As backlash continues to trail Nigerian Immigration Service’s inability to issue new passports to Nigerians, owing to the excuse that the agency is in short of leaflets, the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has outlined a new line of action aimed at putting a permanent end to the challenge.
In a media briefing on Thursday, the Minister said the operation of the NIS will be reviewed to curb the complaints stemming from the difficulty in obtaining a passport.
Nigerians both home and abroad have been complaining that passport offices and embassies are not issuing passports, putting their respective endeavors in jeopardy.
Weeks ago, a viral video on social media showed a Nigerian man lamenting over the bottlenecks he had to face to renew his passport in Switzerland. On Wednesday, Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe of Tekedia Institute issued an SOS on behalf of a Nigerian stranded in Spain, due to a Nigerian Embassy’s failure to issue him a passport.
Nigerians have started a petition to compel the government to take remedying action. In response, Aregbesola said the Ministry of Interior is working to remove the bottlenecks and ensure there is timely issuance of passports in and outside Nigeria. He reiterated the Ministry’s promise to open passport offices in each local government in the country, to make it easier to obtain passports.
To curb corrupt practices hindering swift services in passport centers, he said an ombudsman will also be created for members of the public to receive complaints and reports on officers trying to deviate from prescribed guidelines and subversion of the process.
Read the full statement below:
To permanently curb the complaints of difficulty in obtaining Passports from the NIS, today, I held a meeting with the Leadership of the Nigeria Immigration Service and all Passport Control Officers in Nigeria and Immigration Attachés around the world.
It has become imperative that we review our operations and rejig our system, in order to be able to offer excellent services to our clients. We need to review a system from time to time to see if it helps best to serve and realize the objectives.
One, I declared a zero-tolerance stance to all forms of touting. No applicant will be made to pay any illegitimate fees. We are going to embed security operatives – seen and unseen – in all our passport offices. They will wear body cameras.
They will detect and report any form of solicitations, inflation, improper communications, extortion, diversion, hoarding and other corrupt practices. Those caught will be dealt with according to the law.
An ombudsman will also be created for members of the public to receive complaints and reports on officers trying to deviate from prescribed guidelines and subversion of the process.
Two, we have created special centres for expedited services. These special centres will run on public-private partnership basis. This has already taken off in Abuja and 10 more will be opened in coming weeks as more of such centres will be opened all over the country.
Our goal is to have one in each local government area, university campuses, institutions of higher learning and other relevant public places.
Three, a timeline for the collection of passport 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.
What we are driving at is the peace of mind that comes from assurance of certainty. If there are circumstances that will make the date to change, it will be communicated to the applicant one week before the collection date.
Fourth, applicants will have no basis for further communication with officers, other than to complete their application process and leave the venue. The date for the collection of their passports or any challenge to the application, will be communicated to them. The technology for the efficient running of this system has been acquired and will be deployed.
Fifth, we are publishing on our website the list of the backlog of passports that are ready which are yet to be collected by the owners. They 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.
We are turning round the entire application process in a way that is seamless, transparent and will accord human dignity to applicants and fulfill citizenship integrity.