Nigerian passport has been ranked 100th out of 199 countries in the 2022 third quarter global passport ranking by the Henley Passport Index. This index is published quarterly by the Henley & Partners, a London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm. The Index compared the visa-free access of 199 different passports to 227 travel destinations and ranked them based on global access and mobility.

The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information. The Index indicated that Nigeria moved one place down the log as it was ranked 99th in the Q2 2022 index. In the HPI Q1 2022 index, Nigeria was placed at the 98th position alongside Ethiopia. Similarly, in the Q1 2021 index, Nigeria ranked 91 and had access to 46 countries, which indicated a steady regression.

Nigeria’s e-Passport has been ranked 99 best out of over 200 countries’ passports in the world, as the passport holders can even visit a number of destinations without visas. The process of digitalizing Nigeria Immigration Service has started and more production centres are be commissioned across the states which will make Henley and Partners to place Nigeria in the first 10th passport ranking in future.

Quoting Henley Passport Index second-quarter global passport ranking for the year 2022 report, the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, described the stride as a “no mean feat,” adding it was indicative of Nigeria’s passport acceptability all over the world. He said Henley Passport Index is the original and authoritative ranking of the world’s passports.

While the challenges with passport processing subsist, one fact that cannot be denied, however, is that the current minister of interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has been unrelenting in seeking ways to fix the problems. The solutions may seem to be slow though; progress is being made. For clarity, I would like to restate that the challenges with passport administration aggregated over a period of time; so, it is not unlikely that people might not instantly appreciate the efforts of the present administration regarding what has been done, and what government is doing to reform passport administration.

The new digitised passport, which comes with polycarbonate data page, and additional 25 security features, requires standardised processing procedures including diligent verification of the documents supplied and addresses stated by eligible applicants. The beauty of this is to ensure the elimination of instances of identity theft while the online application process addresses the need to considerably reduce all forms of human interference and corruption by touts and unscrupulous personnel.

From the foregoing, suffice it be stated that the NIS is making some steady progress across its service windows. The speed of the journey may not be as some would expect but it is important to recognise that the service is better off today than where it was few years ago. It is indeed work-in-progress. As one of the identity management agencies in the country, the NIS is working in tandem with other data-generating agencies, and thus has begun mandatory passport-national identity number (NIN) linkage for all passport applicants towards building a unified national identity database for the country.

The new passport regime puts Nigeria in better place in Henley Passport Index recent ranking. The introduction of enhanced passport has put Nigeria back to Henley passport index. The Henley Passport Index periodically measures the world’s most travel-friendly passports which is determined by the total number of countries a passport holder can enter without a visa.

For a fast time ever, Nigerian passport is among the top 100 most powerful in the world. Revealing this on its website, the Henley Passport Index released its ranking for the year 2020 and Nigeria had a dramatic rise from being at the 200th spot to going up to the 90-100th most powerful.

According to the index, Nigeria passport has 46 destinations visa-free access and 180 destinations visa required. Henley & Partner’s list is one of several indexes created by financial firm to rank global passports according to the access they provide to their citizens.

The Henley Passport Index is based on data provided by the International Air Transport Authority (IATA). It is updated in real time throughout the year, as and when visa policy changes come into effect.

The Federal Government has said it is turning around the entire passport application process by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to Six weeks timeline from 1st of June, 2021, so as to ensure seamless, transparent, as well as according human dignity to applicants and fulfil citizenship integrity, in line with the mandate of the Ministry of Interior. There is a new passport regime that is driven by technology.

The minister of interior Rauf Aregbesola has hinged the future of ISSUANCE OF PASSPORTS in Nigeria to technology. Aregbesola noted that giving the critical role ICT will play in the work of the Service; the ministry has launched an IT solution that has simplified ISSUANCE OF PASSPORTS. According to him, this IT solution “will ensure that all Nigerians carryout registration, without visiting any of immigration offices. This solution can be used anywhere in the world. From the time you register with immigration online. Aregbesola has predicted that technology would play a major role in the future of the issuance of passport. Technology seems to dictate the speed at which life is changing.

Aregbesola is considering the benefit from online passport application roll out. It is designed to improve efficiency and convenience by providing a modern and secure service to millions of passport holders and applicants. The service means applicants can upload a suitable digital photo from their smartphone or tablet, making applying for a passport quick and simple. In total, the whole process takes 10 minutes.

Aregbesola is introducing a host of new tech projects under issuance of passport, and he hopes to complete and implement most of these very soon. The most crucial one, already in its pilot stages, is the integration. Integration with the database that can make verification a much less tedious task for the passport authorities, This integration will help Nigerians with establishing identity by verifying even the biometric match.

To permanently curb the complaints of difficulty in obtaining Passports from the NIS, Aregbesola has came up with several innovations that all pending passports will be Issued on or before May 31st, 2021 and starting from June 1, 2021, a new regime will begin. It has become imperative that we review our operations and rejig our system, in order to be able to offer excellent services to our clients. We need to review a system from time to time to see if it helps best to serve and realise the objectives. One, Aregbesola has declared a zero-tolerance stance to all forms of touting. No applicant will be made to pay any illegitimate fees. We are going to embed security operatives – seen and unseen – in all our passport offices. They will wear body cameras.

The Federal Government has said that at least 45,000 Passport Booklets are yet to be collected by applicants at the various Nigeria Immigration Service enrolment centres worldwide. This is coming as the government extends the deadline for clearing Passport Backlog initially for 31st May by one week. The new date for the beginning of the new Passport Regime is now June 8. At a review meeting with the management of the Service, it was revealed that 230,000 Passport Booklets have been produced so far and members of the public enjoined to visit their enrolment centres for collection.

It would be recalled that the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola had at a meeting with Passport Control Officers and Attaches of the Service from across the world on April 22 rejigged the Passport Application Processing by announcing sweeping reforms. However, before the beginning of the new passport processing regime, a promise was made to Nigerians to clear all passport backlog.

Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola, has said through a public-private partnership, government would establish at least one special centre in each local government area, beginning with Abuja, to speed up passport processing.

Inwalomhe Donald writes from Abuja