Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Labour leaders have criticised the federal government for the planned increase of the fee to be paid by Nigerians to secure travelling passports.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) had announced that new e-passports, to be valid for a duration of 10 years will cost N70, 000 with effect from March 4.
But the labour leaders said wednesday in Lagos that many workers would not be able to travel abroad unless the fee was reviewed downwards.
The Deputy General Secretary of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Mr. Chris Onyeka, said it was insensitive to increase the price of traveling documents at a time Nigerians were contending with economic challenges.
”Government finds it difficult to pay N30, 000 to workers but it is easy to increase the cost of getting a passport from N22, 000 to N70, 000.
“The fact that the NIS has extended the number of years from five to 10 years is not a good reason to triple the cost of the passport.’’
Onyeka pleaded with the NIS to reduce the price to N40, 000 or N50, 000 to enable the populace to afford the document.
“It will be difficult for Nigerians to travel on the new price and this development will hamper their fundamental human rights.’’
President of the National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-Metallic Product Employees, Olagoke Olatunji, also condemned the new fee, appealing for a downward review.
Olatunji noted that it would take a worker on the current N18, 000 minimum wage up to four months’ salary to be able to acquire a passport with the new price.
Similarly, the TUC in a statement said it was insensitive on the part of the NIS to hike passport fees at this point in time.’
“The congress condemns in its entirety what the NIS has proposed and we may adopt any measure we consider right to ensure that the new international passport does not exceed N50,000.”
The TUC President, Mr. Bobboi Kaigama, and the Secretary of the body, Mr. Musa Lawal-Ozigi, in the statement, said if allowed to scale through, civil servants would save their salaries for three months with the new minimum wage to be able to pay for a passport.
”What about feeding, rent, school fees and other utilities? This will not work. We appeal to the NIS to look into the matter.”
The TUC said that the fee hike would also affect many Nigerians, who had been using their travelling passports for transactions.