he Federal Government says it has overcome the challenges Nigerians encounter in obtaining passports.
This is contained in a statement issued by Mr Sola Fasure, the Media Adviser to the Minister of Interior, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, on Wednesday in Abuja.
Fasure said the minister made this known at the inauguration of the Front Desk Office in Oyo State.
He said the Oyo Passport Front Office was part of the long term initiatives to make the process of data capturing, production and collection.
This, he said, were critical areas of the Passport process easier, all in a bid to address the growing concerns of Nigerians.
According to the minister, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has continued to meet up in spite the skyrocketing demand for the citizenship affirming document, while maintaining the highest standard and quality.
“The demand for Passports 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 haveaddressed 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, he said, was because there was a limit to the number of applicants that the existing Passport offices could attend to in a day, making it impossible to attend quickly to all the applicants.
“Which usually necessitated long waiting period Front Desk is a facility for application completion and enrollment, where applicants will submit their biometric data.
“No judgment 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 the challenges we faced in 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 minister added that the reform introduced to NIS led to the automated Passport issuance process which eliminated touts and racketeers in Passport administration.
He added further that the reform led to the introduction of E-border Management, MIDAS and the commencement of E-Passport across Passport Control Offices and Diplomatic Missions.
Aregbesola also said that as part of the long term measures, the private sector would be engaged to provide lounges for a fee, with equipment and personnel provided by NIS to make waiting period after application 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 to Nigerians.
“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 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 by NIS. With this, it is possible to cut the waiting period to a few days.”
Aregbesola said that the challenges the nation had in Passport administration were the few corrupt officials undermining the federal government’s efforts to sanitise the process and bring integrity to Passport administration.
He added that their main excuse for withholding an applicant’s Passport was that there was no booklet.
This, he said, was simply not true, adding that it is just an excuse for extortion when at a time there were more than enough booklets to satisfy the nation’s 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 Comptroller-General of NISI or my office.”
Gov. Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Migration and Homeland Security, retired ACG Segun Adegoke, stated that the state government would continue to support NIS.
“We thank the minister for collaborating with Oyo people in establishing this office here in Oyo to complement the one in Ibadan. It will in no small way help facilitate legal migration of our people,” he said.
Makinde, however, called on the minister and NIS to make haste in the domestication and eventual issuance of the AU Passports to Nigerians.
This, he said, would go a long way to assist in facilitating the legal migration of the people of the state to the 54 African countries visa free.
He added that it would also in turn promote much needed remittances vis-a-vis foreign direct investment from other African nations.
Earlier, the Acting Comptroller-General of NIS, DCG Abdulmumuni Haliru, said the newly inaugurated Passport front office would no doubt boost social and economic activities in the town.
Haliru 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, saying that the NIS 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 in 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.
“As well inaugurating the enhanced Passport in several stations and countries. We say thank you, we won’t disappoint Nigerians in rendering this service to them,” he promised. (NAN)