The Acting Comptroller General of Immigration, Isa Idris, has appealed to Nigerians to cooperate with the organisation in its bid to sanitise the system and improve service delivery, especially in the area of international passport issuance.
Mr Idris, in a short message to journalists at the weekend, said apart from reducing incidences of corruption, the new system “has also helped to improve productivity, reduce rowdiness and curtail excesses of touts and some officers of the NIS.”
He said; “The integration of the online appointment system with the existing online payment system, has restored orderliness to the passport offices to a large extent, as applicants can now make payment and choose the appointment date and time which is convenient to them, thereby reducing the time they would have spent at the passport offices as each passport office has been allocated with a daily appointment capacity which was arrived at, based on need an analysis done.”
The acting comptroller general, however, condemned what he described as a “fire brigade” approach by many Nigerians, who he noted, usually wait until the time they need passports before applying for them.
He said since September 2021 when he resumed as acting comptroller general, his team has worked tirelessly to clear the backlogs of unproduced passports. He said the backlogs were as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which he noted halted movements globally.
The immigration boss gave the statistics of the backlogs of passports he inherited and how much has been produced in less than eight months of his administration.
According to Mr Idris, as of September 2021, there were 85,163 passport applications that were yet to be processed locally while the figure stood at 18,746 in the Diaspora.
He said as a result of the backlog, overcrowding and rowdiness were observed across the various offices of the organisation, and the need for urgent implementation of the enhanced e-passport as initiated by his predecessor.
Mr Idris said as of April, the backlogs in Nigeria have been reduced to 33,625 while the foreign backlog now stands at 9,661.
He said; “It is pertinent to note that between January and April 2022, a total of 478,650 booklets have been distributed across the globe, and I can assure you that more than 10,000 Nigerians have benefited from this initiative and it is still ongoing.
“The Immigration attaches have also been mandated to undertake similar interventions within their areas of coverage with countries like Canada, Italy, Spain, Israel keying into this initiative.
“Hungary and Romania participated credibly during the migration crises resulting from the ongoing Russia and Ukraine war. So we are making progress.”
The acting CGIS said the launch of the enhanced electronic passport in some parts of the country and the United Kingdom has helped in no small measure to ease the tension created by the backlogs.
According to him, in the South-west and part of the North-central areas of the country, a total of 40,000 passports have been produced and that there is no backlog of passport applications from previous years at the centre.
He said: “The backlog of about 40,000 in the South-west and part of the North-central where the enhanced e-passport was rolled out December 2021 has been cleared. South-east, which had about 27,000 before the enhanced e-passport was rolled out on March 3, 2022 is now about 75 per cent cleared.
“The backlog at the other centres within Nigeria has also improved with the supply of booklets. As a result of the improvement, we have made the issue of clearance of sucking a top priority by ensuring the supply of a large quantity of booklets as well as closely supervising the allocation of these booklets to the passport offices.”
He said a number of task force teams were set up and sent to various passport issuing offices with the mandate to ensure strict utilisation and speedy clearance of the backlog.
He said apart from the South-east, South-west and part of the North-central where the enhanced e-passport has been launched in the country, the next phase will be launched in the other parts of North-central, North-west and South-south, before moving to the North-eastern region.
“In the Diaspora, the next phase of the enhanced e-passport will be rolled out in the USA, Canada and Europe,” he said.
The acting comptroller general said the challenges currently being faced by the agency in the sanitation efforts is with the linkage of the National Identification Number (NIN) with the passport details. He said his office is working assiduously with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to ensure that the challenges are addressed as quickly as they evolve.
“In respect to the issues arising from the integration of the Nigeria passport with NIN, the Ag. CGIS has been making frantic efforts by collaborating with the Management of NIMC to resolve these issues. However we must acknowledge that the challenge of verifying NIN before the issuance of Passport plays a major role in our Passport production line and more often than not accounts for the delays,” he said.
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