Applicants seeking to obtain the Nigerian passport through the Immigration Command in Owerri, Imo State, have pleaded with the authorities to release their booklets which had been stuck with them since last year.
The aggrieved applicants included those whose passports have been approved for issuance since June, last year, after they had gone through data capturing and paid the necessary fees.
Investigations revealed that the backlog, which is said to have hit 5,000, began to pile up when the booklets were not available last year.
Pressure was said to have lessened following the travel ban at the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic early this year.
The pressure, according to sources, has however resumed on the command since the announcement that flight operations might start again in the country late in June, this year.
One of the applicants told our correspondent that when he came for his booklet, having waited since August, last year, and he was told by the immigration officials to pay an extra
N15,000, despite that he had paid N35,000 previously.
He wondered why he would spend
N50,000 to obtain a passport which had been approved earlier and was simply awaiting issuance, adding that his colleague who came for passport this year had obtained his own after allegedly paying N50,000.
The applicant, who alleged that the immigration headquarters at Abuja had released booklets to Owerri for clearance of the backlog, expressed surprise that the booklets were being used for fresh applicants while his own, among others, continue to linger.
He, therefore, pleaded with the new passport control officer in Imo State, Uche Uju Ezebiri, who took over last December, to help facilitate the release of his booklet.
The situation and the high cost of obtaining the booklets in Owerri, investigations revealed, had forced passport seekers to travel to Anambra, Enugu and Abia where they obtain it a cost under
Immigration officers approached for confirmation declined to comment while the passport control officer was said to have been away on official assignment.