Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) yesterday formally commenced the roll-out of the enhanced electronic passport (e-Passport) in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, for the South-south and South-east zones of the country.
But while the NIS listed the requirements for the e-passport, the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, raised objection to the demand for Bank Verification Number (BVN) before the e-passport would be issued.
Unveiling the features of the e-passport, the Comptroller-General of NIS, Muhammed Babandede, said the essence of the passport is to reposition and improve the passport issuance regime and tailor it towards the best global practice.
Babandede, who was represented by the Comptroller of Immigration, Rivers State Command, Mr. Segun Adegoke, said the new regime now offers the options of five years and 10 years validity period to save bonafide Nigerians from frequent replacement their passports.
He said the enhanced e-passport would have 32 or 64 pages of five or 10 years validity and would cost N35, 000 and N70,000 respectively.
While extolling the enhanced security features of the e-passport, Adegoke, however, said people seeking to get the new passport must have the National Identification Number (NIN) issued by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC).
According to him, “This enhanced e-passport has 32 pages and 64 pages, with options of five years and 10 years validity. The quality of the e-passport is better with introduction of polycarbonate technology in line with global best practice.”
He also said the enhanced e-passport would reduce the hardship people go through to obtain or renew the Nigerian passport as the filling and payment for it have to be done online before capturing which will be done at the new Immigration Office on Ana Road in Port Harcourt.
Adegoke, however, cautioned Nigerians not to panic as the enhanced e-passport would exist side by side the current passport before it would gradually take over.
He also noted that the issuance of the enhanced e-passport at the Port Harcourt office would be a big relief to residents of Rivers State and the entire South-south and South-east regions as people would no more travel to Abuja to get it.
He said Port Harcourt is the fourth centre after Abuja, Lagos and Kano to issue the enhanced e-passport in the country.
But speaking during the roll-out of the enhanced e-passport, Wike commended the Nigeria Immigration Service for the e-passport 10-year validity period, saying it would enable Nigerians acquire long-term visas.
He also lauded the NIS for the improved security features on the new passport.
Wike said: “Let me thank the Nigeria Immigration Service for its giant strides in the area of the electronic passport. It will help towards security and other trends.
“The introduction of e-passport is indeed commendable because of its improved security features and other key features of the passport.
“The extension of the validity period is also important as it will allow holders to access lengthy visas. The 10-year passport affords most people the opportunity to have longer visas.”
The governor also noted that the requirement that all seekers of the passport must have National Identity Number is very important.
“The integration with the national identity number is very important. It is an encouraging innovation,” he said.
Wike, however, said the requirement that Nigerians must provide their BVN before obtaining the e-passport is not necessary.