Members of the House of Representatives on Thursday expressed grave concerns over the failure of the Federal Government to find a lasting solution to the prolonged scarcity of international passport booklets across the country.
The lawmakers frowned at the development during the debate on a motion titled: ‘Call for an end to the scarcity of international passport booklets at Immigration Offices’, sponsored by Hon Ugonna Ozurigbo.
Worried by the public outcry, the lawmakers urged authorities of Nigeria Immigration Service to, within 72 hours, issue International Passports to thousands of Nigerians who have applied, paid, and have been captured but are yet to be issued their International Passport Booklets.
In the bid to fast-track the process, the lawmakers also urged the Federal Ministry of Interior and Nigeria Immigration Service to review its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Plc and IRIS Smart Technologies Ltd with a view to boosting capacity and development of more Passport booklet production lines, ensuring better service delivery and that Nigerians get their international passports within 24 hours.
In his lead debate, Hon. Ozurigbo observed that the Federal Ministry of Interior, through the Nigeria Immigration Service, is responsible for the issue and re-issue of Nigerian International Passport to citizens and liaises with the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company Plc and IRIS Smart Technologies Ltd for the production of passport booklets and allied services.
“The House is aware of the persistent scarcity of the passport booklets at most Nigeria Immigration Service offices and some of the nation’s foreign embassies; Concerned that most Nigerians who have applied for International Passports and fulfilled all the requirements are constrained to wait endlessly for their International Passports, which ordinarily takes less than 48 hours to be issued, a situation that is causing untold hardship on Nigerians with urgent needs to travel out of the country.
“The House also notes that Nigerians who are on medical referrals outside the country are developing needless health complications while waiting for their Passports to be issued while those for urgent business trips, conferences, etc. have missed rewarding business opportunities due to the unavailability of passport booklets to enable them to travel.
“The House is also concerned that Nigerians in the diaspora are experiencing undue delays due to the scarcity and the situation is fast breeding a class of Passport racketeers who extort innocent citizens with the promise to assist them to secure International Passports on time.
“The House is cognizant that access to International Passport is one of the rights enjoyed by citizens all over the world, and in other countries, International Passports are obtained with ease as they are issued immediately upon application and therefore Nigerians should not be made to suffer before their rights are given to them.”
To this end, the House mandated the joint Committees on Interior and Foreign Affairs to ensure compliance and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.
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