Nigeria’s Federal Government has launched an additional Passport Front Office in Auchi, Edo State, as part of it’s effort towards effective service delivery to Nigerians. This is just as it promised to launch a home delivery service of passport.
The Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who spoke at the opening of the Nigeria Immigration Service Passport Front Desk Office in Auchi, Edo State on Saturday, said that it is the intention of the government to provide the passport for anyone desirous of it within reasonable time at affordable price and without any stress.
He said the launch of another Passport Front Desk Office is significant as the Nigerian Passport is a proof of existence especially for those outside the country, warning that inability to produce it on demand may bring untoward consequences.
The Minister said: “What we are doing here is significant for two main reasons. The first is the right (and even the necessity) of Nigerians, especially those in the diaspora to hold the Nigerian passport. Except for those travelling outside the country or intend to, most of those who hold the passport do so for identification purposes. For some, it is also a thing of pride to be able to brandish the green back of the passport. But for those outside the country, the passport is the proof of their existence. Inability to produce it on demand may bring untoward consequences. The government therefore wants to provide the passport for anyone desirous of it within reasonable time, at affordable price and without any stress whatsoever.
“The second is the need, flowing from the first, to break out of the regular.”
Aregbesola promised to conclude negotiations with NIPOST on the usage of its speedy mail service to start delivering passport to Nigerians who opt for such service.
He revealed that: “We are in the final stage of concluding negotiations with NIPOST to begin using its speed mail service to deliver passports to Nigerians wherever they are in the world after production.”
Aregbesola, while stating that Edo State has one of the highest passport applications in Nigeria, also revealed that the waiting period between application and collection would likely increase due to the recent increase in demand.
He said: “Our current working schedule is that fresh application would take six weeks after biometric data registration and three weeks for renewal. This is reasonable, competitive and in line with the global best practices.
“The challenge however is the waiting period at the point of application and data registration. All applicants will be put on a queue, depending on the centre of their choice, to determine the registration date. Regrettably, it might take two months in some highly competitive centres where application is very high. We have no control over this.”
He however said that the Federal Government is intentional about opening more front desk offices, in order to increase the registration centres and reduce the waiting period before biometric data capture.
He said: “It is our projection that by the time we open more front offices like this, the waiting period will not be more than three days. Indeed, the more front offices we have, the less the waiting period. Our long term plan will be to involve private operators who will provide the lounge for a fee, but the equipment and personnel will be provided by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).”
Commending the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) for improving on their services, which includes issuance of top quality passport booklet, Aregbesola affirmed that Nigeria is among the first five countries in the world and the first in Africa to have the enhanced e-passport.
Adding that: “The reform introduced to the NIS led to the Automated Passport issuance process which has eliminated touts and racketeers in Passport administration, introduction of E-border Management, MIDAS and the commencement of E-Passport across Passport Control Offices and Diplomatic Missions.”
He therefore advised applicants not to go through third parties but apply on any internet enabled device through the Nigeria Immigration Service portal. This is as he lamented the prevalence of a few unscrupulous officials subverting the system, cornering applications, inflating prices, extorting from applicants and hiding already produced passports.
The Minister said: “I will therefore plead with applicants not to go through them and other touts hanging around passport offices, soliciting from applicants. The application can be done in your bedroom on your android phone through the Nigeria Immigration Service portal. You do not need a third party. Those who patronise them are the ones encouraging their nefarious activities and frustrating our efforts at transparency and providing seamless service.”
He also urged applicants to plan ahead for their travelling, as travelling requires long term planning, whether for education, work, leisure or migration, except for urgent national assignment or medical emergency.
This year alone, the Minister of Interior have been in Daura in Katsina State, Alimosho in Lagos, Ilesa in Osun, Zaria in Kaduna and Oyo in Oyo State to commission Passport Front Desk Offices.
Speaking earlier, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Isah Idris, said that the choice of Auchi is apt, as Edo State ranks fifth amongst states with the highest volume of passport applications locally.
According to him, “In the past 365 days,
Edo state has processed 56,291 applications out of the 1.5 million
passports produced in Nigeria. The commissioning of this front office will no doubt go a long way in reducing the traffic in Edo State and other neighbouring States.
The NIS CG restated the necessity for prospective applicants to synchronize the data in their passport application with the information in
their National Identification Number.
He said: “May I quickly add that for the enhanced e-passport, it is essential to ensure that prospective passport applicants synchronize the data in their passport application with the information in their NIN (National Identification Number).”
While maintaining that the unveiling of front office and others like it, are crucial to achieving the NIS mandate of ensuring that the e-passport issuance process is brought closer to the people, Jere seized the opportunity to affirm the commitment of the Nigeria Immigration Service to meeting the rising demands for Passport services globally, thereby repositioning the Service towards attaining a truly world-class status to compete with its counterparts worldwide.
Meanwhile, during a visit to the Otaru of Auchi’s Palace, the Otaru, HRH, Alhaji Aliru H. Momoh, Ikelebe III, turbaned Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, and then installed him as the Rafeeq of Auchi Sacred Kingdom. The traditional ruler revealed that the title means Ogbeni Aregbesola a bossom friend of the Auchi Kingdom.
In response, the minister declared that, “everything happening here today is a surprise to me. I am excited, happy and joyous because it is coming at the right time. The depth of my joy has no word to describe it. When I retire, I plan to always wear my turban as a true and proper Muslim,” the minister declared.
Michael Olugbode in Abuja