[From CHINEDU NWAFOR, Abakaliki]
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola said the major challenge of passport administration in the country was illegal patronage of touts and NIS officials, instead of the stipulated online platform.
Aregbesola, who stated this in Enugu on Thursday during unveiling of Enhanced e-Passport facility and commissioning of the passport production Centre, cautioned citizens against such illegal patronage when applying for international passport.
The Minister assured that NIS would continue to frontally address the mounting public concerns over the quality and transparency of its Passport issuance process with a view to enabling a transparent and highly professionalized service delivery.
“The major challenge of passport administration is the illegal patronage of touts and NIS officials, instead of the stipulated online platform,” he said.
According to the minister: “Our application system is designed to eliminate personal contact, other than for biometric purpose. This is to curb corruption, extortion and inflation. But as long as applicants try to cut corners, they defeat our purpose and create avoidable problems.
“The first problem that arise is unfulfilled expectations. Touts and officials are not in any position to guarantee anything. Our system makes room for six weeks for fresh application and three weeks for renewal. This is to enable the NIS to investigate and verify claims by the applicants. It is advisable for travellers in need of passport to begin the application process early, factoring our timeline.
“The maximum six weeks is reasonable and among the shortest application time in the world. Promising an applicant an express service therefore is a scam. It is bound to end in disappointment and for most part it does. I will appeal therefore to applicants to follow the path we provide through the online portal. That is the only reliable and assuring path to procuring a Nigerian passport.
“As we commission this facility today, we are also assuring that delays and some noticed clumsiness in the production chain are eliminated.
“To this effect, a centralized Passport Production Centre is part of what we are commissioning to accommodate all applications enrolled in neighbouring Passport Issuing Centres in the South East (such as Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo), which are electronically transmitted to the Centre here for production. This arrangement is not only to save time and cost but also to speed up the process and procedure.
“We shall continue to innovate on the best available options to ensuring that we sustain the integrity of our passport. We shall continue to sustain the maximum timeline of six weeks for all fresh applications and three weeks for renewal. We do this not to hurt anyone but out of our desire to sustain the integrity of our Passport in the comity of nations.
“Today’s event is unique in many ways. The most important is making the enhanced e-Passport available to the good people of the South East.
“The enhanced ePassport comes in various categories, including the 64-page-10-year validity Passport which is quite convenient for frequent travellers. It is a product of the latest technology in passport administration and issuance.
“Only very few countries in the world can boast of it as of today. The document is of higher grade with additional 25 security features than the one currently in use. It is polycarbonate in design and therefore water-resistant. It cannot be compromised by counterfeiters and identity thieves.
“The NIS has continued to ensure that the Nigerian Passport satisfies all the standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” he said.
The Comptroller of Immigration, Enugu State Command, Joachim Olumba said the unveiling of Enhanced e-Passport facility was at the heart of the South Easterners.
“People have being longing to obtain the 10 years validity passport since its inception 3 years ago. It’s gladdening that the Minister and the Comptroller are here to satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of the people in this part of the country for a moral reliable, flexible and cost friendly passport.
“With the new passport, people in South East will enjoy the tremendous benefits it attracts,” he said.
The Governor of Enugu state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who was represented by the secretary to state government, Prof. Simeon Ortuanya commended the Nigeria Immigration Service for the wonderful steps taken to eliminate racketeering and all forms of malpractices in the issuance of passport.
The Enugu state government however promised to partner with the NIS to ensure that there is a bush of trees at the NIS headquarters in Enugu.
Acting Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Isah Jere Idris said that the enhanced e-Passport comes in various categories, including the 64-page-10-year validity Passport which is quite convenient for frequent travellers.
“It is a product of the latest technology in passport administration and issuance. Only very few countries in the world can boast of it as of today. The document is of higher grade with additional 25 security features than the one currently in use. It is polycarbonate in design and therefore water-resistant. It cannot be compromised by counterfeiters and identity thieves.
“The NIS has continued to ensure that the Nigerian Passport satisfies all the standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).The Interior Ministry appreciates the volume of economic activities in the South East and the rising number of citizens from the region who have strong international dimension to their businesses and socio-economic pursuits”, Idris said.
The NIS said that it is aware of the need for people to travel and that it is their responsibility to provide e-passport for them within the shortest possible time, at a reasonable price and without any hassle.
“The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), whose mandate includes passport administration, particularly addresses the rising demand of passport services nationally and has been priming its facilities to meet this demand.
“The train has now come to the South East and it shall go round the country. We have had some challenges in the recent past on delays experienced by some applicants in procuring their passports. This is regrettable. But it will interest you to know that between 2019 and now, the NIS has issued about 3 million passports to Nigerians.
“Last year alone, 1.3 million passports were issued. Also, last time I checked, over 250,000 passports remain uncollected by applicants. There owners will probably be among those complaining they are yet to receive their passports. Nevertheless, many applicants are not going to have their passports because of the errors in their applications, which delayed processing”, Idris noted.
The NIS said its new application system is designed to eliminate personal contact, other than for biometric purpose.