The Acting Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Services, Isa Jere Idris, has declared that the online payment and appointment system by his organisation are yielding fruits generally, particularly in the area of passport administration and issuance.
This is as he appealed to Nigerians to cooperate with the organisation in its bid to sanitise the system and improve service delivery.
Idris, in a message to journalists at the weekend, said apart from reducing incidences of corruption, the introduction of the appointment system had helped to improve productivity, reduce rowdiness and curtail excesses of touts and some personnel of the Service.
His words: “The integration of the online appointment system with the existing online payment system has restored orderliness to the passport offices to a large extent, as applicants can now make payment and choose the appointment date and time which is convenient to them, thereby reducing the time they would have spent at the passport offices as each passport office has been allocated with a daily appointment capacity which was arrived at, based on analysis.”
The acting Comptroller General, however, enjoined passport applicants to plan their travels to avoid what he described as the fire brigade approach by many Nigerians.
He said it had become the habit of many Nigerians to wait until the time they needed passports before applying.
He said since September 2021 when he resumed as Acting Comptroller General, his team had worked tirelessly to clear the backlog of passports applications, saying the backlogs were as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which he noted halted movements globally.
The immigration boss gave the statistics of the backlogs of passports he inherited and how much had been produced in less than eight months of his administration.
According to Idris, as of September, 2021, there were 85,163 passport applications that were yet to be processed locally while the figure stood at 18,746 in the diaspora.
He said as a result of the backlog, overcrowding and rowdiness were observed across the various offices of the organisation, and the need for urgent implementation of the enhanced e-passport as initiated by his predecessor.
He further noted that as at April, the backlogs in Nigeria had been reduced to 33,625 while the foreign backlog now stands at 9,661.
“It is pertinent to note that between January and April 2022, a total of 478,650 booklets have been distributed across the globe, and I can assure you that more than 10,000 Nigerians have benefited from this initiative and it is still ongoing,” he said.
The Acting Comptroller General stressed that “the Immigration attaches have also been mandated to undertake similar interventions within their areas of coverage with countries like Canada, Italy, Spain, Israel keying into this initiative.”
According to him, “Hungary and Romania participated credibly during the migration crises resulting from the ongoing Russia and Ukraine war. So we are making progress.”
The acting CGIS maintained that the launch of the enhanced electronic passports in some parts of the country and the United Kingdom had helped in no small measure to ease the tension created by the backlogs.
According to him, in South-West and part of the North-Central areas of the country, a total of 40,000 passports had been produced and that there was no backlog of passport applications from previous years at the centres.
He said the backlog of about 40,000 in the South-West and part of the North-Central where the enhanced e-passport was rolled out December, 2021 had been cleared.
The South-East, which had about 27,000 before the enhanced e-passport was rolled out on March 3, 2022 is now about 75 per cent cleared.
“The backlog situation at the other centres within Nigeria has also improved with the supply of booklets. As a result of the improvement, we have made the issue of clearance of backlogs a top priority by ensuring the supply of a large quantity of booklets as well as closely supervising the allocation of these booklets to the passport offices,” he added.
He noted that a number of task force teams were set up and sent to various passport issuing offices with the mandate to ensure strict utilisation and speedy clearance of backlogs.
He further noted that apart from the South-East, South-West and part of the North-Central where the enhanced e-passport had been launched, the next phase would be launched in the other parts of North-Central, North-West and South-South, before moving to the North-eastern region.
In addition, “we are also making arrangements for the launch of the next phase of the enhanced e-passport overseas in places such as USA, Canada and Europe,” he said.
The Acting Comptroller General said that one of the challenges currently being faced by the agency in the sanitation efforts had to do with the linkage of the National Identification Number, NIN, with the passport details, and that his office was working assiduously with the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, to ensure that the challenges were addressed as quickly as they evolved.
“There are instances where some applicants approach our platform with some conflicting data from their original records in our system and of course such cases are often difficult to resolve quickly.
“The Ag. CGIS has been making frantic efforts by collaborating with the Management of NIMC to resolve these issues.
“However we must acknowledge that the challenge of verifying NIN before the issuance of passport plays a major role in our passport production line and more often than not accounts for the delays,” he said.
The Acting Comptroller General appealed to the passport applicants to ensure proper documentation and also endeavour to plan their travels ahead of time to allow for easy processes.
He reiterated the Service’s strong commitment to consequence management mechanism and assured that any personnel found to be undermining the reform efforts would not go unpunished.