How Nigerians Work At The Passport Office

BY UGOCHUKWU EJINKEONYE  

A recent visit to the passport office in FESTAC, Lagos here, did quite a lot to renew my hope that Nigeria may not after all be a totally lost case. Nigerians will always reciprocate with positive responses whenever and wherever there is purposeful, exemplary leadership to show the way and dictate the tempo. Indeed, I never imagined that the Nigerian Public Service still had in its fold such wonderful Nigerians whose industry, dedication and warm, friendly approach to service delivery could constitute worthy, ennobling benchmark even to many private organisations.

My business at the FESTAC passport office was to obtain an E-Passport to replace my old copy which had recently expired. I had arrived very early on the appointed day, as I was advised to, thinking I would wait for ages to be attended to, based on my previous knowledge of what obtained in government offices in Nigeria. But the lady that addressed us before we were ushered to the place we were to sit down to await our turns to take the photographs and complete other formalities was punctual. She was also polite, friendly, but firm and resolute. She simply explained to those intent on obtaining more than one passport or supplying wrong information that the law would naturally take care of them. There was a touch of humour in her speech, but there was no doubt that she meant business. I was impressed.

new-passport

                                                   The E-Passport

Inside the building, those smartly dressed men and women worked with a sense of urgency, dedication and meticulousness that was rare, peculiar and hope-restoring. They worked with the gusto, cheerfulness and carefulness of people who enjoyed their work. As they fed the information the people supplied into the computers, they displayed remarkable understanding, patience and accommodation that permeated the entire room with soothing warmth and friendliness, reducing every discomfort arising from having too many people queuing at several tables at the same time and having to stand for a long time to complete all the process.

Even though the people were so many, and the lines seemed interminable, these officers managed to convey the impression that they were not bored or tired, but rather derived immense pleasure doing their job. I sought in vain for the slightest hint of irritation or snapping patience towards those who either kept making mistakes or were slow in proofreading their information. I can’t recall ever feeling at home in any government office, but at the FESTAC passport office that day, I really felt welcome and at home. Their seemingly inexhaustible patience was also on display at the thumb-printing and photograph points. Some people, especially children and old people, took their photographs several times before good copies could be obtained. I looked at the faces of the officers to see any signs of exasperation, but saw none. They kept beaming. Even when the persons concerned tried to suggest, after a couple of attempts, that the photographs were manageable and could go in like that, the officers still politely asked them to allow them to try again. And they would help the people to arrange their heads properly until good copies were obtained. Though the work usually dragged through several hours, with   hardly any pauses, the workers remained their cheerful and friendly selves.

But this friendly atmosphere never existed at the expense of thoroughness. They ensured every information is correct before it is posted. They also watched out for people intent beating the system. While I waited for my turn, I observed a scene that would make an excellent comedy. A woman had come with some kids, and one officer who had been sitting meekly on a desk observing everyone insisted on speaking with her before she could be attended to. Suddenly the man was telling her that the kids were not hers. The woman argued furiously, and showed serious offence at such a suggestion. Then the officer asked her to excuse him, so he could speak with the kids. But as the woman went outside, he called the woman’s husband instead, whose number, I suppose, he got from the forms. There and then, his suspicion was confirmed that the woman had come to obtain those passports for the children without the consent of their father, and that the letter of consent she had presented was forged. When the woman was brought back, he confronted her, and as she continued insisting that the letter was duly written and signed by her husband, she was gently led out of the room.

coat-of-arms

                                                           

Now, I was thinking that the exceptional work attitude I saw at the FESTAC passport office only flourished there until my wife recently went the passport office in Ikoyi, and came back with even more wonderful stories of how they attended to people there. Please, let’s not just gloss over this. If we are serious about breathing some life into our public service, a close study of the work attitude at these passport offices needs to be carefully undertaken to determine the secret behind the pleasant stories emanating from there. Dates for collection of passports are automatically generated once you are through, and on that day, you would go there and pick your passport without any hassles. I   suppose these exciting stories are replicated at all passport offices across the country. Although, there are still vestigial remains of the Nigerian thing there, like touts crawling about and “helping” people to bring forward  dates for passport collections or get early appointments, what remains clear is that it is difficult to encounter these passport offices and not move away with lasting hope-restoring impressions. With such an efficient system in place, the touts would soon run out of patronage.

What is the secret behind this functional system in the midst of extreme passivity, crippling slothfulness and boundless decay in the public sector? What kind of orientation was given to these men and women to turn them into such shining models of excellent service delivery? The Comptroller-General of the Immigration Service should be given a platform to explain to all of us the secret behind this totally odd situation.

nigerian-flag1

Somebody might say: Ugochukwu, why are you getting unduly excited and praising people for just performing their duties very well, for which they are paid every month? Well, you must pardon me? I have been to several government offices where officials see anyone demanding some modest service as only coming to disturb their peace. They are usually very discourteous, resentful and sometimes outrightly hostile. Your reward for making a simple enquiry could be an angry outburst. People remain idle all day, chatting away or sleeping. At the passport office, I never heard that anyone’s file developed legs and disappeared only to reappear when the person had parted with some crumpled notes. Selflessness and commitment appeared deeply entrenched in all their operations.

