The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has blamed the actions and inactions of applicants for the delays experienced in the processing of passport applications in Nigeria.
The NIS said passports that are delayed for more than eight weeks are those for which applicants provided wrong information and their applications were rejected by the system.
It said such cases are usually very difficult to resolve if the applicants provided the wrong contact details such as phone numbers and emails.
Tony Akuneme, deputy comptroller of immigration and service PRO, told BusinessDay that over 45 percent of passport applicants do not have a clue of what exactly they want to use them for as there are over 140,000 passports awaiting collection across Nigeria, with some now expired.
Akuneme said some applicants started the process and had cause to travel to other African countries by sea or desert and abandoned their passports, while some others left the agents processing the passports and moved on to another agent.
He said: “Some people travel with other people’s documents and now they want to get a new passport. When they go to a Nigerian embassy wherever they are and put their fingerprints, the system will automatically reject their applications. They do not understand the idea of the e-passport. This is because the system will indicate that you are showing up as a new person instead of someone who registered before.
“So, when this happens, they feel they are being delayed. It is in the process of producing these passports that we find out that the Automated Fingerprint Integrated System has rejected them. This is because the owners have had passports before and they did not disclose it and they come to get another one, possibly with another name or information, and it is only when they have finished the front office process and gone away that we go to the back end and we find out that the system says the applicant is fake.”
He said all efforts to reach these applicants are often unsuccessful because the contact details they put on the application are fake.
“It is only in Nigeria you see people changing the date of birth and place of birth. Most Nigerians do passports, driver’s licences, and other documentation through agents who give wrong information about applicants. We at NIS are the ones frustrated. We have enough booklets. In Lagos alone, in one month, 35,000 booklets were issued,” he said.
Akuneme, however, said that while collection in Lagos may take a little longer than in other states as a result of the population, states like Enugu, Owerri, Anambra, Jigawa, Sokoto, and Adamawa take between two days to one week for collection after capture.
He said: “There are some Nigerians that believe that their passports are not authentic and they will not get visas unless it is issued in Lagos or Abuja. We are ensuring we change this perception for Nigerians. I have sent people to Umuahia and in seven days, they get their passports. This is because there is no rush in these places. I sent a family to Awka in Anambra State, and in three days, they got their passports.
“The e-passport is one of the most respected integrity-wise across the world. Nigeria is the fifth in terms of countries that have migrated to enhanced passports in the world. We want Nigerians to know that they can go online and make their applications and show up in the passport office of their choice and they will be attended to. Although, in Lagos, we have the crowd because of the population.”
He said the National Identity Number issues will soon be resolved as the National Identity Management Commission is trying to integrate its systems with that of NIS to facilitate passport processing.