Immigration Officials Lament Inability to Process Passports with Introduction of New Conditions

Immigration Officials Lament Inability to Process Passports with Introduction of New Conditions

*Applicants Requesting Renewal of Their Passports Stranded

Chinedu Eze

The Nigeria Immigration Service officials have lamented that the newly introduced automated passport application process has become an obstacle instead of expediting passport acquisition for Nigerians.

This is because of the newly introduced conditions, which could not be met by applicants many of whom are left stranded in passport issuing offices across the country.

THISDAY investigation revealed that some of this conditions include the provision of letter of identification from the local government by applicants who are renewing their passport, a condition hitherto given to new applicants who are obtaining passport for the first time.

Many Nigerians who returned from overseas to Lagos and Abuja could not go to their local government areas to obtain letter of identification within the limited time they have.

The new policy also insists that minors should obtain letter of identification as well as the elderly who in the past were given waivers, as minors were identified by their parents whose data page of their passports were attached to the minor’s application.

THISDAY also learnt that the fee for five-year passport has been increased by N10, 000, from N25, 000 to N35, 000, which has not been made public but applicants are asked to add the amount while paying for the passport.

Applicants are also asked to provide passport photographs with American standard specification of size and white background, but Immigration officials said NIS does not use passports provided by applicants in the passport, but are put in the file of the applicant while the passport of the applicant is captured by the system, which is the passport that appears on the data page of the passport, which means that the request on passport specification was not necessary.

A fortnight ago, the Minister of Interior, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo,unveiled the automated passport application process in Abuja and assured the public that this new solution would enhance national security and data protection.

The Minister explained that the new reform seeks to redefine how citizens enrol and procure the international passport with an emphasis on convenience, reduced processing time, and an overall seamless experience.

But THISDAY learnt that instead of reducing processing time, the new conditions are causing delays and because many applicants are not meeting the new conditions, few applicants are qualified to be processed.

An Immigration official at the Ikoyi passport office told THISDAY, “The delay we are having is that many applicants are not meeting the new conditions introduced by the Ministry of Interior. How can you tell a minor to go and get a letter of identification from his local government of origin. Our passport before now has met the International Civil Aviation Organsiation (ICAO) standard. In 2007 we were the third country to meet ICAO standard after Germany and Britain and our passport was studied by others because of its security features,” the official said.

The source also disclosed, “Nothing is working at the passport offices all over the federation. Date of birth and letter of identification are not required for passport renewal, but they have been made compulsory. So, it is difficult for people to meet that requirement, especially thousands of Nigerians who returned from overseas. We didn’t know about the increase in the price of the five-year passport till now and the media hype of the new changes in the process of obtaining the passport was to ostensibly hide the fact that N10,000 was added to the cost of five-year passport.”

Cost of passports currently is as follows: the five-year passport is now N35, 000 plus bank charges of N2, 000, totaling N37, 000 and the 10-year passport is N70, 000 plus N2000 bank charges, totaling N72, 000.

Another official who spoke to THISDAY at the Ikoyi passport office said that there is no time frame for applicants to obtain their passports because it has become very difficult for many applicants to meet the new requirements.

“Securing your passport is now rigorous because of unnecessary documentation requirement. It is difficult for minors and old people to meet the new requirements. These are not security risk. That was why they were exempted. How can you tell someone born in 1930s to bring date of birth certificate and an infant to get letter from its local government of origin? Before now senior citizens were given waivers. Currently passport processing is not going on because the system uploading and processing them is rejecting the data pages which have not met the new stringent conditions.

“We wonder why Nigerians were not notified that that the price of passport has increased. I can tell you that even the Comptroller of Immigration did not know about the increase,” the official at the Ikoyi passport office said.

THISDAY also spoke to the spokesman of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mr. Tony Akuneme, who said that he would not speak on the matter because it has to do with policy and therefore very sensitive, adding that the only persons that could speak on it are the Minister of Interior and the Comptroller General of Immigration.

THISDAY also called the Special Adviser to the Minister of Interior, Alao Babatunde, who did not answer his calls or reply to the question sent to him on his WhatsApp app.

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