*Why delays in passport issuances – Immigration
*Some Applicants Captured In March 2023, Yet To Receive New/Renewed Documents
The acting Comptroller General, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) Mrs Caroline Adepoju recently approved the immediate reposting of 15 passport officers in a bid to strengthen the ongoing passport reform process.
Information gathered From The Street (FTS) showed that application for passports has become herculean tasks even as it has also become nightmares for them as applicants spend endless hours at their offices, particularly, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos state.
The Acting Public Relations Officer, Assistant Comptroller of Immigration, Kenneth Kure had then, in a statement in Abuja said NIS management was determined to upgrade the Passport administration both at home and in the foreign missions.
She assured that the service would not go back on its avowed position to make passport offices across board to be purely Service oriented.
Although the news had rekindled confidence in the exercise by the disgruntled applicants, there was no visible positive change as hours are still spent on queues waiting for either collection or capturing.
The action of the organisation was seen as direct response to apolicants’ harrowing experience in pursuit of documents that enable them travel out of the country either for medical tourism, educational pursuits or businesses.
She named some of the affected passport offices as Alausa and Festac both in Lagos, as well as the ones in Edo, Anambra, Bayelsa, Kogi, Nassarawa, Plateau, Enugu, Abia, Kano, Taraba and Ondo, among others.
However, FTS has it that the said reforms are yet to have any positive impact due to entrenched and vested interests of some powers within the system who are bent on satisfying their own pecuniary interests, at the expense of the generality of the people.
This has resulted in the process expanding to almost to overfourmonthsro collect passports that officially, showed be issued within six weeks after capturing.
The acting CG maintained that only the best brains who have fully adopted the mantra of Service above self, would henceforth be posted to sensitive places.
“This is so because our people deserve nothing short of the best, ” she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) had reported that the posting order was signed by the Deputy Comptroller General (DCG), incharge of Human Resources, Mr Usman Babangida.
But, investigations by metrobusinessnews.com (MBN) last month, particularly Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos office showed that applicants were being denied the collection of passports as at the due dates as they were usually told that passport booklets have been exhausted.
Further investigations showed that applicants were subjected to endless postponements of collection dates after the first date issued by the office.
Some applicants, for instance, who captured since March were as at last week not able to collect as they were told that ‘it was not ready’.
This is aside from sharp practices, typified by discrimination against online applicants. For instance, an applicant was given first date in June, deferred to July and on getting there last Friday, July 28, 2023, same story of ‘not ready’ was the message by the officers.
On June 23, in an update, NIS was quoted as denying that the booklets are in short supply.
The then spokesperson for NIS Tony Akuneme said “there are booklets issued that are not collected. It is ironical, we don’t have problem of booklet, we don’t have shortage of booklets.
“What we have had in the last one or two years is a sudden upsurge in the number of Nigerians wanting to travel . We felt it was also related to COVID-19, “he said.
Akuneme assured that the result would be instant as more facilities were going to be put in place to curtail any challenges of passport issuance across the country.“
He said that the service however, needed the Media to tell Nigerians that people should not think there were no passport booklets.
But, when MBN Sent him a message that his statement was at variance with the realities in some of their offices, particularly, Lagos, he was yet to responded to the message up to the time of this story.
In what some stakeholders see as a surprise turn of events and statement from the NIS, the organisation blamed discrepancies in National Identification Number (NIN) and the name filled in passport forms for delays in procuring passports beyond the recommended six weeks.
The Comptroller of Immigration Service, Enugu Command, Mrs Azuka Halliday, disclosed this during the event marking NIS 60th anniversary celebrations in Enugu on Sunday, July 30, 2023.
She said that when the name in applicants’ NIN document did not match the name in their passport forms, it delayed the time of delivery of their passports beyond the recommended six weeks.
Halliday, therefore, advised Nigerians to use the NIS online platform for passports applications to avoid complications including delays that might arise from using a third party platform.
She said that if the applicants faced issues other than the NIN/passport form name discrepancy, her office would be more open to attend to them quickly.
She said at 60, NIS had delivered its core mandate which included, Issuance of passports and other traveling documents, Border Surveillance and Patrol, Enforcement of laws and Regulations and others to Nigerians.
On the National Migration Policy, Halliday said Nigeria adopted it in 2015 to ensure that the country got optimum development from international migration.
She said Nigeria contributed a substantial percentage to global migration as a major country of origin, transit and destination in terms of global migration.
“For effective implementation of the global migration policy, NIS is now saddled with the role of border management, ensuring national border security, seamless regular migration and economic development of the country.
“NIS has developed a streamline building programmes for its workforce nationally that would ensure proactive, effective and efficient service delivery as well as introduction of modern technology to enhance its operations.
“All these innovation is to keep our borders safe,” she explained.
Mr Okey Ezugwu, a retired NIS staff who delivered the anniversary lecture, described Nigeria’s Immigration Law as the most liberal in the world because of its friendly nature.
“If one runs foul of our laws, we do not really go for a kill as the person being punished may not understand why he is being punished.
“I am not saying that our immigration laws should be reviewed but I am saying from our own background, that we are hospitable and we don’t ill-treat foreigners”, he said.
He called for a review of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) policy that allowed citizens of member countries freedom to enter any ECOWAS country without Visas.
Ezugwu, who retired as an Assistant Comptroller of Immigration, said the freedom was being abused as many Nigerians did not see themselves as strangers in Nigeria.
“Another area that needs to be looked into is the Free Trade Zone policy where people in it were not subject to immigration regulations,” he said.
Ezugwu, said that Immigration, at 60, had done so much in its core mandates as well as in the promotion of tourism and investment in the country.
The event was attended by the various security agencies and Heads of Government Agencies, as well as other individuals in the state.
But more information gathered FTS showed that the service is still living in self denial as it is yet to tackled the endemic racketeering with passport applications and issuances.
“From conflicting reports of shortage of booklets to redeployment of staff from perceived problem centres as well as wrong documentations as alleged by the service, it is clear that NIS authorities know the problems but are yet to tackle them headlong,” says a concerned Nigerian who pleaded for anonymity.