A Nigerian pastor, a local chief and pastor have been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment with hard labour (IHL) for attempting to obtain passport fraudulently.
Immigration public relation officer (North) Blackwell Lungu on Wednesday identified the Nigerian pastor as Ibrahim Bitrus while the chief and Malawian pastor were identified as John Chirwa and Thomas Chitsulo respectively. Chirwa is Village head (GV) Mbondolo under Traditional Authority (T/A) Malengamzoma in Nkhata Bay District.
Lungu said the three went to Immigration offices in Mzuzu last Thursday to process a passport for Bitrus but on the forms they indicated that his surname was Phiri. They also claimed the Nigerian was the chief’s cousin.
However, Chirwa and Chitulo barred Bitrus from talking to Immigration officials which raised suspicion if indeed he was a Malawian and the passport was applyied for in good faith.
The officers then took the three to an interview room where they found Bitrus with a Nigerian passport. They were apprehended and charged with providing false information to obtain a passport.
When they appeared before Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, the court found them guilty and sentenced them to 18 months IHL without an option of a fine.
Lungu applauded the court for scrapping the fine option, saying most culprits take advantage of the petty fines to commit crimes.
He also condemned chiefs for promoting fraudulent acts when they are supposed to help government uphold the law and ensure that the country is secure.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa also condemned the tendency of providing false information about foreigners to get favours.
He said: “As government, we totally condemn the tendency of helping foreigners access documents or other services fraudulently. This is our country, we have to protect it.”