The Acting Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Isa Idris, has assured Nigerians that the delay in renewing international passports or getting new ones will be a thing of the past by March 2022.
Mr Idris made the pledge on Saturday during a virtual media interaction.
He said the challenge of delayed passport production can be blamed on the coronavirus pandemic, accompanying global lockdowns, and the difficulty in accessing foreign exchange in the country.
Mr Idris 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 it has been launched in the United Kingdom and in some Nigerian centres; Kano, Port Harcourt and Ibadan.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
On behalf of the service, he pleaded with Nigerians to apply only online and stop physical contact with immigration officials to avoid 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.”
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 current passports.
He said the immigration service is working hard to ensure full compliance to the three-week duration for renewal and six-week waiting period for fresh applications, adding that 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.
He said one of the core responsibilities of the NIS is to protect the borders and that it would not allow itself to be reduced to a passport production agency.
With more than 5,000 land borders and shorelines, the deployment of technology is the best way to tackle the problems, Mr Idris said.
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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.
He 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 revenue for its operations.
According to Mr Idris, workers that are not motivated will find it hard not to engage in corrupt practices and 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.
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