The Federal Government reaffirmed on Tuesday its commitment to easing the difficulties Nigerians face in applying for and receiving Nigerian passport through enhanced service delivery and streamlined business practises.
The government is also putting great effort into finding solutions for the expanding number of Nigerians who require the passport for additional reasons.
At the commissioning of the Ilesa Passport Front Office and Production Center of the Nigeria Immigration Service in Ilesa, Osun State, Interior Minister Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola made this statement.
Aregbesola pointed out that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is adamant about making the procedure even more easy, therefore the rise in applications requires the opening of additional passport front offices across the nation.
“There has been an increase in Nigerians’ demand for passports in recent years,” the minister stated. The COVID-19 pandemic, which caused travel restrictions and hence had an impact on our production schedule, was the first cause of this increase.
This led to a backlog that we were working to resolve until an unprecedented number of Nigerians decided to travel abroad and applied for passports, making the backlog problem much more difficult.
“Then of course, the panic buying syndrome kicked in. Many people who had no immediate need of passport then started applying, creating a deluge of applications. Thankfully, that is behind us now. The backlogs have all been cleared and we are producing on schedule in all our centres.
“Fresh application will take six weeks after biometric data capture, while renewal requires just three weeks. To respond to the challenge, we increased our production capacity. In 2021, we produced one million booklets. Last year, we increased production to 1.8 million, nearly doubling our efforts. We shall keep working at it to ensure that we provide for as many Nigerians that are desirous of the passport.
“The Passport Front Office we are commissioning today is one of the ways we are responding to increased demand for passport, especially to reduce the waiting time for biometric data capture. We have opened this front office in Alimosho, Katsina, Zaria, Daura and in several Nigerian missions abroad in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, where the enhanced passport is being rolled out.
“This front desk is not an express centre. It is also not a full-fledged passport office like the ones in Osogbo, Ibadan or Akure. However, a front office is where application will be made and biometric data of the applicant will be collected. It is a non-judgemental centre, meaning that no decision will be made here, but the application and biometric data of the applicants will be collected and forwarded to the NIS for processing and issuing.
“We need as many centres as possible to accommodate the huge number of those applying every day, day and night, on our online platform, to reduce the waiting time before data capture to the barest minimum. Our target is to reduce the waiting period for biometric data capture to not more than one week, after application.”
Aregbesola further emphasised that the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has been repositioned since his arrival at the Ministry, particularly in the development of a passport production system and process that is compliant with international best practises in technology.
Also, he advised new Nigerian passport applicants to submit their applications as soon as possible to avoid falling victim to scammers and other possibilities..
“One of the burdens we bear everyday is of desperate travellers who needed a passport today to be able to travel tomorrow. Except for medical emergencies and overriding national interest, there is hardly any emergency in travelling. This is because travelling, whether for studies, business or pleasure, requires planning and it takes time.
I will urge applicants for the Nigerian passport therefore to apply early enough before their travel date to avoid cutting corners and falling into the hands of scammers and other opportunists. It is important also that they apply by themselves at the Nigeria Immigration Service portal and not through touts and unscrupulous officials, which often bring heartaches”.
Addressing at the occasion, Senator Ademola Adeleke, the governor of Osun, praised the Minister, Ogbeni Aregbesola, for being a deserving representative of the state and assured him of the support of the state in all respects.
Governor Adeleke, who reaffirmed his commitment to progressivism, promised to finish all of the former governor’s projects that had been put on hold by the previous administration.
“No matter the party you are, if you are a progressive, you are a progressive if you are doing what the people want. When he was Governor, he loved the people and the people loved him. All the projects Ogbeni left, it was abandoned for years. I promised the people during my campaign that I was going to continue the projects, that is what I am doing.
“As a civilised person, no matter the party you are, you will always love progress. That is what I will always continue to ensure that all developmental projects are continued. As a federal minister from the state, we are proud of your achievements and we will continue to be proud of you.”
“Mr. Minister, I am assuring you, that this is your state, nobody can chase you away. This is your state, you are welcome at anytime. Even, you can come around to the Government House. When I complete all of the structures I am currently working on at the Government House, I will personally invite you to commission it.
The Controller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Isah Jere Idris, praised the leadership of the Ministry of Interior earlier in his speech for providing transformational leadership for the agency.
Idris claimed that in recent years, efforts have been made in unison to ensure that Nigerians may readily use the Passport and other services, in order to guarantee internal security, in the most practical way.
Kola Adewusi, the Deputy governor of Osun, Teslim Igbalaye, the speaker of the Osun House of Assembly, Hon. Timothy Owoeye, members of the top echelons of the NIS, and representatives from the Osun APC and PDP were among the other dignitaries present.