THE shortage of passport booklets is due to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) foreign exchange policy as it affects the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). If the Federal Government can permit the NIS a window to utilise part of the money realised, there will be no shortage of passport booklets in Nigeria. NIS doesn’t have the money realised outside to service its operation, it’s the local that takes care of the operations in the diaspora. The CBN is not giving the NIS a window to foreign exchange. So, the company supplying the booklets goes to bureau de change operators to buy foreign exchange for passports. It goes to bureau de change to buy dollars and meanwhile, NIS has not increased the price. So, it will eat into NIS revenue, because the printers will bring their bill and NIS has to pay them. That is the reason for the scarcity. Recently, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, inaugurated the enhanced e-passport production centre in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. The minister urged Nigerians to stop patronising touts and switch to online application. He assured stakeholders that new applicants would get their passports within six weeks while renewal would not exceed three weeks.
Aregbesola said the Federal Government had put measures in place to ensure that holders of Nigerian passports are Nigerians. He said: “Part of the reforms is the migration of passport application and payments to digital platforms. But we regret to observe that applicants still patronise touts and unscrupulous officials in the hope to beat the system and get expedited services. When they were disappointed, they come to report to us. Of course, we have zero tolerance for corruption and subversion of due process. We therefore take seriously any such report and invoke the necessary disciplinary measures. But I will implore applicants to stop patronising touts and our officials directly. Follow the process we put in place. Apply for passports and pay online. The only engagement with our staff is the enrolment of your biometrics. Patronising touts and passport office officials doesn’t always end well, but rather serves to defeat our purpose of eliminating corruption and infusing integrity to the passport administration process.”
He added: “Our template stipulates a maximum of six weeks for obtaining new passports and maximum three weeks for renewal. “We work within this schedule to enable us investigate any claims made by applicants and verify them, for the final document we issue them to have integrity.” The issuance of enhanced international passport in Nigeria has been modernized and this is the new passport regime in Nigeria. Aregbesola has embarked on a journey where the importance of technology as a source of innovation has been identified as a critical success factor for issuance of passport in Nigeria. Aregbesola has started with getting rid of onerous paper-based passport procedures. For one, digitizing international passport has yielded significant cost savings. Aregbesola has proved that he could shorten processing times for applications of international passports from three months to short period if he digitalized its processes. Instead of promoting mobility across nations, paper passport has become an instrument of exclusion.
Before Aregbesola introduced the enhanced passport, the Nigerian paper passport was one of the most travel-restrictive passports. The standard template for passports was created more than a century ago—and many argue that it’s due for a major rethink. Economists and open-border advocates point out that tethering one’s prospects to a paper-based travel document, has proven to be inefficient, costly, and ultimately inequitable. With enhanced international passport the stress associated with the application and collection of passports is now a thing of the past and the NIS has issued more than 2.7 million passports in two years. The Minister of Interior has restated its commitment to improving the passport application process for Nigerians at home and in diaspora, as he launched the new enhanced passport. The e-passport would reposition and improve the passport issuance regime, and tailor it towards best global practice. The new regime offers the options of five and 10-year validity to save Nigerians frequent visits to replace their passports. The E-passport has new security features, such as multi-laser image, pre-printed features, ultra-violet light, infrared, laser engraving, and is approved by International Civil Aviation Organisation. The enhanced e-passport is part of the new reforms approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is a product of intensive review of the existing e-passport booklet which has been in circulation for over 10 years and has only 5-year validity.
Aregbesola, gave an assurance on the official rollout of the enhanced e-passport at the Nigerian High Commission in London, United Kingdom. He revealed that the Nigerian passport is the highest affirmation of Nigerian citizenship, noting that it is the responsibility of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to provide the passport without any stress, within a reasonable period. “What we have come to do here is symbolic of the core mandate of the Ministry of Interior and indeed, the Federal Government of Nigeria – affirmation of citizenship integrity. The Nigerian passport is the highest affirmation of Nigerian citizenship. It is therefore our responsibility to provide the passport without any stress, within a reasonable period. It is important to inform you that we have witnessed growing demand for the Nigerian passport both locally and by Nigerians in diaspora. A total of 2,742,207 passports of different categories were issued between 2019 to date.” The minister commissioned the Nigeria Immigration Service Passport Express Centre, Maitama, Abuja, which is established in partnership with the private sector. It is a first of many more to be established and designed to offer specialized services to Nigerians. Every Nigerian has the right to a Nigerian passport and it is our responsibility to put it in the hands of anyone desirous of it within the shortest possible time, without stress. The passport should be available within a considerable time of a successful application. Where there are issues, the applicant must be notified within 48 hours.
- Donald writes via firstname.lastname@example.org
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