It was Tuesday, June 13, 2017, a day after South Western States declared a public holiday in honour of the Late Chief MKO Abiola and his victory at the June 12, 1993 presidential elections.
This reporter had gone to the Immigration Office in Ikoyi, Lagos to renew his international passport. It was about 12 noon that day. I had gone with doubts in my mind following current stories and speculations on the stress and bottlenecks in obtaining a passport and renewing an old one including corrupt tendencies in passport offices.
Since I did not know anyone in the Lagos Passport Office, I was prepared to face whatever challenges I would meet. I had thought I would pay thirty thousand naira (N30,000) to renew my thirty two (32) page passport booklet and sixty thousand naira (N60,000) for the sixty four (64) page booklet I planned to obtain and to wait a number of days after payment to collect the renewed passport.
I did not want to go through any middleman or any tout. Since I had money to pay, I went straight to the office of the Deputy Comptroller of Immigration. The man I was told to meet is Mr. Segun Adegoke, a Lawyer and Deputy Comptroller Immigration Officer.
Having been told to hold at least sixty thousand naira (N60,000), I was not sure the kind of help this Deputy Comptroller was to give and at what cost.
At the entrance of his office, I met his Personal Assistant, Mr. Olatunji Moses with other staff and some visitors, who also wanted to see him.
I introduced myself to Mr. Adegoke’s Personal Assistant and told him I also wished to see his boss. I had expected I would wait for long to see Mr. Adegoke since there were others also waiting for him. I was, however, surprised that not long after Mr. Moses sent my name to his boss, I was called in to see him.
As I entered Comptroller Adegoke’s office, I saw him pouring over heaps of files and documents. He looked up, welcomed me and settled down on the papers for a few more minutes as he x-rayed documents with a lady staff sitting in front of him.
As I waited to be attended to, I looked around and the first thing I noticed was that this office I visited last eighteen years ago, precisely 2009, when I met the former comptroller of immigration, Gaduya Chris, who hails from one of the northern states, had changed tremendously. It was obvious to me that the quality of furniture and the office arrangement could only have been done by a man of high taste.
Unknown to Comptroller Adegoke, I was taking mental notes of how he attended to his staff and his visitors. In my presence, he detected two fraudulent applications for passport. One of them was a Nigerian Immigration officer trying to get a passport for a Senegalese. How he detected this fraud, I did not know but I noticed that he started asking the female staff sitting with him series of questions. Then, he directed that the passport officer in charge of that application/zone be called. Immediately the officer came in, he ordered him to fish out the Senegalese or he will be put in detention.
As if that was not enough, while checking another file, he detected another finger print fraud going, in his office.
He quickly ordered investigation into the matter. I figured out that if this senior officer could detect two cases in my presence within few minutes of my stay, it might mean that he is contending with a lot of challenges on a daily basis.
The third thing I noticed was that Comptroller Adegoke is very receptive. Almost every visitor who came to his office, was warmly welcomed, given a seat and well attended to. One by one, he listened to each person’s request and directed some officers to treat such cases or to follow the visitors to the appropriate place to treat the matter.
My first impression about Comptroller Adegoke was that this must be a very meticulous officer, who knows his job and is assertive too. I looked at his dressing and concluded that this man must be a powerful dresser who is well comported. There was no doubt that his presence will convince any foreign or Nigerian visitor to that office that he is a dignified officer worthy of respect.
As I patiently waited to be attended to, I overheard a Journalist, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, Publisher, Africa Magazine, who was also waiting to be attended to, commenting on Comptroller Adegoke, describing him as a nice and responsible officer who adequately blends seriousness with pleasantry. The journalist told this writer (not knowing that I am also a Journalist) that Adegoke is always cheerful and is naturally imbued with a deep sense of sincerity, appreciation and objectivity.
Within the time I spent, I observed that Comptroller Adegoke is a thoroughbred officer full of humor. As his hands were placed on the heaps of documents on his table, he was observant of the people in his office and what was going on around him.
When it was my turn to see him, he recalled that he had met me before during the colloquium of Asiwaju Tinubu’s birthday in Lagos.
On my part, I recognized that I had met him at the wedding of the daughter of the Chief of Staff to Governor Ambode, Mr. Samuel Ojo, at the Ten Degrees Events Center, Ikeja. We both embraced each other; then, I told him about my mission to his office. He said that I should pay the exact fees for the booklets – between twenty four thousand naira (N24,000) and twenty five thousand naira (N25,000) for thirty two (32) page booklet or twenty nine (N29,000) – thirty thousand naira (N30,000) for the sixty two (62) page booklet as against sixty thousand naira (N60,000) some staff the passport office had told me to bring.
He called his personal assistant and told him to give me the form to fill and to take me to the section for finger prints and other requirements. I was told that I would get the passport booklet same day. I did not believe them nor my ears.
As the Personal Assistant was leading me to the appropriate sections as directed by his boss, I was amazed that Comptroller Adegoke followed us to ensure that his directive was followed. He directed the officers concerned to give me prompt attention.
After completing the process, I came back to Comptroller Adegoke’s office. He assured are that I would get the passport that same day as against three or four days I was told before in Ikeja Passport Office. Truly, the sixty four (64) page renewed passport was handed to me not long after I came back to Adegoke’s office.
I considered this a great honour done to me and a show of sincere proof that not all Nigerian officers are corrupt.
It is for this reason I am dedicating my column in this edition to this exemplary Immigration Officer, Mr. Segun Adegoke.
I will forever remember this show of respect and honesty by this fine officer.