The Federal Government has announced a two-week timeline for the processing of passport applications, saying the era of Nigerians waiting for months to get their international passports is over.
Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo disclosed this on Wednesday in Abuja at a media parley to review his directive to the Nigeria Immigration Service NIS to clear over 204,000 backlog of passport applications.
The minister who apologized profusely to Nigerians that clearance of the backlog had spilled into three weeks as opposed to the two weeks deadline he gave, however praised officers and men of the for working day and night including weekends and public holidays to meet with his directive.
According to him, while procurement of visas is a privilege, acquiring international passports is a right.
He also expressed the commitment of President Bola Tinubu to not increase the cost of passport application in spite of the foreign exchange volatility.
He said; “On September 7, we made a promise to sort out the backlogs in two weeks but we made it in three weeks and I sincerely want to apologize to Nigerians for that.
“The Renewed Hope administration of President Bola Tinubu is one that matches its words with actions. The issue of passport must be a fight and not a privilege. Visa is a privilege but passport is a right and we are happy that today, we have been able to handle over the rights of Nigerians to them.
“For us, we are assured that if it can work in NIS, it can work anywhere else. Nigeria is undergoing a process.
“We inherited 204,332 enrolments without passports being issued. People that had applied and captured. That was the figure and we gave a marching order because the president was also on our necks to bring solutions and succour to Nigerians.
“We went into strategic meetings with the NIS and with the support of our service providers, we were able to increase printing machines to four in passport offices where we had two. Our service providers gave us the machines at no cost.
“The NIS personnel were doing three shifts, working 24/7 to make sure that we cleared the backlogs and to ensure that never again are we going to have backlogs of passport production.
“We want to ensure that nobody waits for more than two weeks to get their passports.
“As of October 1, we had cleared all the 204,332 backlogs and from the records produced by NIS, the number of passport already collected is 91,981. Outstanding but available is 112,351.
“We are pleading with Nigerians to please go and collect their passports. Please, do not give money to anybody. If there is any passport office where you have done your capturing and they do not give you your passports, please lodge your complaints via the following; 0802 375 3414, preferably SMS and Whatsapp. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
“The attitude of a very negligible fraction of NIS officers will not cast aspersions on the work of the majority of good officers”.
The minister said he has perused all the contracts and agreements the ministry and its agencies had entered into with service providers, saying in the next couple of months, passport applicants would be able to upload their own passport photographs via the immigration portal, rather than going to passport offices for such capture.
According to him, applicants would only be required to visit the passport offices for their biometrics enrolment.
“Hopefully by December, people will not need to go to passport offices and they are snapping or taking pictures. This is 2023. People will be able to upload their passports photographs online with specifications. When you apply for visa, you do that and we are advancing in that line. Also, your supporting documents should be uploaded online so that when you go to the passport office, but will just be for biometrics and within five minutes you have left there. We don’t want the past situation whereby people spend the whole day at the passport offices. So instead of the offices capturing maybe 400 a day, they will be able to accommodate more people. These are some of the innovations we are bringing. Even though we know what the exchange rate is, we are not increasing passport fees. The government of President Tinubu understands the needs of the people. As a person, I do not want anybody to go and stay in a passport office for more than 10 minutes”.