The writer of the article titled OBTAINING THE NIGERIAN PASSPORT WITH TEARS has not been monitoring developments in the Nigeria Immigration Service. Nigerians now obtain their international with joy due to recent innovation.
Rauf Aregbesola has finally resolved the problem of passport booklet shortage in Nigeria. Aregbesola has put a system in place that will totally eliminate the problem of booklet shortage in Nigeria and to ease the frustrations and hopefully eradicate hardships applicants experience. . The Minister of Interior and Chairman, Civil Defence, Correctional, Fire and Immigration Services Board, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, recently declared that with the new passport reform ongoing at the Nigeria Immigration Service, booklet shortage is now a thing of the past. The Minister made the declaration in Abuja, while decorating the acting Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Alhaji Idris Isa Jere, with the rank of Comptroller General, however stating that the CGI will still be referred to as ‘acting’ according to the terms of his appointment approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.

As part of efforts to address the perennial passport booklet shortage in the country, Rauf Aregbesola has inaugurated e-passport production centres across Nigeria. THE shortage of passport booklets was due to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) foreign exchange policy as it affects the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). If the Federal Government can permit the NIS a window to utilise part of the money realised, there will be no shortage of passport booklets in Nigeria. NIS doesn’t have the money realised outside to service its operation, it’s the local that takes care of the operations in the diaspora. The CBN is not giving the NIS a window to foreign exchange. So, the company supplying the booklets goes to bureau de change operators to buy foreign exchange for passports. It goes to bureau de change to buy dollars and meanwhile, NIS has not increased the price. So, it will eat into NIS revenue, because the printers will bring their bill and NIS has to pay them. That is the reason for the scarcity.

To address booklets shortage, Rauf Aregbesola has created electronic Passport Production centres in London, three in Lagos, Benin City one in Kano, one in Abuja, one in Ibadan, one in Enugu and creating others across the six regions in Nigeria. The Federal Government has inaugurated enhanced e-passport to improve passport application process for Nigerians at home and abroad. The enhanced e-passport is a great improvement on the biometric passport technology which Nigeria adopted in 2007 as a strategic step towards curbing forgery. Impersonation and other forms of frauds associated with obtaining travel document under the old machine readable passport regime.

While migrating to an e-Passport could present a few challenges in terms of expertise, it is worth noting that it has been done in more than 2/3 of the countries in the world since its first implementation in 2008. There are recognized experts in the market with the hands-on experience and successful track record to assist countries choosing to take advantage of the many benefits of e-Passports. Make no mistake, the benefits are very significant. An e-Passport significantly improves the security of the citizen’s travel documents, facilitates the circulation of passengers in various part of the world, lowers hurdles to trade and business mobility, enhances the tools at hand for travel monitoring and gives a set of well-accepted standards for cooperation between countries. Most importantly, the migration to an e-Passport is also the first step in a wider digital transformation of a country via the implementation of the systems required for other digital documents like n-ID cards, driving licenses, civil registry.

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has warned men of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Edo State Command, to shun tendencies capable of jeopardising federal government’s efforts in ensuring that Nigeria could procure travelling passports with ease.

He said the ministry under his watch would not spare the rod in dealing decisively with any officials of the service engaged in any illegal practices, noting that President Muhammadu Buhari was desirous of improving service delivery in the country.

Aregbesola spoke at the official roll-out of the enhanced e-Passport in Benin, Asaba & Warri, even as the commissioning of the Passport Production Centre announced that 10, 000 e-passports were available on the platform for applicants and n that the ministry was committed to changing the perception of service delivery for the better.

However, speaking at the commissioning, Aregbesola said, “For our men, who are quick to tell people that there are no passports just to exploit them, those who give unkind and harsh treatment to passport seekers will be dealt with henceforth.

“President Muhammadu Buhari’s charge is very explicit to make life easy in getting a passport. Buhari expressed concern especially, those abroad in getting passports. So, what we are doing now is ro remove all the hurdles. We have 10, 000 passports on this platform so every Nigerians desirous should be able to get it.”

He added that the enhanced e-passport carried 25 additional security features and was rated to be among the best in the world in terms of durability and quality.

The minister further commended President Buhari for his support in realising the reform in the agency, adding that it was work in progress to completely digitalise the service.

The Minister had noted that though the NIS would do everything possible to provide the important travel document to Nigerians desirous of it, he urged Nigerians, both home and in the diaspora, to always follow the right channel in the process of acquiring passport through the official online platform.

He further reiterated that patronising touts and racketeers in acquiring passport would only lead to delay and extortion of prospective applicants.
Aregbesola, charged the Acting CG to find lasting solution to the difficulties Nigerians go through in the issuance of passport, stressing that President Muhammadu Buhari was concerned on the difficulties Nigerians in diaspora faced in obtaining Nigerian passport.

He said, “your new rank comes with more responsibilities, as such you must find a lasting solution in the issuance of passport and make the process seamless.

He said, “I say to you that there is no shortage of booklets in the country, we may be having human challenges. The truth is that, in terms of supply of booklets we have on ground, there cannot be shortage of booklets.

“I read lamentations on social media and I want to say nobody can access Nigerian passport without going online, it is not possible for those who go online not to be serviced, although some still partronise touts to access the online process. It is because of the difficulty we have managing ourselves, that is why they go through third parties and have refused to go through it the proper way.”

Explaining why some applicants get long appointment dates, he said this was as a result of the volume of applicants in the area.

Aregbesola said, “Depending on the volume of applicants in your chosen station, your appointment period can be short or long. For example, if you’re in Lagos, Ikoyi passport office has the highest volume of passport seekers in Nigeria. It receives almost 50 percent of the entire number of applicantions in Nigeria. If you pick Ikoyi, you might have three months waiting period to have your data captured and get other enrollment requirements processed, whereas it may not be so in other places.”

The Minister also disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari was unhappy with the cumbersome nature of getting the Nigerian passports abroad as well as applying for Visa on arrival.

Aregbesola said, “I received a message from the president at FEC which I want to make public. The president is concerned with the report coming from overseas on the difficulties encountered by Nigerians in getting a Nigerian passport. The challenges are there not because of the lack of concern.

“Second, international visitors to Nigeria and even Nigerians who have the fortune of being born outside the country and therefore need to have a Nigerian passport before they can come into the country because they couldn’t get and want to come home through the visa on arrival platform find it difficult to process this effectively and seamlessly. We can’t afford to have these challenges with our people in the Diaspora.”
Inwalomhe Donald writes from Benin City, Edo State