So, today, I wholeheartedly pronounce the workers at the passport office, and their leader, the Comptroller-General of the Immigration (I don’t even know his name), the Heroes and Heroines of this column for this month for keeping hope alive that Nigeria is not a lost case, and that Nigerians are capable of being great models of excellence given the right atmosphere, motivation and leadership. Indeed, with focused leaderships at the highest points of power at both the federal and state levels, Nigeria would easily find its way back to the path of recovery and development. No doubt, Nigerians are ready to be led, but alas, where are the leaders?

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www.ugowrite.blogspot.com

scruples2006@yahoo.com

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11 Comments »

  1. 1

    Articles like yours give me a lot of hope. Its sad but I am one those young people whose hope for my fatherland seems to be ebbing day by day. But thanks to experiences like yours and many more I hope, things will get better in our dear 9ja. I sincerely pray that one day we will all be able to look up to our dear country and serve it the way it should knowing that it truly cares for us too.

  2. 2
    Will Says:

    I am supposed to go for my own interview at the passport office tomorrow. I hope i come back with even more wonderful stories.
    With experiences like this, there “just” might be hope for a better Nigeria.
    Good People, Great Nation!

  3. 3
    Francis Akor Says:

    Great and encouraging story.Needless to say,a friend and his wife and infant daughter had to pay 18,000 naira each for the e-passport that should cost 8,000 each.This happened at the passport office in Lagos a ten days ago!

  4. 4
    Olayemi Says:

    Dear Ugo,
    Ur article sounded very convincing and true.
    I paid 18k to an immigration officer at Ikoyi last week Tuesday (she told me 15k if I wanted the passport in three weeks and 18k if in 1week), but to my chagrin, the official rate is a lowly 8k. After much bantering, I was “helped” by a relation to scan/snap for the passport the following day. This is a week after and my passport is yet to be issued.
    Cues at the passport office don’t move. In fact one can wait till eternity in the “sun-rated” canopy in front of the immigration office except he greases some palms.
    This is a real tale. I am deeply appalled and disappointed. If in doubt I can supply you the name and the telephone numbers of the immigration officer that “duped” me. It is a real scam and I doubt if anyone in the passport office can be exonerated.

  5. 5
    Saturday A. Okeh Says:

    I am suprise that we Nigerians are the most patience human being in the world. Our country is the only one where nothing works. We have no government despite people are elected into offices. But the unfortunate thing is that we are the cause, because we see things happening and we close our eyes to it. Those we voted for go to the office, house of senate and representative, state houses to share the resources that belong to all of us, nobody cares. People goes into elected offices and become billionaire overnight, no accountability then why will the immigration officers not be doing what they like without giving the citizens their right.
    The Nigeria passport is a right for all Nigerians that can afford it.
    Please, Nigeria president, this is a disgrace. Your government can not give job to her citizens, no light, no water and only for your officers to continue to cheat even those that can afford to pay for their international passport.

  6. 6
    Ogunbameru Olumide Says:

    Hello Mr Ugochukwu,I made payment online and it was confirmed that they have remove the money from my NIS card but they did not tell me the date of interview and it’s writing You made 6 payment attempts. None of the payment attempts returned a message. Please Attempt Payment ONLY If You Are Sure The Previous Attempt (IF ANY) Was Not Successful.
    Please tell me what to do.I’m coming to festac and i want you to tell me the address.
    thanks.
    Worried Man

  7. 7
    Esther Says:

    this is really surprising because i went there today but spent over three hours there.

  8. 8
    danzo Says:

    i will be happy when nigeria cityzen will ask for something important by the konsulat of federal republik of nigeria and receive that straight ahead withought no problem,for example passport because the will be proud to be a nigeria to raise the name of there country up….but when they are always disapointed they will never speak good tong of there country they are born…everyone knows while people move abroad,and when things is working good for us anywhere we re then we believe our country can also be good.pls take a good note and make a change…i pray that God should help you and also give you energy to carry on withought getting doll or tired.thanks

  9. 9
    Mahmood Says:

    pls can u tell me the address of the festac passport office?

  10. 10
    olajohnson Says:

    There’s no such thing as appointment NIS staff would gladly tell you. If you’ve used the internet to apply and pay, they’ll make you understand you’re unique (a fool) because most people just turn up on the day and are forced by staff to use touts who can collect in excess of N20000 just to fill a form every literate person can fill themselves. Then the staff create bottlenecks ’til you’re frustrated enough to pay them to hasten things up.
    But if we’re all law abiding and say no to egunjean we will be orderly and not cheat ourselves

  11. 11
    Ajibade Bukola Says:

    My name is Bukola.Pls I want to know the working days and working hours @ the passport office. Thanks.


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