Tunji-Ojo, who made the statement during a live appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme on Tuesday, added that the delay around fresh passport issuance and renewal fuels corruption in the sector.
The newly-appointed Minister of Interior inherited a backlog of issues, including scarcity of passport notes, from his predecessor Rauf Aregbesola. But he said clearing all backlogs shouldn’t take more than two weeks.
“After clearing these backlogs, no Nigerian should wait for more than two weeks,” he said, adding that “it’s a right and not a privilege, and Nigerians want that right to be actually theirs, not by somebody offering you your right.”
He stated that it is unacceptable for any Nigerian to face disrespect due to a passport application.
According to him, what Nigerians desire to witness are solutions, and the President has consistently emphasized this: no room for excuses.
“In line with the directive of Mr President, it can no longer be business as usual. We have critically analyzed all these scenarios – from the point of going online to fill the form to the point of payment, to the point of picking a date, to the point of biometrics, to the point of issuance of passports. And we understand the service providers involved and we have been able to see one or two things to put right,” he said.
Tunji-Ojo, who has touted partnerships with several other institutions for accelerated service delivery, also said he is in talks with service providers and the Nigeria Immigration Service to digitize and decentralize the process of fresh passport issuance and renewal.
“We have to digitize and we also have to decentralize the whole enrolment system and make it (possible) for people to walk into the nearest post office, people can walk into may be financial institutions and some many other ways. We are still playing with so many ideas,” he said.
Nigeria’s passport challenge has lasted for years, but it escalated beyond containment in the last eight years. The situation has been attributed to many factors led by corruption, including an insufficient supply of leaflets, which stymied swift printing and issuance of passport applications.
In 2021, Aregbesola announced a series of changes designed to curtail the challenge Nigerians face in getting their passports. He said among other things, that special centers have been created for expedited services.
According to him, these special centers, which will be opened all over the country, will run on a public-private partnership basis.
Aregbesola said the goal is to have one in each local government area, university campuses, institutions of higher learning, and other relevant public places.
He also said that a timeline for the collection of passports will be fixed for every application. This will be six weeks. This is to allow for enough time to investigate, verify, and validate personal information supplied by the applicants.
The then minister said the list of the backlog of ready passports that are yet to be collected by the owners will be published on the NIS website, and the owners will be required to go to the state commands to collect them.
“With these changes, it is my firm belief that we will arrive at a new dawn in passport application processing,” he said.
Unfortunately, the measures failed to provide a solution to the challenge. While Nigerians are desperately expecting a positive change, they’re also concerned that the current minister’s promises may end up like his predecessor’s.