The federal government has said it has digitalised payments for the Nigerian passports, advising citizens to avoid patronizing louts and unscrupulous officials when applying for the documents.
The Minister of Interior, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, gave this advice on Monday in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, during the Rollout of the Enhanced e-Passport with Polycarbonate Data Page and other security features.
Aregbesola said: “Part of the reforms is the migration of passport application and payments to digital platforms. But we regret to observe that applicants still patronise touts and unscrupulous officials in the hope to beat the system and get expedited services. When they were disappointed, they come to report to us. Of course, we have zero tolerance for corruption and subversion of due process. We therefore take seriously any such report and invoke the necessary disciplinary measures.
“But I will implore applicants to stop patronising touts and our officials directly. Follow the process we put in place. Apply for passports and pay online. The only engagement with our staff is the enrollment of your biometrics. Patronising touts and passport office officials doesn’t always end well, but rather serves to defeat our purpose of eliminating corruption and infusing integrity to the passport administration process.”
Speaking on the new application process, the minister noted that a new timeline has been set for fresh passport application and reissue.
According to him, “Our template stipulates maximum six weeks for obtaining new passports and maximum three weeks for renewal. We work within this schedule to enable us investigate any claims made by applicants and verify them, for the final document we issue them to have integrity. If there are challenges, wait, eventually you will get your passport before your due date of travel, if you apply early enough. You will still have long enough time to apply for visa and other travel documents.
“Nowhere in the world is passport administration done on wait-and-get basis except in extreme emergencies. The only wait-and-get passport is passport photograph.”
The minister said on the new enhanced passport being rolled out in Ibadan, that the passport is an improved document with high security features.
“The Enhanced e-Passport is a great improvement on the Biometric Passport technology which Nigeria adopted in 2007 as a deliberate step towards curbing forgery, impersonation and other forms of travel document fraud associated with the old Machine-Readable Passport regime.
“It is the latest technology in passport making anywhere in the world and only few countries have it. It is the most secure identity document ever produced. We are proud to make it available to Nigerians,” Aregbesola said.
Speaking during the event, the Acting Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Isah Jere, reiterated the call by the minister for citizens to stop patronising touts.
He said: “As you have heard from the minister, we expect that the only time citizens will have contact with our officers is during the biometric capturing. You are to apply and pay only. Soon, we are launching an appointment management system and a tracking system for you to know anywhere you are in the world, the process of your passport application.”
The Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Segun Ogunbiyi, lauded the efforts of the Nigeria Immigration Service, promising that the state will continue to support the service in performing its statutory duty.