The Federal Government on Tuesday restated its commitment to improve passport application process for Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora, as it launches the new enhanced e-Passport.
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Minister of Interior Affairs, made this known in a statement signed by Mr Sola Fasure, his Media Adviser, in Abuja.
The minister gave the assurance at the official rollout of the enhanced e-Passport at the Nigerian High Commission in London, UK.
He noted that it was the responsibility of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to provide passport for its citizens without stress within a reasonable period.
“What we have come to do here is symbolic of the core mandate of the Ministry of Interior Affairs and indeed, the Federal Government’s affirmation of citizenship integrity.
“The Nigerian passport is the highest affirmation of Nigerian citizenship. It is therefore our responsibility to provide the passport without any stress, within a reasonable period,” the minister said.
He noted that there had been huge challenges to passport administration, from shortage of booklet to touting and an economy of corruption built around it.
He said these challenges had persisted for too long, adding that a lot of people had become cynical while others had taken them as normal.
“But I come from a tradition of problem solving in public administration, I do not believe that any problem is insurmountable.
“So we are going to solve all the problems associated with passport administration and we are already succeeding,” he said.
He said the new enhanced passport was a huge improvement from the standard passport introduced in 2007 because it had more sophisticated security features, making it one of the most secured passports in the world.
The minister said that the enhanced e-Passport was a great improvement on the Biometric Passport technology which Nigeria adopted in 2007 as a strategic step towards curbing forgery and impersonation.
He said this included other forms of frauds associated with obtaining travel document under the old Machine Readable Passport regime.
‘We are aware that technology rules the world and we are keeping abreast with the latest development in the field.
“Over the years, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS)has worked assiduously and in close synergy with Messrs Iris Smart Technologies Ltd. to develop and implement passport reforms that are in tandem with international best practices.
“This includes extant International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Standards and Regulations,” he said.
Aregbesola noted that the NIS under his leadership had issued a total of 2.7 million Nigerian passports in the past two years and had taken substantial measures to address the issue of shortage of passport booklets.
“This year, the ministry approved the deployment of over 600,000 booklets, the largest of its kind ever done.
“That is not all. The Nigeria Immigration Service through MIDAS is now connected to INTERPOL and can upload information to the agency on lost, stolen and invalidated passports in real time.
“The Ministry of Interior Affairs had consistently provided the enabling environment for the NIS to undertake and implement several reforms,”the minister said.
He said this was especially with regards to Border Management and Passport Administration as well as Internal Monitoring and Control mechanisms to enhance efficient and effective service delivery to Nigerians and foreigners.
The statement quoted the Acting Comptroller General of the NIS, DCG Isa Jere as saying that the service was ready to meet the demands for passports in the United Kingdom.
He said the service was also ready to roll out new passports going forward, at the official rate published on the NIS website.
“We are ready to serve the public and start rolling out the new enhanced e-passport in the United Kingdom with immediate effect.Our staff are professionals and will deliver excellent service to our citizens.
“Those who have any complaints whatsoever are advised to use the publicly listed complaints channels to adequately resolve any issues raised,” Jere stated.
According to the statement, the event was attended by the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Amb. Sarafa Tunji Isola and senior Nigerian diplomats.
Others it said, were members of the Diplomatic Corps and Nigerians in the Diaspora among others.