Yours truly encountered “change” recently at the Lagos passport office. At the entrance, this reporter was accosted by one of the Immigration officers manning the gate. Taking the reporter into a business centre within the premises, he said: “The old 32-page passport is now N32, 000. The new 62-page passport goes for N36, 000. Before you get the 32-page passport, you’d have to wait for one week.”
I protested. The renewal of my old 32-page passport, should be and which I was aware of, officially N18, 000. This reporter also demanded to have it the same day as being projected in the public space, in line with the re-branding mantra.
The officer shouted: “Impossible! You can’t even get it in two days; the 32-page category comes from Abuja.”
Approaching another officer, a young smart looking officer, whose rank was apparently higher than the first officer, I said, “I am a journalist. I need to renew this passport today or latest tomorrow and I need the 32-page passport category”.
“Has anybody approached you?” the man asked. This reporter pointed to the first immigration man. “Don’t mind him, I’m sure you did not identify yourself to him, that’s why he is following you up and down,” he said. He collected the official amount N18,000 from this reporter. “Go and meet that officer and tell him you are a journalist,” he said.
I did as the man (who identified himself instructed. The officer, who was supposed to take down this reporter’s name, sent for the other. He whispered, “So you brought a journalist here so that he could know what we are doing. Please take him to protocol.”
This reporter was surprised when he found himself at the office of the Deputy Controller (DCO). The officer had already talked to the DCO and left to bring my file . The elderly man took the file together with two other files that had been lying on his table and left without uttering a word. In less than one hour, the passport that was supposed to come from Abuja was ready.