By Inwalomhe Donald

The Nigeria Immigration Services has made the National Identification Number (NIN) compulsory as a means of identification for anyone that wants to apply for fresh or renewal of international passports in Nigeria.

The NIN has become a vital means of identification in Nigeria for various purposes ranging from international passport renewal to opening of bank accounts, amongst others. The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has called on those applying for their international passports, whether it is their first application or a renewal, to ensure that the data they submit matches that of NIN. The problem that many people are calling international passport scarcity is that the data they submitted does not match their NIN. There is no international passport scarcity in Nigeria. The problem is data not tallying with NIN. The NIS issued a piece of advice via a statement on its verified Twitter handle to guard against Nigerians having problems during their passport application process. “Before you begin your passport application process, it is important that the data you are submitting is exactly the same as that on your NIN.”

The Federal Government has domesticated the production of Nigeria passports with the presence of the Ministry of Interior at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the production of passports in the country. The agreement for the domestication of the production of passports which was signed between IRIS SMART TECHNOLOGY LTD, an indigenous company, and Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc at the Ministry of Interior in Abuja, entails that production of e-passport will be done in Nigeria alone and will no longer be done by foreigners. Across the globe, emerging technologies and innovations continue to affect day-to-day activities, from the way people communicate to the way organisations carry out their activities. With this trend, it’s safe to project that digital technology will further transform the working environment of Nigeria Immigration Service in the next 10 years. To address the problem of scarcity of international passport, Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior, has commenced the decentralisation of international passport centres in the 774 local government areas. To permanently curb the complaints of difficulty in obtaining Passports from the NIS, Aregbesola has came up with several innovations that all pending passports will be Issued on or before May 31st, 2021 and starting from June 1, 2021, a new regime will begin. 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 realise the objectives.

One, Aregbesola has 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. The 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, NIS will publish on its 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.

There were several challenges in the past. These include, shortage of booklets, touting, racketeering, inflating the cost, passports being issued to ineligible persons and so on. Then there are Covid-19 related challenges such as the suspension of public interface by our missions abroad as a result of the directive of the host government. Those affected have mine and the Federal Government’s deepest sympathy. But there is nothing we can do about this now other than to pray that the pandemic will go away so that we all can resume normal life. The pandemic has been very disruptive of social, economic and nearly every aspects of life. What the government has been doing is to manage the fallout and make the impact to be minimal. Therefore, where we can do things electronically or by post, we shall continue to explore these. But other person-to-person necessities like data capture are beyond our control. I crave the understanding of Nigerians on this.

Without doubt, these challenges have put the ministry and Nigeria Immigration Service under the spotlight. Make no mistake. Hundreds of thousands of people have obtained their passports and enjoyed other services we render seamlessly and we continue to receive commendation reports from within and abroad. But it is expected that your good works will be downplayed, while your mistakes and faults will be highlighted and celebrated. For this reason, there should be no room for mistakes or sloppiness.

Donald writes in via

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