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FG reforms passport system, sets May deadline to clear backlog

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THE Nigerian Government has announced new electronic measures that will rejig the passport application process and reduce human interaction.

This is meant to promote a system that is seamless, transparent and more efficient.

Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola, during a media briefing organised by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Abuja on Thursday April 22, said through a public-private partnership, government would establish at least one special centre in each local government area, beginning with Abuja, to speed up passport processing.

Aregbesola also declared a zero-tolerance stance to all forms of touting, stressing that no applicant would be made to pay any ‘illegitimate fees.’

He disclosed that both seen and unseen security operatives would be attached to all passport offices to detect and report any form of solicitation, inflation, improper communication, extortion, diversion, hoarding and other corrupt practices.

“Those caught will be dealt with according to the law,” the minister said.

Henceforth, every passport application would have a fixed timeline of six weeks for collection. This is to provide enough time to investigate, verify and validate personal information supplied by the applicants, Aregbesola explained.

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“What we are driving at is the peace of mind that comes from assurance of certainty. If there are circumstances that will make the date to change, it will be communicated to the applicant one week before the collection date,” he said.

On his part, Comptroller General of the NIS Muhammed Babandede said he would clear all existing passport application backlogs across all issuing centres before May 2021.

A list of the backlog of passports that were ready but yet to be collected would be published on the NIS website while applicants would be required to go to the state commands to collect them.

Over the years, Nigerians at home and in the diaspora have expressed their frustration at the system that makes application for the Nigerian passport very difficult. Many have spent long hours on the queue, while others have waited for months with little or no communication. There have been reported cases of extortion by officials and others posing as agents.

While the NIS believes these new initiatives will transform the entire passport application process, some Nigerians are of the opinion that the six-week passport collection time should be further shortened in view of the several available means for identity verification such as the National Identity Number (NIN) and the Bank Verification Number (BVN).

The media breifing was attended by the leadership of the NIS and all passport control officers in Nigeria and Immigration attachés around the world.

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