The Acting Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Isa Idris, has blamed the delay in passport production on the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic as well as the difficulty in accessing foreign exchange.
The NIS boss, who spoke at a media interaction on Saturday, assured that the challenges would be over by March this year.
He said the scarcity of passport booklets was being addressed through the recent launch of the enhanced e-passport.
He said, “Just Friday, we received a total of 45,000 booklets towards clearing the backlogs and in December alone, we received more than 100,000 booklets which we have continued to distribute across the passport centres nationwide. This is not just for Nigerians in Nigeria alone but for those in the Diaspora as well.
“But with the introduction of the enhanced e-Passport, we are good to go in our efforts towards addressing the scarcity. This enhanced e-passport is a great improvement on the biometric passport technology which we adopted as a country in 2007. It’s a strategic step towards curbing forgery, impersonation and other forms of fraud associated with obtaining travel documents under the old Machine Readable Passport regime.
“And because we know that technology helps to address some of our challenges, including corruption, we have continued to try to stop personal contacts with our officials. My predecessor started to break the jinx and we are continuing on that. We plead with applicants to apply only online and stop physical contacts with our officers to avert corrupt practices”, he said.
According to him, the NIS is working to comply with the three-week duration for passport renewal and six-week waiting period for fresh applications.
He stated: “The waiting period is for us to validate the addresses provided by the applicants. So, Nigerians should not forget that they have six months to renew their passport. They should not wait till it expires. And of course, there are other emergencies, and there’s a window for them.”
He described deployment of technology as the best approach to managing the security of the over 5,000 land borders and shorelines, which he noted, is the core mandate of the Immigration Service.