The Acting Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Isa Idris, has promised Nigerians who may be experiencing difficulty in either renewing their international passports or securing new ones that the challenges currently being experienced will be a thing of the past by March, 2022.
Mr Idris, who made the pledge on Saturday during a media interaction, blamed the challenge of delayed passport production on the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying global lockdowns, and also the difficulty in accessing foreign exchange (forex) in the country.
He said part of the efforts towards addressing the problem is the launch of the enhanced e-passport, which he noted has been embedded with improved features.
He said apart from the United Kingdom where it was launched, the Service through the support of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has inaugurated such centres in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Ibadan.
He said; “Just Friday we received a total of 45,000 booklets towards clearing the backlogs and in December alone, we received more than 100,000 booklets which we have continued to distribute across the passport centres nationwide. This is not just for Nigerians in Nigeria alone but for those in the Diaspora as well.
“But with the introduction of the enhanced e-Passport, we are good to go in our efforts towards addressing the scarcity. This enhanced e-passport is a great improvement on the biometric passport technology which we adopted as a country in 2007. It is a strategic step towards curbing forgery, impersonation and other forms of fraud associated with obtaining travel documents under the old Machine Readable Passport regime.
“And because we know that technology helps to address some of our challenges, including corruption, we have continued to try to stop personal contacts with our officials. My predecessor started to break the jinx and we are continuing on that. We plead with applicants to apply only online and stop physical contacts with our officers to avert corrupt practices.
Mr Idris also said by next week more booklets will be received towards clearing the backlogs, even as he appealed to Nigerians to understand the service.
Stop engaging in last-minute application rush
The comptroller-general also condemned what he described as the last-minute rush for either renewal or fresh application for international passports, saying applicants for renewal can apply for it six months to the expiration of their passports.
He said the NIS is working hard to ensure full compliance to the three-week duration for renewal and six-week waiting period for fresh applications. He said there is nowhere in the world where passports are produced in 24 hours except in emergency situations.
“The waiting period is for us to validate the addresses provided by the applicants. So Nigerians should not forget that they have six months to renew their passport. They should not wait till it expires, and of course, there are other emergencies, and there is a window for them,” Mr Idris said.
On Border Management
The comptroller general of Immigration also spoke about border security, saying such is the core responsibility of the service, and that it would not allow itself to be reduced to a passport production agency.
He said the core mandate of NIS is border security and that with more than 5,000 land borders and shorelines, the deployment of technology is the best way to tackle the problems.
He said the Service is leaving no stone unturned towards ensuring that Nigerians can sleep with their two eyes closed and that improved border management is part of his three-point agenda when he took over the leadership in acting capacity in September.
Meanwhile, the CGI complained about poor funding and said the organisation is working towards securing approval so that it could be able to spend part of its generated revenues to service the organisation and its men.
According to Mr Idris, workers that are not motivated will find it hard not to engage in corrupt practices and that he is committed to improving the welfare of his officers for improved productivity and efficiency.
He pleaded with Nigerians and particularly the media for cooperation and support, saying there are dedicated channels for complaints about the officers’ conducts and the services of the organisation.