By Jimoh Babatunde
The Acting Comptroller General of Immigration, Isah Jere Idris, has revealed that the scarcity of International passport was worsened by COVID-19 and foreign exchange (forex).
Speaking with selected journalists on New Year Day, he said by March this year that the issue of backlog will be sorted out.
He said “COVID-19 did not help matters as it led to the closure of borders across the World and affected a lot of government’s functions including the passport managment. This also caused a surge in the number of applicants for passport.
“We have commenced work on this and based on the instruction given to us by the minister, the passport issue shall be a thing of the past by March.
He 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 apart from the United Kingdom where it was launched, the Service through the support of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, has inaugurated such centres in Kano, Port Harcourt and Ibadan.
He said; “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.
“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.
The Acting ACI, while saying that passport reforms is one of his three points agenda that include border management and personnel welfare, said the immigration service is trying to reduce human contacts with its officers to reduce corruption.
Speaking on immigration service beyond border, Idris said as part of their border management that they will be introducing ICT
“And because we know that technology helps to address some of our challenges, including 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. We plead with applicants to apply only online and stop physical contacts with our officers to avert corrupt practices.
“ICT is the way to manage the border, by first quarter of 2022 we will achieve e-border.
we need funding from government to cover the borders.
“the number one of the challenges is lack of fund. The government is really trying and based on the budget we will need fund.”
the CGI said the organisation is working towards securing approval so that it could be able to spend part of its generated revenues to service the organisation and its men.
According to Mr Idris, workers that are not motivated will find it hard not to engage in corrupt practices and that 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.
The comptroller general of Immigration also spoke about border security, saying such is the core responsibility of the service, and that it would not allow itself to be reduced to a passport production agency.
He said the core mandate of NIS is border security and that with more than 5,000 land borders and shorelines, the deployment of technology is the best way to tackle the problems.