get a booklet of the passport at the official price without paying extra money.

Explaining that the situation has been made worse by the current foreign exchange crisis, a source said, “For almost one year now, the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC) Limited has not printed passport booklets.

“This is because the Federal Government has not given it money to print. No state command (in Nigeria) has the passport booklets now.

“Even Nigerian embassies do not have the booklets in their offices and the issue of the foreign exchange rate has compounded the situation.”

Disclosing that only Lokoja (Kogi State) can boast of few available booklets for now, the source said “Even states like Delta, Edo and Lagos come to us for the passport booklets.

For instance, on Wednesday, we gave out so many copies to the Benin and Delta commands. They came with their buses, coaster buses to carry them,” the source said.

It was further learnt that with special offers, the passports can be gotten.

“Yes, it is possible to get the passport within a day at the Lokoja Command. You can get the 32-page booklet for N40, 000. The price to get the 64-page booklet within one day is N45, 000” a source said.

“I will advise you to go for it now because the booklets might be out of stock soon. The issue is that there is rush for the 32-page booklets,” the source said.

No official of the Lokoja Command could be reached to deny or confirm the story as at time of filing this report.

END

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