Int’l Passport: FG, National Assembly Differ on Achievements, Delays

By Mohammed Mohammed

The Federal Government through the Ministry of Interior and the National Assembly: Senate, have towed different positions on the achievements and delays in the issuance of Nigeria’s international passport to travelers.

The Ministry has averred that her strident efforts at overcoming the challenges Nigerians encounter in obtaining Passport are yielding the desired results.

The government also urged citizens to assist the reform process at the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) by not patronising corrupt officials who are making the process difficult for them.

Meanwhile, in a motion sponsored by Uche Ekwenufe, (PDP) Anambra, on Tuesday, the Senate has mandated its committee on Interior to urgently investigate the circumstances leading to the delay of issuance and renewal of Nigerian international Passport by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), despite the pledge made by the Federal to ease the challenge in 6 weeks.

The committee insisted that the members must turn its finding in two weeks’ time.

Expressing regret, Senator Ekwunife, added that the delay is causing Nigerians untold hardship who need to travel out of the country or want to come.

The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, stated this at the commissioning of the Front Desk Office in Oyo, Oyo State.

He said the Oyo Passport Front Office is part of the long-term initiatives to make the process of data capturing, production and collection which are critical areas of the passport process easier, all in a bid to address the growing concerns of Nigerians.

According to the Minister, the NIS has continued to meet up despite the skyrocketing demand for the citizenship affirming document, while maintaining the highest standard and quality.

“The demand for passport by Nigerians has skyrocketed in the past three years. Nigeria has a growing population. This means that in the past 30 years, more people are being born than are dying. More people have therefore grown to the age they will need the passport to travel outside the country, for identification and for other purposes.

“All these shot up demand, more than our production capacity. But thankfully, we have addressed the challenge successfully and cleared the arrears. We are now producing on the schedule of six weeks after biometric data enrollment for fresh applications and three weeks for renewal.

“But we still have the challenge of the waiting period between application and biometric data capture. Depending on the location, sometimes, the waiting period can take up to two months. This is because there is a limit to the number of applicants that the existing passport offices can attend to in a day, making it impossible to attend quickly to all the applicants, and necessitating the long waiting period.

“A front desk is a facility for application completion and enrollment, where applicants will submit their biometric data. No judgement will be made here. But the application process will be completed and collated for processing and production. It is also where the applicant will collect the passport when it is ready. 

“In spite of the challenges we faced, last year (2022) alone, we produced 1.9 million passports, against the 1 million produced in 2021. This is about 80 per cent increase and it is unprecedented.

The reform introduced to the NIS led to the Automated Passport issuance process which has eliminated touts and racketeers in Passport administration, introduction of E-border Management, MIDAS and the commencement of E-Passport across Passport Control Offices and Diplomatic Missions.”

Aregbesola, also hinted that as part of the long-term measures, the private sector will be engaged to provide lounges for a fee, with the equipment and personnel provided by the NIS to make the waiting period after application, more seamless.

“Getting the passport is a right of all Nigerians and for those outside the country, it is a necessity. The passport validates your person and existence and without it, you stand the risk of being classified as a stateless person outside the country.

But our mandate is to provide the passport for all Nigerians desirous of it seamlessly, without any stress. This is the essence of the citizenship integrity mandate President Muhammadu Buhari gave us – that any Nigerian interfacing with the government in any area must not encounter any difficulty, but rather do their business joyously.

“It goes without saying that the more of this (front desk office) we have, the less the waiting period. Our long-term plan will be to involve private operators who will provide the lounge for a fee, but the equipment and personnel will be provided by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). With this, it is possible to cut the waiting period to a few days.

“One of the challenges we have in passport administration are the few corrupt officials undermining our efforts to sanitise the process and bring integrity to passport administration. Their main excuse for withholding an applicant’s passport is that there is no booklet. This is simply not true. It is just an excuse for extortion. There are more than enough booklets to satisfy our production schedule.

“They have remained on this ruinous path sadly because desperate applicants continue to patronise them. But I am appealing to Nigerians, as your patriotic duty, to stop patronising them and gratifying their lust for lucre. Make it a duty to report such solicitation for gratification to the office of the Controller General of Immigration or my office.”

On his part, the Governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde, who was represented at the event by his Special Adviser on Migration and Homeland Security, ACG Segun Adegoke (Rtd.), stated that the state government will continue to support the Nigeria Immigration Service in the State.

“We thank the Minister for collaborating with Oyo people in establishing this passport office of the Nigeria Immigration Service here to complement the one in Ibadan. It will in no small way help facilitate legal migration of our people.

“However, we (Oyo State Government) call on the Minister and Nigerian Immigration Service to make haste in the domestication and eventual issuance of the African Union Passports to Nigerians. This will help facilitate the legal migration of our people to the 54 African countries visa free and in turn promote much needed remittances vis-a-vis foreign direct investment from other African nations,” the governor stated.

Speaking earlier, the Acting Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, DCG Abdulmumuni Haliru, said the newly inaugurated passport front office would boost social and economic activities in the town. 

DCG Abdulmumuni, therefore, called on officers to be of good conduct and always be professional while discharging their civic responsibility.

He further extolled the person and character of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, stating that the Immigration Service has never had it this good.

“Sir, you will recall that it is during your time that we launched several projects in the service, but your commitment to passport reforms and easing access to this important travel document has been phenomenal.

“We (NIS) have never had it this good. In a space of the last one year alone, you have given seven additional passport front offices to the country and also launched the enhanced passport in several stations and countries. We say thank you, we won’t disappoint Nigerians in rendering this service to them,” the acting CG promised.

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