The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has said the Nigeria e-Passport is ranked 99 of over 200 countries’ passports, in the number of destinations their holders can visit without visas.
Quoting Henley Passport Index’s second-quarter global passport ranking for the year 2022 report, Mr Aregbesola says this is no mean feat as it is indicative of Nigeria’s passport acceptability all over the world. Henley Passport Index is the original authoritative ranking of the world’s passports,
Speaking at the opening of a two-day workshop for Passport Control Officers (PCOs) of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) held at the Service headquarters, the Minister further disclosed the NIS, between 2019 and now, has issued about 3 million passports to Nigerians. This, he says, is despite the challenges of COVID-19 which greatly affected the availability of booklets and the passport issuing process. “Nevertheless, over 250,000 passports have been unclaimed by their owners and lying idle on the shelf”.
Mr Aregbesola also used the occasion to advise prospective applicants to patronise the online portal and avoid dealing with touts and NIS officials.
“It is absolutely necessary therefore for all applicants to go to the NIS online portal to process their application and avoid patronising touts and NIS officials.
“We are taking complaints of solicitations and inflation of processing fees against NIS officials very seriously and will land a heavy stick of the law on culprits. Covert agents will soon be going around passport offices to apprehend touts and officials involved in these unwholesome practices. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Be guided accordingly.”
While noting that there have been challenges to passport administration over the years, the Minister said it is for these reasons that the government introduced reforms into the passport administration system in Nigeria, to infuse the process with credibility and strengthen the integrity of the Nigerian passport.
“We have adopted a processing period of six weeks to obtain fresh passports and three weeks for renewal. This is to enable the service to verify the identity and claims of applicants before issuing them the passport. For the enhanced passport, we have also synced the applicant’s biodata with the National Identification Number (NIN) database. This means that the information you have with NIMC corresponds with your passport. This authenticates your identity”.
Speaking directly to the Passport Control Officers, the Minister said: “I need not remind you, that as PCOs, you are the drivers of these reforms in your various Passport Offices. Therefore, you must strive to eliminate unnecessary bottlenecks and shenanigans of nefarious individuals aimed at bringing the passport issuing process a bad image by making the process difficult for Nigerians.
“You must ensure that you provide the needed environment at your various Passport Offices for applicants to have the full benefits of the reforms in the issuance of passports.
“Elimination of touting at Passport Offices, complete and total eradication of all forms of extortion and undesirable practices which constitute impediments in the process, ensuring that officers and men working in the Passport Offices maintain high levels of discipline, integrity and the desire to serve Nigeria and her citizens with every sense of patriotism are the imperative of effective and efficient service delivery.
“I, therefore, urge you to make these your minimum threshold in the course of your tenure at the various Passport Offices. Ensure that you leave a legacy of good service when you eventually complete your tour of duty”, Mr Aregbesola started.