By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, Nov. 19, 2023
The Organisation for the Advancement of Nigerians (OAN) and its 20 partner organisations in New York have urged the Federal Government to quickly address the passport production crisis in Nigeria’s Missions in the U.S.A.
Nigeria has three Missions in the United States. They are the Consulates-General of Nigeria in New York and Atlanta, and the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington DC.
The Embassy in Washington DC is the only passport production centre in the U.S., while the Consulates take applicants’ biometrics in their Missions and take same to Washington DC for passport production.
The North America correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Embassy in Washington has not been producing passports since Nov. 13 due to server hitches, which has been affecting the Missions.
In a notice on the Consulate-General of Nigeria, New York website, the Mission stated that all passport services have been suspended.
It advised applicants to confirm if the situation has been normalised before reporting at the Consulate for their biometrics.
OAN and its partners, however, expressed deep concern over the regrettable breakdown of the Nigerian passport server in the United States.
“This avoidable technical failure has not only halted Nigerian passports production all over the United States, but has also inflicted undue stress and frustration on numerous Nigerians.
“We acknowledge the significant inconvenience and distress this situation has caused to our fellow countrymen and women.
“We understand the importance of the Nigerian passport.
“It is not only a travel document, but a vital identification and connection to our homeland,’’ Mr Francis James, Chair of Outreach and Board Member of OAN stated on Sunday.
He stated also that the critical issues that had come to light were the reliance of the three Nigerian Missions in the United States on only one server for passport services.
“In addition, the two printing machines in Nigeria’s Missions in the U.S. are located in Washington, which means staff from New York and Atlanta must travel to Washington to print passports.
“This avoidable singular point of failure has magnified the impact of the current breakdown,’’ he stated.
The associations called for immediate review of the technological infrastructure supporting passport services to prevent a repeat of such incidents.
They stressed that the absence of a backup server had exacerbated the challenges faced by Nigerians in the United States and underscored the necessity for a more robust system.
“This is an unforced error and poor planning in the 21st Century. There are reasonably priced and reliable backup options in physical and virtual servers.
“In addition to these concerns, we are demanding the establishment of a separate server and passport printers for the Consulate in New York and the Mission in Atlanta.
“The New York Consulate has jurisdiction over the highest number of states and accepts the largest number of applicants from across the United States.
“It boggles the mind to understand why two passport printing machines are located in Washington with none in New York and in Atlanta,’’ the associations pondered.
They argued that the proposed enhancement addresses the immediate crisis and mitigates the risks associated with immigration officers traveling to Washington every month to print passports.
They also noted that it was imperative to safeguard Nigeria’s national database and the well-being of dedicated immigration officers.
“We acknowledge the concerns raised by affected applicants regarding the lack of adequate outreach before they travel to the Missions.
“OAN will engage with the Missions to explore how proactive and timely communication can be improved to keep applicants informed of any development to avoid unnecessary inconveniences.
“We commend affected Nigerian nationals for their restraints, and appeal to them for patience and understanding during this challenging period.
“We are committed to ensuring that the Nigerian passport services are restored promptly, and measures are implemented to prevent re-occurrence.
“OAN and its partner organisations remain committed to actively engaging with relevant authorities in Nigeria and in the United States to expedite the resolution of this issue,’’ it stated.
It also called on the Nigerian government to invest in necessary technological infrastructure and support systems and ensure the security and seamless functioning of critical services for Nigerians abroad.
“The OAN as an organisation is dedicated to the well-being and advancement of Nigerians living in the United States.
“We will continue to work diligently to provide support and updates as we collaborate with authorities to resolve the server breakdown and implement long-term solutions,’’ it stated.
NAN reports that OAN is a non-profit organisation committed to promoting the welfare, culture, and interests of Nigerians living in the United States.
It aims to foster unity, provide support for the Nigerian community, address challenges and celebrate the achievements of Nigerians in the diaspora.