Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja
The Federal Government has dismissed concerns about the shortages of passport booklets, saying it has enough to meet the growing demands of Nigerians.
Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola disclosed this on Tuesday while commissioning the Enhanced Passport Production Centre in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Media Adviser to the minister, Mr Sola Fasure in a statement said the newly commissioned passport centre will now be responsible for the production of passport demands from Rivers, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa States.
“We have left no stone unturned in our quest to make passports available to Nigerians. Last year alone, we provided 1.3 million passports to Nigerians. As of today, there is no booklets shortage in Nigeria.
“As at the second quarter of this year (in June), the NIS have provided 645,000 passports out of the 750,000 applications received. To address the challenge of the backlog, we have sent 11,000 booklets to Ikoyi, 11,000 to Alausa and 8,000 to FESTAC centres in Lagos.
“We have also sent sufficient booklets to all the centres nationwide to address this challenge. There is therefore no excuse again for delay and non-issuance within a reasonable period,” Minister stated.
He also urged the public to make sure they apply by themselves online to avoid being shortchanged by unscrupulous elements.
“I will urge applicants for the Nigerian passport to apply early enough before their travel date to avoid cutting corners and falling into the hands of scammers and other opportunists. It is important also that they apply by themselves at the Nigeria Immigration Service portal and not through touts and unscrupulous officials, which often bring heartaches.
“We have provided a window of six weeks and three weeks for fresh application and renewal respectively, after biometric data capture, by which time, other things being equal, the passport will be ready for collection. This timeline is to enable NIS investigate and validate the claims of applicants and confer integrity on the passport issued. It is a reasonable provision in passport administration by global standard. There is no wait-and-get passport service anywhere in the world. The only wait-and-get passport is passport-sized photograph from Polaroid camera,” the Minister stated.
The Minister added that the Passport Production Centre will serve applicants from Rivers, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa States, but was quick to add that it does not confer any advantage or disadvantage on any of the centres, noting that a deployment of 10,000 booklets have been deployed to serve the four states with immediate effect.
He also stated that there are currently no backlogs in any of the four states.
“The production centre we are launching today will serve Rivers, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa States for production purpose only. It doesn’t confer any advantage or disadvantage on the applicants in any of the four states. It is simply a production centre.
“We have also delivered 10,000 passports to this centre. This is in addition to the fact that there are no backlogs to be cleared. In some advanced countries we often like to cite, it takes months to procure their passports. But in addition to the standardized timeline, we have also introduced tracking mechanism in the application process, to enable applicants monitor the progress of their application.
“We are also introducing data capture centres all over the country before the end of this year, to eliminate physical contacts with NIS officials. We shall continue to introduce necessary and available innovations to passport administration in order to best serve applicants in our quest for establishing citizenship integrity,” the minister stated.
While speaking, Governor Nyesom Wike, who was represented by his Deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Gogo Banigo, promised to continue to support the Nigeria Immigration Service in the state, as it was the policy of his administration.
“We will continue to support the Nigeria Immigration Service, just as we provided the building now housing the production centre.
“Just as we provide support to all security agencies in the state and in particular, the agencies under the ministry of Interior, we would continue to prioritize the welfare of the citizens of the state,” Gov. Wike stated.
During his opening address, Acting Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Idris Isah Jere, revealed that the service will no longer condone any act of indiscipline by officer, noting that they must be professional in carrying out their assigned duties.
Also at the event were the General Officer Commanding, 6 Division, Nigerian Army, represented by Brig. General EC Echebuwe; Commander, 115 Special Operations Group, Group Captain AA Opaleye; Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Command, Mr. Friday, Eboka; Controller of Customs, Rivers State Command, Dappa Williams; Rivers State Director, Department of State Services, Mr. Mohammed Shittu; Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps, Umar Salisu Galadanchi; Rivers State Commander, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Mark Balm; amongst other dignitaries.