The Minister of Interior, Dr. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, has reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian government towards delivering a seamless and efficient passport for Nigerians, both within the country and in the Diaspora.
Speaking at the inaugural Diaspora Webinar Lecture Series of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) entitled: “New Passport Policy/Processes for Nigerians in the Diaspora,” Tunji-Ojo said that was the directive from President Bola Tinubu to him and other cabinet members towards attainment of the Renewed Hope Agenda.
The minisiter, who emphasised the importance of providing top-notch services befitting Nigeria’s stature as the giant of Africa, stated that: “Effective from March 8, 2024 Nigerians will benefit from a contactless passport application process, reducing the time required to complete the entire process to a maximum of seven to 10 minutes.
“This monumental reform is part of the overarching efforts to modernise the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) and enhance service delivery to citizens,” he added.
Highlighting the achievements and reforms within the ministry and its parastatals, particularly the NIS, the minister underscored the clearance of over 200,000 passport backlogs within three weeks of his assumption of office and the deployment of E-Gates at international airports to streamline entry and exit processes.
He also outlined plans for the installation of a modern control centre across international airports in Abuja and Lagos, aimed at enhancing immigration officers’ capacity and providing Nigerians with a seamless travel experience.
Tunji-Ojo stressed on the importance of leveraging on technology to simplify passport acquisition, stating that Nigerians would only need their National Identification Number (NIN) for passport applications and bio metrics.
“Through an automated system, data will be pulled from the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) database to fill application forms, reducing the risk of identity fraud and ensuring a single point of contact for citizens,” he said.
The minister added that plans are underway to automate the passport enrollment process, enabling online application, biometric capture, and home delivery of passports, thus eliminating the need for physical visits to passport offices.
Whole addressing concerns raised by participants from various continents regarding current challenges in passport application and delivery processes, he assured of the government’s commitment to resolving these issues as soon as possible.
The former lawmaker urged Nigerians to take pride in acquiring their passports, as the new process heralds a new era of hope and progress for the nation and its diaspora community, adding that the ministry woule partner with NIDCOM.
Earlier, the NIDCOM Chairman/CEO, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, commended the minister’s efforts, highlighting the significance of the Diaspora Lecture Series in keeping Nigerians abroad informed about programmes and reforms of President Tinubu’s administration.
In her presentation, the Comptroller General, NIS, Caroline Wura-Ola Adepoju, emphasised that the new process would significantly reduce human interaction, thereby eliminating inconveniences associated with passport applications and saving time for both applicants and immigration personnel.
Adepoju said the service had produced 1,033,506 million passports in 2021; another 1,597,729 million in 2022; while a record of over 2,141,300 million were produced amidst various challenge in 2023.
She, however, said that many Nigerians did not come forward to pick up their passports at various centres she visited recently both within and outside Nigeria, promising that from March, there will be positive improvement in passport production without going through any stress or interventions.