Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) said yesterday it has seized over 372 passports from Nigerians involved in visa scams and warned that henceforth, anyone caught for such offence would be prosecuted.
Ekpo Nta, chairman of ICPC, who disclosed this yesterday at a one-day seminar on curbing visa scam in Lagos, said the 372 passports were intercepted based on intelligence information on the illegal activities of unauthorised travel agents and other persons involved in visa procurement scam.
ICPC has, however, mandated bearers of the passports to, within two months, collect the seized passports from its headquarters in Abuja, warning that failure to do so may lead to their blacklist.
It equally warned that the bearers might be barred from travelling abroad until their statuses are verified.
Nta said the authority was giving holders of the seized passports the grace to come to its office in Abuja to pick their passports, else they would be handed over to the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS), which could bar them from travelling abroad.
He equally cautioned unwary travellers from patronising touts at embassies in their attempt to procure visas, even as he urged the embassies to streamline and simplify the online visa acquisition process.
Nta said, “I want to use this opportunity to invite Nigerians whose passports are seized from different agents by ICPC to visit the commission’s headquarters in Abuja and collect their passports within the next two months.
“Failure to do so would result in ICPC handing over the passports to the Immigration Service for further necessary action, which might include blacklisting of the bearers of these passports and barring them from travelling abroad until their status are verified.”
He called on embassies and high commissions in Nigeria to sanitise their visa processes and entrench a culture of integrity in the visa acquisition process in Nigeria.
“The imposition of unreasonable procedures by some embassies seems to have exacerbated the already complicated visa acquisition process, which tends to promote corruption perpetrated by unofficial cartels within and outside the embassies.
“This seminar is part of further intervention in restoring sanity and integrity in important sectors of our nation. We have now turned our searchlight on visa procurement process. We are reading awareness on how to acquire visas in a transparent manner and helping to eradicate corruption-prone processes.”