Why Many Pay Bribes To Become Officers
The recent tragedy that claimed the lives of not less than 13 Nigerians during the botched recruitment exercise of the Nigerian Immigration Service recently confirms the fact that the Immigration Service is seen as one of the most “lucrative” government agencies in the country.
Not only do candidates jostle for the few vacancies available in the immigration service, it has become so competitive that people go to any length to secure jobs in the service. To many, the service has become corruption-ridden such that even the police that was hitherto tagged corrupt is struggling to match the exploits of corrupt immigration officers.
The more than 500, 000 people that attended the last recruitment exercise included bank staff, civil servants, private employees as well as uniformed personnel who were trying to change from one agency to another. It was also surprising to see pregnant women at some of the venues of the exercise.
Street Journal’s findings revealed that the surest guarantee for an immigration job in Nigeria is to have a strong politician as godfather. Many applicants for jobs in the service have complementary cards and “assist the bearer” from influential politicians attached to their application letters and curriculum vitas.
Apart from strong connections, Street Journal has also found out that a slot in the Immigration Service costs as much as N 300, 000 as some recruitment rackets have found their way into the top echelon of the service. Street Journal gathered that even applicants that have strong backing sometimes opt for the “pay as you go” option of employment as it seems to be faster than any other form. Checks also revealed that those who pay their way into the service are often considered for “juicy” postings.
Border posts, airports and the nations seaports are locations where most Immigration officers in Nigeria would do anything to serve.
Not a few Nigerians have fallen prey to the embarrassing situation of being compelled to part with money, even in foreign currency at times by officers.
Ladi, who was on his way to a workshop organized by his employers in South Africa shared his experience with Street Journal. “I was on my way to South Africa when an officer, Adullahi J. and her colleagues pulled me out, apparently because I was a first timer. She demanded that I must produce a minimum of $ 500 as BTA or PTA before I would be allowed to proceed on my trip.”
Ladi went on to state that efforts to convince her and the other officers proved futile and “the show of shame unfolded fully when she claimed that one cannot use his or her MasterCard ATM card abroad. Even when other passengers joined me and we explained that banks have stopped selling PTA, she did not budge. I was forced to make withdrawals to purchase Rands at Travellex. The annoying thing is that all these happened because I refused to part with N 1000 bribe. I was even asked to go and print my statement of account.”
Another regular traveler disclosed to Street Journal that what Ladi went through was a normal occurrence at Nigerian airports. “They usually ask for bribes from every first time traveler at the departure threatening them that they will stop them from flying if they don’t drop a certain amount, which at times exceeds N 10, 000. But they couldn’t do that to me because as they asked, I just shouted at the top of my voice and said which money again? For what reason? Is that stated in the immigration rule? Then show me the receipt for the money you want to collect from me. I kept shouting and they got embarrassed. So they just said go abeg . But they did it to a friend of mine and he paid up to N 15, 000 before he could be released.” Speaking further, he said “they are a bunch of thieves. That’s what they do to innocent travelers who don’t know their rights. And sometimes they implicate some, just to punish them.”
Bayo, a regular traveler to South Africa also confirmed that “sometimes they will ask for the money to survive the journey, that how much dollars are you taking there. The moment they discover that the money is not enough to take care of that person, they will use that as an excuse to stop him or her from travelling.”
Narrating his own experience in the hands of Nigerian Immigration officers, Dare, a London-based journalist stated that “to say Nigerian Immigration officers working at our various airports are morbidly corrupt is an understatement. I arrived from London in August 2011, my people, my late mother and others were already waiting to receive me to assist with my bags. I bought a small flat screen TV for my dad as his birthday gift. I neatly packed it in my luggage. I was picked at random by 2 immigration officers at Ikeja airport.
Time to search my bags and explain the mission of my travel to the UK. I EXPLAINED CAREFULLY WITH NO ARGUMENT. Suddenly one of them exploded “this grammar too much. Drop something jare.” To avoid further questioning, I told them I was a student and no money to drop. They then started to roughly search my bags. They scattered all my loads on the ground. I still insisted I won’t drop one dollar. I was enjoying the drama as a journalist because a comrade (don’t ask for his name) had earlier alerted me that SSS men were waiting to arrest me anytime in Nigeria because of my Facebook updates (it was a big lie). My people were getting angry outside, waving to me to “cooperate” with them! I refused to drop any money and later one of them called me a mad man. I replied him with anger “F**k you, idiot. Within 5 minutes, three soldiers with guns arrived to arrest me. I gladly offered myself to be shot in the presence of other passengers.
At the end of the day, all settled. When I got to Abeokuta to present the TV to my father, I noticed a cracked screen when I plugged it to power supply and the TV could not work. I then suspected the way the immigration officers roughly scattered the contents of my bags caused the mess. Toi repair the TV screen, a local technician in Abeokuta asked me to pay N 15, 000. No wonder many Nigerians applied to work with Nigeria Immigration Service, a profitable, lucrative and chop money venture like working for oil companies. ”
Feyi, an oil company staff disclosed to Street Journal that soliciting for bribe has become a standard for immigration officers at the airports in Nigeria. “They will harass you all the way and delay you for insisting that you are not paying”, she said. Feyi continued that “on several occasions, while searching my box, they make spurious claims that some things are prohibited. For example, once, an officer told me hair extensions (attachments) are prohibited from being taken out. I said since when? They will say “oh because you are a fine lady just give us something and carry your stuff” and I’ll say no way, how can attachment be prohibited? They will delay you then they will abuse you and say carry your bag and go. Same thing for those ladies frisking you before you enter waiting lounge. While frisking you they will whisper what did you bring for us o?
The airports have thus become the most sought after duty posts in the service. An officer pointed out that when posted the airports “it is easier for you change your car, complete your house and do some other things for yourself.”