Nigeria: Immigration, Others Hold Returning Overseas Passengers for 6 Hours

-Security officials engage in sharp practices

Confusion reigned at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, MMIA, Lagos, when thousands of people returning home from Christmas could not quickly be attended to at Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, section.

Fracas almost ensued when some security agents were helping some passengers to beat the long queue as other passengers began to protest the corruption at the airport.

Travellers returning from the just concluded World Cup in Qatar were not left out as they experienced same treatment.

Passengers were mandated to first submit their passports to the Department of State Service, DSS, before the immigration for checks.

This development is coming barely 72 hours after the Federal Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, in continuation of implementation of passport administration and immigration service reforms, launched a special fast track service that enables Nigerians with expired passports living in foreign countries to return home without any hindrance at all ports of entry.

Also, the Federal Government last week, approved the boarding and entry of Nigerians abroad with an expired international passport into the country.

The Comptroller General of Immigration Service, Isah Idris, had notified all relevant authorities of the federal government’s approval in a letter sighted by Vanguard.

In the memo to the authorities, NIS boss stated: “All Airlines are requested to allow holders of expired Nigerian passports to board without let or hindrance.

“In addition, all Nigerian diplomatic Mission abroad are kindly requested to circulate this information to airlines operators and border authorities of host countries for their necessary action.”

However, even with the approvals, Vanguard gathered that returning passengers had to spend over three hours clearing with immigration, and about two hours to get their luggages.

Passengers lament ill-treatment

One of the passengers who preferred anonymity, described the situation as “terrible”, adding “in fact it is a big shame”.

He said: “Imagine, even the DSS is not helping matters. Passengers first submit passports to DSS before immigration check.

“Nigeria is the only place it happens. It started during the military era and has not stopped. That was how they arrested people on their search list.”

Another passenger, who simply wanted to be addressed as Frank, said: “The situation is chaotic, an unbelievable development. We arrived Nigeria since 6:00am, this is already 9:00am, the Nigerian immigration is yet to clear us.

“How can one arrive Nigeria, and it will take three to four hours to pass through immigration? And then you go to luggage claim and spend another two hours. See how the situation is here. It is very sad.”

NIS, airports facilitators not prepared

Stakeholders in the aviation sector faulted the NIS, service providers as well as other airport facilitators over their inability to make adequate preparation for the Yuletide rush period.

An aviation expert, Olumide Ohunayo, who spoke to Vanguard, stated that even the airlines were more prepared than most service providers.

He said: “Some of the service providers, along with other airport facilitators, were not prepared for this surge this season.

“It is sad that passengers, due to bad baggage carousel, had longer waiting time as airline staff had to physically carry their bags

“We have also witnessed screening machine collapsed in some stations, which has also added to the delays.

“The NIS were not prepared for this period, as they did not have the maximum booths operational, which also caused delays.”

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